Food House Project™

The Food Growing, Cooking, Preserving & Healing Self-Sufficiency Adventure

7 Ways to Make Your Garden More Earth-Friendly

There are many ways to make your garden earth-friendlySpring has sprung and across the land, people are pulling out their rakes and spades, filling wheelbarrows with soil and preparing for another season of gardening. In some parts of the country, gardens are well underway but I can’t wait to get my hands dirty planting a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and berries as part of this exciting new venture,, in which my husband Curtis and I transform our century-old home into the ultimate in food self-sufficiency and share our adventures with the world. While gardening is one of the most natural and fulfilling activities available to us, it can easily become a drain on the environment. Here are seven ways to keep your gardening earth-friendly.

1)  Get fossil fuels out of the garden: Most suburban dwellers know that nothing disrupts a quiet summer day like the roaring of three or four gas-powered lawn mowers maintaining the grass monoculture. The smelly exhaust of those gas engines is equally disruptive and far more damaging to our health. If you simply must have a lawn, consider the powerful yet quiet electric mowers now on the market. Many of the big-name garden equipment manufacturers are offering rechargeable, battery operated push mowers (and even riding mowers) with all the bells and whistles of the gas models. The modest hum of the electric motor doesn’t block out every sound of nature and all you will smell is freshly cut grass.

2) Build your garden with repurposed or local materials: You may not be building the gardens of Chateau Versailles but the creation of raised beds, fencing, and pathways requires building materials. Before you head out to the local big box store for lumber or weed mats, check out what you can repurpose at home or get for free. Cardboard and old cotton sheets can provide excellent weed suppression under growing soil or on paths between growing beds. Heat treated pallets, not chemical treated ones, can be repurposed into fences, raised beds, compost bins and a multitude of other garden structures and they can frequently be obtained for free. If you do need to buy some lumber, for example, check for suppliers selling reclaimed wood (or someone giving it away!) or look for a local, independent sawmill that can fill your needs with locally-sourced wood. From my experience, lumber from a small mill can be much more affordable.

3)  Buy chemical-free plants and seedlings: If you must shop at plant nurseries, ask about the plants you are buying to find out if they are free of pesticides and herbicides. If you are lucky, you may live near a chemical-free nursery or have access to a farmer’s market where vendors are selling spray-free seedlings and plants. By avoiding dangerous chemicals like neonicotinoids, you will spare bees and other beneficial pollinating insects that not only help your garden thrive, but are essential to the global food supply. That may sound heavy, but the importance of pollinators cannot be overstated.

4) Repurpose and reuse garden supplies: Once you have those new additions to your garden planted, don’t throw out those plastic pots. Don’t even recycle them yet. Reuse them. Try your hand at growing more plants from seeds or cuttings. Keep using those pots until they are falling apart and then recycle them. Growing from seeds is very rewarding and you can use so many everyday items as starter pots. I know people who save their take-out coffee cups to start seedlings. I wish they invested in a reusable mug but they are repurposing that paper cup and using it again and again. I have used cardboard toilet paper rolls to make seedling pots, as well as food grade plastic containers (think yogurt containers).

5) Grow from organic or heirloom seeds: Speaking of seedlings, look for organic and heirloom brands if you are buying them from retailers like big box stores. I would encourage you to look for credible online, or better still, local seed exchanges where you can buy and trade seeds with other local growers who recognize the importance of maintaining a food supply free from big corporations. Local seed exchanges are often combined with workshops and seminars that provide practical knowledge from local experts you have been growing plants in your neck of the woods for years. There is no better way to learn that from someone who has been doing it successfully and is willing to share his or her knowledge.

6) Grow local: Try to grow species that are indigenous to the region in which you live. This is the best way to prevent invasive plant species from spreading and crowding out native plants that are important to the existing ecosystem. If you want to grow ornamental plants in your garden, look for wild flowers that occur naturally in your area. If you are growing fruits, vegetables and herbs outdoors, chances are you are limited to plants that either occur naturally in your area or can tolerate the growing conditions. If you harvest the food and/or cut back the plant (perennials like raspberries, asparagus, tree fruits, rhubarb or most herbs, for example) or compost it entirely (annuals like tomatoes, squashes, peppers or cucumbers, for instance) after the harvest, it is unlikely that your food plants will run wild among the other native species.

7) Grow low-water and drought-resistant plants: Unless you live in a high rainfall area, chances are good that your garden will need additionally watering courtesy of your municipal water supply or well. By growing species that naturally occur in your area, you know that they are able to survive with the usual amount of water Mother Nature provides. If you want to add other species, consider plants that require less water to grow. If you simply must have thirsty plant species in your garden, look at rainwater collection and drip irrigation solutions to minimize your water use.


Go Back