It's gardening season! Mother Earth is in full bloom and many of us are deep into outdoor projects we've been waiting all Winter to do. Everywhere you go has a gorgeous array of plants and blooms just begging to be added to your garden. When it comes to sustainability there are some things you should consider when choosing if you're going to bring a new plant friend home, and where you should get said friend from - and where you shouldn't.
Considering both aesthetic and environmental factors here are some tips to help you make informed decisions that will benefit your garden, your community, and the environment.
Support Local Businesses
When looking to buy plants for your garden, consider supporting your local nursery or garden shop. Not only will you be helping to support a small business in your community, but you are likely to find a better selection of plants that are native and therefore adapted to your area’s climate and soil conditions. Additionally, you can often find advice from knowledgeable staff members!
Beware of Pesticides
When buying plants, be sure to ask your nursery or garden shop about their pesticide use. Many plants are treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, a group of insecticides used widely on farms and in urban landscapes. These pesticides are toxic to bees and systemic so although you may be an organic gardener the long-lasting presence of neonicotinoids in plants makes it possible for these chemicals to harm pollinators even when the initial application is made months before the bloom period. . Choosing a nursery or grower that is transparent about their pesticide use can help you make sure that your garden is safe for wildlife.
Encourage Healthy Soil
One way to make sure your garden is sustainable is by selecting plants that are beneficial to soil health. Look for plants that are known to help improve soil structure and fertility, such as clover, comfrey, and nitrogen-fixing shrubs. Even dandelions are nitrogen fixers - so we love to leave these unsung heroes alone. These plants will help you create a healthy soil environment that will support the growth of other plants in your garden.
Composting is the ultimate of any sustainable gardening practice. It benefits the health of your soil, makes your homegrown food and flowers that much bigger, brighter and more flavorful, and benefits your family at the same time. Composting yard and garden wastes means less material going to the landfill and more organic material for your soil. Composting can be as simple as raking leaves over your garden when you put it to winter bed or as specific as indoor food composting with a Bokashi bucket or worm bins. Whether you’re growing vegetables, lawns, flowers and shrubs or fruit trees, composting will bring about vibrant, fortifying change to your gardens while it reduces waste. Composting practices which make soils more friable also help to conserve water.
If you're unable to compost, buy compost made from your local green bins. Here is Clark County, you can buy Dirt Hugger Compost - made right from our very own green bins!
Live and Let Live
How you care for your garden goes a long way towards attaining sustainability. Age-old practices like cultivating between plants with a long hoe not only suppresses weeds but aerates your soil. Avoid using chemical herbicides and toxic pesticides that extract a toll on the environment and you. Instead follow organic weed and pest control methods (we love 30% horticultural vinegar!) There’s both health and knowledge benefits to getting down on your knees and pulling weeds. Using beneficial insects to control pests not only benefits your garden, it can become a valuable lesson in natural science for your children.
By taking these tips into consideration when selecting plants for your garden, you can create a beautiful, sustainable garden that is beneficial to both you and the environment. Not only will you be supporting local businesses, but you will also be helping to protect local wildlife and create a healthier soil ecosystem.