Sustainable Gardening: 5 Green Gardening Tips

Go green in the garden by following these 5 easy steps.

| July/August 2006

Embracing a green lifestyle often involves growing a garden, whether it’s cultivating large plots of vegetables or a collection of potted herbs and flowers. The word “sustainable” pops up among ecologically minded gardeners, but what does it mean? Gardening manuals tend to define it as “a thoughtful balance between resources used and results gained.” You also could call this “stewardship gardening” or “eco-gardening,” but the idea is the same: Use nature’s resources, rather than chemicals, to produce a bountiful garden.

Sustainable gardening is both a process and a goal, and it can be a supremely satisfying journey.

1. Align with Nature’s Plan

What kind of ecosystem does your property want to be? A forest, a prairie, a desert? Mother Nature constantly nudges things back to their natural state, and you have much to gain by following her plan. To find out what plants thrive in your region, visit a nearby natural area and look for patterns you can copy in your landscape. For inspiration, read Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards by Sara B. Stein (Houghton Mifflin, 1995).

Woodland Gardening 101

Think layers, with tall trees as the upper canopy, small trees and shrubs below, and ferns and shade-tolerant woodland wildflowers on the forest floor. Use mulches to help maintain soil moisture, and prune low tree branches to admit more light to lower plants.

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