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Many of us are taking up a new hobby these days. Home gardening has become a beacon for living sustainably. It’s part of the local food movement. It’s part of the organic movement. It’s part of self-reliance. Though it is a lot of fun, gardening is much more than a fun hobby these days. It’s a statement.
All that said, like many aspects of “going green,” there are some serious ecological pitfalls to avoid when taking up gardening. Getting a garden growing, when done mindlessly, can create a huge amount of garbage and contribute to unsound environmental practices. It’s important not to lose sight of continuing to reduce waste when cultivating gardens.
Luckily, it’s not difficult to grow a healthy, vibrant garden with abundant harvests and steer clear of all the trash. A good garden can use “waste” in pursuit of food production. It’s just a matter of knowing how to tackle important tasks.
1. Buy Bulk Bedding Materials
The big box stores sell any number of variations of composts, soils, mulches, and more. They come in plastic bags, and to accomplish much of anything concerning building garden beds, dozens of bags might be necessary. These bags are bad.
Instead, we can buy soil and mulch in bulk from nurseries. Even those of us without trucks to transport, we can get these materials delivered, often for free or for the equivalent of what we save by not buying the much more expensive bags.
2. Biodegradable Weed Barriers
Lots of gardeners use weed barriers to keep their gardens low maintenance. Unfortunately, those barriers are more often than not plastic. That plastic is destined for landfills.
A well-mulched garden bed—using natural materials—is better for the garden and helps to keep the weeds at bay. Using repurposed cardboard boxes as a weed barrier, then covered with mulch, can increase the effectiveness without producing any trash and adding fertility to the soil.
3. Reusable/Compostable Starter Pots
Starting seedlings is great fun. We get to watch tiny seeds become tiny plants that will eventually become huge harvests of tomatoes, squashes, and so on. But, often, these are done in little plastic pots that become garbage.
Instead, we can use store-bought biodegradable plant pots, or even better, we can make simple compostable plant pots at home with repurposed materials like newspapers.
4. Yard Waste Is Garden Gold
Yard and garden waste, unbelievably are often collected in garbage bags and sent off as garbage. Anyone with a garden would be crazy to do this or allow the neighbors to do so.
Yard waste—leaves in autumn, grass clippings in summer—are amazing resources for a fertile garden. We can use yard waste as free mulch and/or compost.
5. Make Natural Fertilizer
As gardeners, we rarely, if ever, need to go out and buy fertilizer, and we never need to buy non-organic fertilizers, which pollute the ground and deplete our soil’s natural fertility. We can just ditch this packaging altogether and go DIY.
Instead of fertilizer, we can use all sorts of techniques—vermiculture, mulch pits, green manure, organic mulches, etc.—to build soil fertility while providing the garden with all sorts of other services.
Source: Epic Gardening/Youtube
6. Repair Garden Tools
When we garden, we need tools, stuff like shovels and hoes and clippers and so on. Inevitably, handles break or blades dull. The modern inclination is to toss these broken items aside and get something new. That’s wasteful.
Rather than buying cheap tools and replacing them frequently, we should do our best to invest in quality tools and repair them as many times as we can before replacing them. That means replacing handles, sharpening blades, mending hoses, and battling rust.
7. Save Your Seeds
Going through seed catalogs every spring is inspiring. It can be exceedingly exciting to think about growing this or that, imaging baskets burgeoning with bounties of produce. But, with the seeds we order comes packaging, often with plastic involved.
While some garden seeds, such as carrots, can be complicated to collect at home, others, like squashes and beans, are ridiculously simple to collect. Collecting seeds for next year’s garden will save us money and reduce the garbage we produce in the garden, however small those packets may be.
Of course, we can always do a little better, no matter who we are and how extensive our practices might be. So, fret not if the past hasn’t been perfect or the present falls a little short of our current goals. It’s just a matter of continually improving our gardening practices. It’s just another fun part of growing food at home.
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