Sustainable Gardening

The goal for sustainable gardening is to reduce the amount of inputs and energy you use, like fertilizer, gardening soil, weed and pest control, water, and even the fuel needed to run the lawn mower. Using the right methods, you can create a more self-sufficient and productive garden and yard.

Garden design

Consider resource-conserving practices which includes more than just water or soil. There’s also your time and energy:

  • The obvious ones are locating plants based on their preference for sun/shade and dry/wet areas.
  • But also think about your time and energy. When it comes to plants you may need to access more frequently for cooking and eating, like herbs or salad greens, think about locating them closer to your backdoor or near the entrance to your garden.
  • Consider microclimates, for instance areas that are protected from cold breezes by a fence or other plants can be the right spot for more sensitive plants and can extend your growing season.
  • There’s a whole world of information out there about companion planting, which is locating mutually beneficial plants next to each other to enhance growth, for pest protection, and more. Our indigenous people were the real innovators here with systems like the “3 sisters“, where corn, beans, and squash are grown together. The corn provides support for the beans to climb on, the beans deposit nitrogen from the air into the ground for the corn, and the squash acts as a living ground cover to keep the soil moist and keep weeds at bay.
  • When planning a vegetable garden, it’s important to think about crop rotation. When you grow the same vegetable plant in the same garden bed year after year, you eventually pull out all the nutrients from the soil that the plant requires and create a rich habitat for pests. Following some simple guidelines on plant rotation will make sure your soil is replenished and make it harder to pests to become a problem, reducing both fertilizer and pest control inputs.
  • There are a lot of resources out there for landscape design. One our favorite philosophies is the practice of Permaculture. If you have an interest in growing your own food and building resilient communities this is a great place to start. You can also find some wonderful local resources on this topic, like 21 Acres farm and market nearby in Woodinville.

Composting

Save money on gardening soil and fertilizer and reduce your waste all at once by composting your kitchen scraps and yard debris. You can create your own nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer for your garden.

Take advantage of nature’s compost kings, the lowly worm. Red wiggler worms will turn your scraps into beautiful gardening soil relatively quickly. This is called vermicomposting and can be as simple as just a box all the way up to a multi-layered set of trays that allows the worms to move between sources of food.

Mulching

You can reduce both energy and other inputs by mulching your yard and garden. Mulch is a biodegradable organic material that covers bare soil, helping retain moisture and keeping weeds at bay. Over time, it also creates soil, adds nutrients, and prevents erosion. Learn more about mulching.

A low-cost option for our area is collecting chips from arborists. Sometimes you can get a delivery of chips for free by checking sites like Craigslist.com. You can also call local arborists or use a service like Chipdrop.

Another great source of mulch are the leaves dropped by your trees. Don’t waste that precious resource! You can also use grass clippings from your lawn. Both options help keep these materials out of our waste stream.

Make mulch from cover crops…

Drought-tolerant plants

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Drip irrigation

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Save your seeds

When find that you have a flowering plant or vegetable that is really successful in your garden, consider letting it go to seed and collecting the seeds afterwards. This can be complex with some plants, so start with some easy ones like tomatoes, peas, and peppers.

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Grow natives

Using natives is one way to reduce the amount of weeding you have to do. Since natives are already adapted to our area, they can in many cases out compete weeds.

Another byproduct of using natives is creating additional habitat for our native birds and insects. By attracting more beneficial birds and insects, you are gaining allies in the challenges posed by garden pests, like aphids. When choosing native plants for your yard, consider finding a collection of plants that will ensure blooms will be available to pollinators as much as possible throughout the year.

One of your best local resources for native plants is the Snohomish Conservation District and their annual Native Plant Sale. They have been at it for 35 years now and have sold 1.9 million plants!

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Use alternatives to herbicides

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Use alternatives to pesticides

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