Gardening is sustainable. You are growing your own food, thus eliminating the use of plastic or other packaging that is often used in the grocery store, the fuel that is used to transport said food to the grocery store, as well as all the pesticides and other chemicals used to grow that food commercially. But have you ever thought about how you might save other items while boasting a home garden? I’m going to give you 10 ideas for making your garden and your process more sustainable, and in many cases, cheaper too!
1. Reusable Containers
This is by far the easiest way and cheapest way to be more sustainable when starting your garden from seeds. I’ve mentioned this in a couple of my more gardening process centric posts if you want to check those out. Basically, this step is reusing items that otherwise may be thrown out as garden containers. This can mean using them for seeds, seedlings, small plants (or I guess big plants if you have large containers) or storage. The first reusable container I used for my garden was egg cartons. I used old egg cartons to start my seeds in. This was extremely cost effective and reduced my waste. Other items you can use are old plastic containers, such as for yogurt, spread, cheeses, old solo cups, or even plastic containers from previous plant projects. I’ve seen posts online using old roasted chicken containers as greenhouses, which looked and seemed like a good idea, but since we don’t eat chicken we don’t have those containers. There are also ways to make origami cups out of old newspapers to start seedlings in. For all of these versions, just make sure that when you water your plants, that there will be adequate drainage otherwise you could kill your plants.
2. Secondhand Supplies
I am a huge believer in buying secondhand. Most of the items I own are pre-owned and purchased from a thrift store. The same can be said for many of plant pots. I have several terra cotta pots, a few larger plastic pots and other clay pots that were all purchased at the thrift store at a fraction of the cost of my local hardware store. The big breakable pots are usually an especially good deal in comparison, so be sure to always look for those! This not only saves you loads of money but keeps these beautiful and non-biodegradable items out of our landfills. Another tip if you’re using planters that are less than gorgeous is to place the plastic planter inside of a cool basket. This hides the boring plastic container and can also be purchased for super cheap at the thrift store.
I’ve already mentioned buying pots from the thrift store, but have you ever thought about buying other larger supplies secondhand? Believe it or not, some thrift stores have outdoor areas where you can buy other gardening supplies. You could also visit your local flea market where you can sometimes find used tools such as shovels, wheelbarrows and other useful supplies. This cuts way down on cost and you can save these items from making it into our landfills. Other items to consider are reclaimed wood for planter boxes, leftover bricks and pavers for paths and borders, I’ve even seen old trellis and support pieces that you could pick up for cheap. Another great place to look is garage/yard sales. I think many people would rather be able to make a buck off of an old rake they no longer use than to dump it in the trash. You may even find old potting shelves or storage options for your stored seeds and other supplies.
Composting is a more complicated way to be more sustainable with your gardening process. It allows you to discard your plant based kitchen waste into containers to compost for use in your garden. There are several different methods you can use depending on the size of your yard, the time you have available and the effort you want to put into it. The Farmer’s Almanac online has great info on composting if you want to learn more and start implementing this process in your own garden. The EPA also has a site that outlines the benefits versus letting your scraps go to the landfill.
4. Seed Sustainability
Swapping seeds with friends, family or neighbors is a great way to save money and be more sustainable. Check your local online sites for local gatherings of like-minded plant lovers – usually Facebook or NextDoor has groups with these interests. I’ve even seen these take place online – maybe someone who lives in the same zone, but a different area would be fun! You could send the seeds through the mail without too much trouble. You could also speak to people you work with or go to school with to find out if they share the same hobbies of planting and growing their own food. Luckily for me, many of my friends and family like to garden so I’m able to swap with them. Swapping seeds not only saves money and time wasted on going to the store, but helps to eliminate waste caused by over-buying seeds. This includes the packaging that the seeds come in, the transportation, the trip to the store, etc. I also like to save my seeds from year to year. Seeds don’t really go bad, unless stored improperly. I am storing my leftover seeds from this year to try and sprout for my garden next year as well. This will also give me the ability to log what seeds were successful, which ones were the tastiest and which ones I wouldn’t mind swapping next season. In the end, I’m saving money and finding like-minded individuals that share the same passion for growing their own food.
5. Water Conservation
The last sustainable tip I have for you is something that has become a huge issue here in California – water conservation. It may not seem like a big change, but adding a drip irrigation system to your garden or something similar can save big when it comes to water and your water bill. Watering the conventional way with a hose or a watering can can actually waste water. Instead of the water being concentrated in the right areas, like you can with a drip system, the entire bed gets watered when it really doesn’t need to be. An irrigation system can also be set on a time to ensure you water at the right times, whether you’re available or not and make it so that your water is being used in the best way. Installing a system may require an upfront investment, especially if you have someone else install it for you. But the investment is worth the cost when you think about the time, effort and precious resource it saves in the long run.
Those are all the tips I have for you today. Let me know if you have any additional tips for a more sustainable garden or if you are using any of these practices currently.
Until next time!