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There are few things more “green” then starting and tending to your own garden. Growing beautiful plants and harvesting your own vegetables can be a rewarding experience in and of itself, but there are also many ecological returns to the process. The greenhouse gases from fuel associated with growing and transporting commercial fruits and vegetables are effectively reduced by vegetable gardens, and in the case of container gardens, creating new green space can also reap positive environmental rewards. That’s not to say that plenty of energy doesn’t go into growing a garden. Plants need water, nutrients and sunlight to grow and fruit, and these vital components can at times prove costly. There are ways to eliminate waste and grow a garden easily and efficiently while maximizing your garden’s harvest. To this end, here is a list of tips you can employ to make your garden ‘greener.’
Water use accounts for much of the energy spent on a garden, and quite a bit evaporates away before your plants have the opportunity to use it. Rainwater collection is an excellent way to make sure that more of that precious water goes to where it is needed in your garden. Many cities offer incentives in the form of rebates for citizens who wish to set up rainwater harvesting systems, though any large container would suffice. The water can be collected directly from the sky or from your rain gutters, and it’s surprising to see how quickly even the largest containers will fill up from a downpour. Make sure to cover your rain barrels with a screen to prevent insects from getting in there and laying their eggs, and make use of the water often to prevent it from stagnating. Your water costs will begin to drop immediately, and your plants will react much better to rainwater, as municipal water often contains chlorine and white mineral deposits.
Use Native Plants
No other plants are better suited to grow in your area than the ones that were already there. These plants often require minimal effort beyond occasional watering. After all, they’d been in the area much longer then you have, and will probably be there long after you’re gone. Some people are resistant to growing native gardens because they are so accustomed to lush lawns and blooms, but non-native plants require more cost and effort then natives. If done correctly, native gardens can be both unique and breathtaking. Here is a great site that will help will find out which plants are native to your area, and even where they can be purchased.
One of the easiest things you can do to make use of the excess nutrients that often go to waste is create a compost pile. Almost any organic waste can go into your compost pile and Web sites that detail the best ways to manage it are numerous. A good compost pile can be used in your garden to retain water and aerate soil. It also eliminates the need to purchase fertilizer as it is chock full of the nutrients your plants need to grow healthy roots, and can enrich poor or overworked soil. The environmental benefits to composting are impressive. Composting has even been shown to remediate contaminated soil. It binds heavy metals so they don’t end up in your plants or water supply, treats volatile organic compounds (VOCs), degrades and, in some cases, completely eliminates wood preservatives, pesticides and both chlorinated and non-chlorinated hydrocarbons. Composting can also extend the life of landfills by diverting organic materials that might otherwise end up there. Not bad for a bunch of kitchen scraps!
Mulching is also simple and very beneficial to your garden. Mulch adds nutrients to your soil as it decomposes and helps retain water, even during the hottest times of the day. It also reduces soil runoff from rain and can prevent those pesky weeds from germinating in your garden. This saves hours of time that would otherwise be spent pulling them out. Mulch can made from something as simple as old newspapers and grass clippings, though bark mulch is much more effective. In most cases, commercial mulch is a byproduct of the logging industry, but I got mine for free at the local recycling center, which is made from local brush pickups in city neighborhoods. Through a Google search, I found that quite a few cities offer this service, further reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that come from purchasing commercial mulch that could have been transported from the other side of the country.
This list should help you get started. It is by no means a complete list as many gardeners have learned through experience a few of their own tricks to make their gardens more efficient and productive. If there are any glaring omissions to the list, let us know in the comments section. I’m working on my own garden now and could use any and all advice! Sites that give further gardening tips are abound across the Web. If you’re interested in taking your green gardening a step further, I also recommend sites on xeriscaping, which takes the methods detailed above and brings them together in a straightforward method intended to make your garden run as efficiently as possible. Whether you are growing a simple container garden or devoting your backyard to the effort, the ReGeneration team wishes your ‘ green’ garden a bountiful harvest for years to come.