Planting, cultivating, and harvesting your own vegetables is a rewarding experience. But if you’re not careful, your garden can quickly become an environmental drain, consuming more resources than it really needs, instead of the healthy, beautiful, and sustainable addition it ought to be.
Fortunately, creating an energy efficient garden doesn’t require any great effort. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll not only be able to enjoy richer harvests but lower your environmental impact as well.
Use Water Wisely
Water’s the lifeblood of both your garden and your community. Make sure none of it goes to waste by:
- Watering Plants When It’s Cool. Water needs time to trickle down and be absorbed. It evaporates quickly in direct sunlight, so wait until the sun has gone down to water your plants. Or get up early, before the day’s heated up.
- Planting Trees & Tall Bushes. Shade protects soil from the sun, creating a microclimate more hospital to plants and shrubs. Too much sun damages plants and dries out groundwater in the soil.
- Grouping Plants With Similar Water Needs. Not every plant requires the same level of moisture in order to thrive. To prevent overwatering, group flowers and vegetables with similar needs close to one another.
- Focusing on Drought Resistant Plants. Plants that evolved in arid climates are just as colorful and beautiful, but last longer in harsh conditions with fewer resources.
- Collecting Rainwater. Ease the burden on your local water supply by placing a bucket or barrel underneath your water spouts to capture runoff and save it for later use.
Switch to a Cylinder Mower
Gas and electric mowers suck up a lot of energy keeping your grass trim. Try a cylinder mower instead. They do just as good a job and have a much smaller footprint. Shears and pruning scissors can also be used instead of an electric trimmer or weedwacker.
Of course, cylinder mowers take a lot of effort and not everyone has the energy. If you do require a gas or electric mower, look for one with an Energy Star Rating. Energy Star is a government program that promotes conservation through energy-efficient appliances.
Install Solar-Powered Lights or LEDs
Garden lighting is both practical and decorative. It beautifully illuminates your garden and helps you safely navigate outdoor pathways. This type of lighting was once incredibly costly but new technology has brought the price down dramatically, both to you and the environment.
Garden lights now come with solar panels that run at night by absorbing energy throughout the day. If you can’t afford new lights, swap out your old bulbs with LEDs. They use seven times less electricity and last 20 times longer.
Start Companion Planting
Believe it or not, the plants you choose can help your garden become self-sustaining. Planting certain vegetables next to each other enriches the surrounding crops. It’s an ancient practice.
Native Americans used to plant corn, squash, and climbing beans together. The corn supported the beans, the squash shaded the ground, and the beans returned nitrogen to the soil. Your garden can benefit too. Companion planting has been shown to:
- Deter Pests. Basil and garlic are natural insect repellents. Plant them next to tomatoes, broccoli, cabbages, potatoes, kale, and carrots to protect them from flies and aphids.
- Provide Shade. Large plants shield smaller, delicate ones from the sun. Peppers, eggplants, and okra, for instance, benefit from being planted next to bigger crops.
- Improve Soil. Some plants thrive in tough environments, making it more hospitable to others in the process. Peas and clovers, for instance, improve nitrogen content.
- Suppress Weeds. Weeds need room to grow. Some plants, like potatoes or buckwheat, crowd out weeds, making it impossible for them to gain a foothold in your garden.
There’s more to soil than dirt. Healthy soil is composed of millions of microorganisms ‒ bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, earthworms ‒ that break down organic matter and bring nutrients up to the surface. However, when left uncovered, your coil can quickly erode and become inhospitable to the crops you’ve planted in it.
Topsoil is an easy solution. It protects soil from wind and rain damage. It also lowers soil temperature, which reduces heat stress and water loss. Finally, it’s made from organic matter like mulch and wood chips, that nourish your crops without artificial fertilizers.