There are thousands upon thousands of different forms of life on the planet Earth. Despite the sheer number of organisms, only one species is advanced enough to dramatically reshape the world around it to its needs – that would be humans. Humans are exceptionally good at utilizing the natural resources of the planet; however, one thing that they aren’t doing so well these days is practicing sustainability. Sustainability refers to the idea of making sure that we don’t use up natural resources faster than the planet can replenish them. In centuries past, sustainability wasn’t as major as an issue since there weren’t as many humans on the planet, and thus, the amount of natural resources they used and the rate they used them at did not overwhelm Mother Nature’s ability to replenish them. However, today, huge numbers of people are using up too many resources too quickly, and it has created a serious problem.
If you are concerned about sustainability, you can do something about it, starting right in your own backyard. Sustainable gardening is a type of gardening that allows you to meet your own gardening needs, while at the same time not jeopardizing the needs of future generations. For example, the fertilizer you are using may do wonders for your plants, but run-off from fertilizers into bodies of water causes major water pollution and problems for the next generation of humans.
Another definition of sustainable gardening refers to the idea of being able to garden indefinitely without external input. For example, a sustainable gardener should make their own compost out of discarded food and other waste (internal input) instead of spending money on synthetic fertilizer produced in another country and then shipped to the local gardening store (external input).
One important sustainability practice is limiting the amount of water used in your garden. Although there’s plenty of water on the planet, humans can only access a small percentage of it in the form of potable freshwater; in fact, a great deal of the world is suffering from lack of potable water, including first-world countries the likes of Australia. Thus, a sustainable gardener will make the effort to reduce water consumption and allow that water to be used for more important purposes. Some excellent ways to conserve water include looking into planting drought-tolerant plants, mulching uncovered soil to promote water retention, grouping plants together that have similar water needs, and watering either by hand or by using an irrigation method instead of wasteful sprinklers. Lawns require huge amounts of water to thrive, so consider eliminating or reducing your lawn. If you can’t bring yourself to part with your grass, then at least consider letting your lawn go dormant during the summer because your lawn requires much more water in the heat than it does in the cooler parts of the year. Be diligent about weeding, because weeds just love drinking up all the water that you intended to go to your plants.
Another important sustainable gardening practice has to do with pesticides. Instead of using pesticides, which can get into the water and cause water pollution, consider using non-toxic or less toxic methods. For example, to rid your plants of mites and scale, try horticultural oil. Many insects can be taken care of with the SAFER brand of soap. Slugs can be removed by hand, and Bt will take care of caterpillars, beetles and mosquitoes. Look into planting pest-resistant plants to cut down on bug problems, and even if you end up having to use pesticide, instead of just dousing the entire garden, only take action once you’ve confirmed that there is a problem, and try to limit treatment to the affected area only.
When she’s not puttering around in her garden, Jenna Pacht works as an electrologist who specializes in Denver permanent hair removal.