If you’re a gardening fanatic and adore everything to do with nature, you’ve probably got a vegetable patch, or you’re at least developing one. Although many gardeners believe they have a sustainable garden, they’re generally wrong. That statement may have turned some heads, so let me explain what sustainable gardening is.
Sustainable gardening is the concept of using gardening and landscaping practices to grow vegetables without harming the earth and its inhabitants. In theory, for your vegetable garden to be sustainable, it must survive if all water supply and electricity were to vanish.
As you can see, for a vegetable garden to be sustainable, it must be able to grow vegetables without using any artificial resources or tools. Something which people commonly think is sustainable is using a garden tap to water their vegetable patch. This is a big no! For it to become sustainable, you must collect water naturally and use it efficiently.
Now you understand the basic meaning behind sustainable gardening. It’s time to develop our knowledge that little bit further. Below we go into detail about why vegetable gardens can be sustainable and how you can start implementing this type of gardening today.
Why are vegetable gardens sustainable?
It’s evident that vegetable gardens can be sustainable, especially when you realize farms were around 12,000 years ago. Surprisingly, back then, they didn’t have the knowledge nor equipment to grow vegetables artificially. Below we talk about why vegetable gardens are sustainable and how gardeners over the years have managed to achieve success this way.
1.Compost your natural waste
When many people and I think about sustainable gardening, we think of compost. This type of sustainable fertilizer has been around since the beginning of time. For millions of years, the earth has naturally produced compost for its wildlife through the cycle of life and death.
The first event of farmers using compost was back in 3,000 BC. Before farmers knew about other compost materials, they used its raw form, manure. The manure was spread across fields, and anything that was left would get mixed up with dirty stable straw to be stored away.
However, as time progressed, gardeners found new and innovative materials that work remarkably well as compost. Because of this, you’re able to implement a broader range of organic materials into your compost. These include dead leaves, grass clippings, flower heads, and much more.
Once added, your compost will be rich in valuable nutrients. Because of this, when you cultivate it into your soil, it transfers these valuable resources into your ground, making your soil healthier. From this, your vegetables will grow much prominently, stronger, and more flavorsome.
Creating compost is 100% natural, and it acts as a superb fertilizer. So, you can say goodbye to using harsh non-organic fertilizers, meaning you can sustainably create this valuable nourishment till the end of time.
2.Vegetables produce seeds
If you grow vegetables that produce seeds, you’ll never have to repurchase them. This is because vegetables naturally produce seeds so that they can continue their life cycle. Most vegetables offer seeds or some type of reproduction stem, meaning you’re able to grow them repeatedly.
Apart from allowing you to replant more seeds, you’re also helping the planet. Around the world, there are “doomsday” vaults which are known as seed banks. As you can imagine, they store an abundance of plant and vegetable seeds from around the world.
They started developing these banks when authorities realized that around 40% of plant species are close to becoming extinct. To save this from ever occurring, they store seeds in the event of countries running out.
Without gathering seeds, this natural resource will slowly die out. If this were to happen, we’d never be able to grow certain vegetables ever again. Think about it, a world without any green beans! Jokes aside, this would be a serious matter and something that’ll be devastating for our planet.
However, because there’s a solid seed collecting infrastructure in the agricultural industry, I don’t think this will happen soon.
From this, you should be able to understand the sustainability of growing vegetables in your own garden. When you harvest, you’ll receive seeds that you can replant into your soil. During each harvest season, this will occur, meaning you’ll have vegetables forever.
3.It doesn’t require any herbicides
It’s obvious that the agriculture industry uses harsh herbicides to deter weeds from spoiling their plants. After all, spraying your entire field with chemicals is much easier than monitoring every single crop.
Although many herbicides have been banned in numerous countries and states, there are still loopholes around what you can and can’t use. Because of this, many farmers still use herbicides that can either be harmful to us or our environment.
However, as a home vegetable gardener, you don’t have to do this. Instead, you can control it and develop sustainable ways of managing your weeds. Below are some examples of organic materials you’re able to use to create a herbicide:
- Vegetable oil spray
- Neem oil spray
- Diatomaceous earth
- Garlic spray
- Chile pepper spray
As you’re able to see from the above, there are various ways in which you’re able to control weeds without using harsh and dangerous chemicals. Instead, use these sustainable materials.
4.Use pests to control pests!
Small tiny insects can be pests to our vegetable gardens, but they’re easily controllable through sustainable methods. Something that may sound questionable is pests can control pests. Now I understand that can sound slightly confusing, so let me explain how.
Many different species love feeding off each other within the insect world, which is commonly known as the life and death cycle. However, an excellent example of this occurring with insects is ladybugs and aphids.
If you’re not familiar with aphids, they can be highly destructive with cultivated plants in hot regions. This is because they love feeding of sap, which helps vegetables grow and develop into edible crops.
But, luckily for us, our little ladybird friends can help us with this issue. So, before you shoo away your ladybirds, you may want to consider keeping them as they may be helping you significantly.
5.Enrich your soil with mulch
Many people believe it’s almost impossible to keep soil moisture through sustainable methods. However, they couldn’t be even more wrong as you can achieve this by using mulch.
Mulch is a layer of material applied to the soil’s surface for those who don’t know. This is because it retains moisture in the ground. From doing this, you’re improving the fertility of the soil, its overall health, and you could also be making the area appear more visually pleasing. Apart from these astronomical benefits, it can also aid the following.
- Reduces the possibilities of weeds appearing
- Keeps soil temperature stable
- Decreases the chances of your soil becoming compact
- Adds additional nutrients to the soil
- Prevents erosion from occurring
Considering all of the above benefits, you probably think this isn’t a sustainable material. However, as you can probably imagine by now, mulch can be made from entirely organic materials.
Mulch is created from an assortment of different natural sources. These include:
- Leaf Mulch – If you want an accessible, organic, and sustainable material for mulch, using leaves is your best option. To achieve this, rake leaves around your garden into a designated area and cut them into smaller pieces.
- Bark Mulch – Again, something else that works superbly is bark mulch. Of course, the bark is found on trees, and from breaking these into small pieces, you can use them as mulch.
- Wood Chips – If you cut down a tree, you can create wood chips, which work the same as bark.
- Compost – Something we spoke about earlier in the post, compost. This is a great way to retain your soil’s moisture.
As you can see, when creating mulch, there are various organic materials that you can use. Meaning you’re able to retain your soil’s moisture sustainably.
6.You don’t have to use power tools
Something genuinely remarkable about gardening is that it doesn’t require any power tools, and in fact, no tools at all. For many years, people used their hands, sticks, and stones to develop farms for their crops.
Ditching tools like a mower can provide our environment with dramatic benefits. Did you know that using a gasoline-powered lawn mower for just one hour can produce as much air pollutants as a brand-new car driving 550 kilometers? That’s a rather scary thought but something that people should most definitely be aware of.
However, while creating and maintaining your vegetable garden, you don’t have to use any power tools. Because of this, it makes growing vegetables extremely sustainable because you’re not reliant on electricity or gas.
Using simple tools like a shovel, rake, pruning cutters, etc., is more than enough to successfully perform good upkeep on your vegetable patch.
Suppose you have cattle roaming around your property, such as cows. You don’t just reek the benefits of receiving fresh milk, but you can actually recycle their manure to provide your soils with great nutritional benefits.
Many farmers around the world have used manure to revitalize their land after a long growing season. This is because the soil absorbs the manure, which enriches the ground. Depending on what type of soil you have, you’ll receive different benefits.
For example, if you have sandy soil, manure can help it retain moisture levels. Whereas with compacted soil, it’ll help loosen it up, which can provide better growing conditions for your vegetables.
However, with either of the soil types, manure increases the soil’s carbon. For those who don’t know, carbon is soil’s best friend. An insufficient amount of carbon would cause your vegetables to grow unsuccessfully. Because manure provides such high levels of carbon, it can provide both the soil and vegetables a ton of benefits.
So, if you thought rejuvenating your soil wasn’t sustainable, you’re wrong! By introducing farm animals to your property, you can get a food source, as well as a completely natural fertilizer.
8.Optimize your growing seasons
Something people tend to worry about with sustainability and vegetable gardens is growing seasons. People believe that only in some climates you’re able to grow all year round. However, this just isn’t the case, and you’re able to optimize your growing seasons expediently.
Below is what you should consider if you want to grow year-round.
- You’re able to implement row covers, greenhouses, and various other shelters that can create a warm “microclimate” for your summer-loving vegetables. From doing this, you’re able to increase their chances of growing during the winter season.
- Consider growing mizuna, winter lettuce, chard, kale, carrots, parsnip, or spinach during winter. If you live in an icy climate, contemplate making a cold frame or greenhouse. From this, you can naturally generate more heat from the winter sun, which will keep your vegetables warm throughout the entire day and night.
- Develop a growing plan. From this, you’ll have a detailed strategy of when you’re going to plant and harvest certain vegetables. If you implement this correctly, you’ll certainly be surprised with what you’re able to grow year-round.
9.You can collect water
A precious resource to keeping your plants alive and healthy is water, and many gardeners around the world head for the garden tap when their plants need some hydration. Depending on where you live, this can actually change the PH levels of your soil. Apart from that, it’s also extremely bad for our environment.
To counteract this issue, you’re able to create or invest in water butts. These are containers that collect and store rainwater. Typically, many gardeners feed water from their properties gutter, into their water butt. When it rains, water falls onto your roof, which is normally filtered into the guttering and then disposed of in a sewage system. But instead of it flowing through to the sewage systems, it can be fed into your water butt to store water.
Because you’re able to collect and store natural rainwater this way, makes maintaining a vegetable garden extremely sustainable. Without a doubt, if you’re looking to develop a somewhat sustainable vegetable patch, this is the first step you must take.
10.Vegetables grow from organic materials
As you can read from the above, there is an abundance of different reasons why a vegetable garden is sustainable. Something else you need to think about is that gardening is entirely organic because the three main materials required to grow vegetables are: water, sunlight, and soil. Because these are widely available and completely natural resources, you can sustainably use them until the end of time.
Water – This recyclable resource is essential for the development of your vegetables. Water helps transport essential nutrients through your soil and to your vegetable’s roots. Without supplying a sufficient amount of water, your vegetables can appear droopy.
Sunlight – For photosynthesis to occur, a necessary requirement is sunlight. Sunlight is like fuel to plants, and supplying an insufficient amount will reduce their growth.
Soil – Lastly, this material helps retain all the healthy and vital nutrients that plants need to grow. Without it, plants don’t have a solidified base to grow their roots into or somewhere that can provide valuable nutrients.
After reading the above, you should be able to grasp the whole concept behind vegetable gardens and sustainability. Without a doubt, they’re sustainable as farming vegetables has been around since the beginning of time, and I’m no historian, but I’m sure back in BC, they didn’t have the equipment we have available to us today.
How do you make a vegetable garden sustainable?
Now you understand why vegetable gardens are sustainable, I’m sure you’re raring to start developing one. If you are, that’s great because you’re going to provide our environment with tremendous benefits. If you want to build a sustainable garden, I suggest you read the below tips and start putting them into action.
Choose the perfect location
The very first step to creating your sustainable vegetable garden is selecting an appropriate location. Not every location is considered “good” to grow vegetables in. Below are some things you need to consider before finalizing your decision on where you’re going to start growing vegetables.
First things first, you’ll need to find an area on your property that gets a sufficient amount of sun. As a rule of thumb, vegetables should get a bare minimum of around six hours of sun each day. On top of that, you’ll need to find a location that’s level or doesn’t require much work to make level.
After this, you’ll want to test your soil to see if it’s acidic or alkaline. Below we talk about how you’re able to achieve this.
Test the soil
A significant step to developing a sustainable garden is understanding your soil type. This is because some vegetables grow better in acidic soil, and others grow better in alkaline. So, understanding this is crucial for the growth of your vegetables.
There are multiple ways to test your soil’s contents, from probe machines, PH strips all the way to science-like experiments. As we’re making a sustainable garden, you should conduct a small experiment as this will only require sustainable-like materials. To do this, follow the below instructions:
- Grab at least one cup of soil from multiple areas of your vegetable patch.
- Once you’ve done this, split down your soil into two containers. Make sure these are clean to ensure you don’t contaminate the soil’s PH levels.
- Now you should add half a cup of vinegar to the soil and see if it reacts. If the soil fizzes, you’ll likely have alkaline. However, if it doesn’t fizz, it may be acidic.
- If your soil doesn’t fizz and you want to confirm if it’s acidic or not, you’ll want to mix distilled water with baking soda and add it to the mix.
- When you’ve done this, if it fizzes, it confirms your soil is acidic.
Grow what makes sense to you
Growing vegetables is excellent, but you should only produce what you like. For instance, because growing onions during a particular season is better, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to. Before starting your growing year, you should review your garden’s financial input and consider how many benefits you’ll receive if you develop the way you want to.
Look for good vegetable groups
Many people are unaware of this, but some plants enhance the development of others around them. For example, if you grow basil with tomatoes, it can increase its flavor and act as a natural repellent for many insects. Because of this, it’s more than worth taking a look into these “companion” plants, as you may able to grow more tasteful vegetables.
Have a compost and mulch bin
If you haven’t already, you should start compiling a compost and mulch bin. Having too much of either of these resources is never bad, but too little can undoubtedly be frustrating. My biggest tip to making a bin is to keep them in dry locations. Sometimes too much water can cause them to become too damp, heavy, and less effective for their purpose.
Start developing a seed bank
Earlier in this post, we spoke about seed banks. Because most vegetables produce seeds, why not start collecting them? After you’ve harvested your vegetables and replanted the seeds, you’ll be leftover with a few spares. If you haven’t got the room to plant them, keep them for a rainy day.
Try to keep it natural
Of course, a significant part of having a sustainable vegetable garden is to keep it natural. Sometimes this can be difficult because there are many new and innovative tools that can make your life easier. However, try not to fall for this. If you can keep it natural, this will provide our environment a lot more benefits, and you’ll also feel good for doing it.
As you can see from the above, vegetable gardens are extraordinarily sustainable and something you should most definitely start implementing. After reading the brief how-to guide, you should be able to develop an idea of how simple it is to start creating your own sustainable vegetable garden.
Hopefully, this post has persuaded you to start a sustainable garden. Without a doubt, it can provide you with immense benefits if you implement it correctly. So, what are you waiting for? Get developing your vegetable patch today and join others from around the world that are living sustainably.