Sustainable Gardening… doing no harm.
What could be greener than gardening? Well, there are many choices we make in our gardens from landscape design to choice of plant material to how we maintain it – that could be more or less “green." In this blog post we encourage you to think about how we can make our gardening practices even more green by thinking about sustainable gardening.
Sustainable gardening is a term that is used to capture the gardening practices that aim to achieve good environmental stewardship. Practices that will ‘do no harm’ to the natural environment. When we do no harm to nature, we let it restore the right balance of plants, water, insects, birds and animals that will keep the lands we steward going for our enjoyment and for the future.
Using compost provides important nutrients to replenish your garden beds and help with water retention. Even if you compost garden clippings, or mulch leaves and put them back on the beds to decompose over the winter… your plants will like you. Composting household food waste in a worm composter produces very rich compost with less of a risk of rodents. You can also buy worm castings as a very rich compost. We put that in our garden beds in front of the church before we planted them.
What exactly are native plants? They are those plants that have been here hundreds if not thousands of years, before the importing of plants. These plants have evolved naturally in our ecosystem without human intervention. They are well adapted to our environment, and provide the right kind of nutrition and shelter (habitat) for specific forms of butterflies, bees or other pollinators. They are part of a native eco-system where certain plants support certain pollinators (insects, birds) that are critical to the area. We have heard of milkweed we planted in the front beds and the support it provides for the Monarch Butterfly. That is one important partnership, and this year 30% more Monarchs are migrating up to our gardens.
There are many more such relationships – the redbud trees in our entry gardens support the Swallowtail Butterfly. But another great part of choosing native plants is that they are so easy to keep! Once established they require much less maintenance than exotic non-native plants. Can’t go wrong. The entry beds on either side of our church entry are all native plants, and if you look at the gardening section of our website, you will see the blog by the Garden Club of Toronto describing the benefits of native plantings. The North American Native Plant Society has many resources about native plants.
Using less water in our gardens is great for times when water is scarce. But how? Think about your choice in plants. Some beautiful plants can be drought tolerant and make due with less water. Native plant choices are also well adapted to our weather. Hot and cold. You can also consider how to capture water when it does fall. In the raised garden beds at Met we have rain barrels positioned to capture the water running off the roofs (we got them through Rainbarrel.ca). This is used to water the raised beds. How we water is also important: drip irrigation or soaker hoses are great choices for gardens so that we water in the soil direction and minimize the evaporation from sprinklers.
If you are able, think about planting a tree so that it will shade your home from intense summer sun as well as contribute to the important carbon capture. Each year Toronto has been partnering with the ArborDay Foundation to give away free trees in May. Keep an eye out for it. Want to know what benefit you might get from planting a tree at your home? Here's a website where you can explore different types of trees and different locations around your home to see how much energy you could save.