garden by fence

7 Tips For Designing an Eco-Friendly Garden

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Earth-conscious gardening is rooted in cutting back on household waste and toxic chemicals. This mindful approach conserves our vital resources, such as water. It also prioritizes the habit of recycling. By making these choices, you can slow the pace of global warming.

Toward that end, here are 7 creative ideas for your upcoming growing season.

1. Practice Companion Planting

This friendly term means growing complementary plants near each other. Doing so awards them with mutual benefits. For instance, pairing specific plants can boost their ability to:

  • Absorb soil nutrients
  • Conserve water
  • Produce leaves
  • Repel insects
  • Yield crops

In some cases, companion planting can improve crop flavor!

How is this possible? Symbiotic plants release vitalizing substances into the air and soil they share. By this, they help each other thrive.

Here’s a sampling of devoted plant buddies. Are your intended crops among them?

  • Broccoli and Calendula
  • Cabbage and Chamomile
  • Corn and Pumpkin
  • Cucumbers and Nasturtium
  • Lettuce and Garlic
  • Onions and Roses
  • Parsley and Squash
  • Potatoes and Peas
  • Radishes and Carrots
  • Tomatoes and Basil

2. Fence Your Garden With “Green” Materials

When fencing your garden, it’s important to use “green” materials. Here are three approaches to consider:

Build From Scratch

Are you handy with tools? If so, construct your fence from salvaged metal or recycled lumber.

For high-quality used materials, check eBay, Etsy, and Craigslist. Also, scout the web for firms selling architectural salvage.

Buy Prefabricated Fencing

You can choose from several planet-friendly materials. Among the most attractive are EcoStone, biocomposite, reclaimed wood, recycled composite, and bamboo. You’ll find all these products online.

Plant a Privacy Screen

Certain trees and shrubs excel as property borders. Credit goes to their stature, columnar shape, and dense foliage.

Examples are cypress, juniper, holly, and arborvitae. A living fence will buffer your garden from wind and noise while attracting charming birds.

3. Lure Helpful Bugs with the Plants They Love

With the strategic placement of certain plants, predatory bugs will flock to your garden. Called “beneficial insects,” they’ll eat the critters that can ravage your vegetables, fruits, and flowers. To survive, beneficial insects need a diet of bugs, pollen, and nectar.

Below are champion insects and the foes they thwart:

  • Lacewings – mites and aphids
  • Ladybugs – whiteflies, mealybugs, mites, scale, aphids, and small caterpillars
  • Hoverflies – thrips, leafhoppers, mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scale
  • Parasitic wasps – leaf-miners, tomato hornworm, beetles, aphids, caterpillars, whiteflies, mealybugs, scale, and cabbage worms
  • Tachinid flies – caterpillars, squash bugs, stink bugs, and beetles

Many herbs summon all these desirable bugs. Most alluring are dill, lemon balm, parsley, fennel, coriander, lavender, spearmint, and caraway. Topping the list of enticing flowers are zinnia and yarrow.

So, if your garden plot is large enough, include this full array of plants. This way, you’ll recruit a vast army of beneficial insects! 

4. Treat Your Soil to Homemade Compost

By composting organic waste, you’ll divert it from ugly landfills. Heaped with recyclable garbage, they pollute our water, air, and soil.

Compost is a gardener’s goldmine! It fertilizes plants and helps their soil hold water. The organic nutrients in compost strengthen plants against disease. Plus, organic matter feeds valuable microbes and earthworms that aerate soil.

You can make compost in either a pit or bin. A pit is the larger option, requiring three square feet of space.

Ideally, your chosen site should get dappled sunlight rather than strong sunshine. Otherwise, the compost materials may get too dry, hindering their breakdown.

Greens and Browns

Plants require nitrogen to grow. So, after creating your compost system, add sources of this mineral. Prime candidates are kitchen waste, food scraps, and grass clippings.

Additionally, soil microbes and plants need carbon materials. Examples are dried leaves, eggshells, coffee grounds, and teabags. Also suitable are paper towels and newspapers, provided you shred them.

In compost lingo, carbon materials are “browns,” and nitrogen-rich elements are “greens.” The best ratio is one-third greens to two-thirds browns. This combination speeds their breakdown and keeps them from smelling foul. Consequently, your compost will be light and fluffy, the perfect soil conditioner!

For your greens and browns to decompose fully, they must have oxygen and moisture. So, once weekly, use a shovel to flip your compost, aerating it. If the mass looks dry, add a sprinkling of water.

5. Target Weeds With Non-toxic Methods

Admittedly, some natural weed treatments aren’t practical, being “non-selective.” As such, they destroy both weeds and garden plants. So, the best form of weed control is prevention.

Barriers

One tactic is laying a physical barrier on the soil around your plants. By this, you block weeds from sprouting. An ideal restraint is mulch. Examples are grass clippings and wood chips. To ably squelch weeds, spread the mulch 3 inches deep. Another option is newspaper, anchored by rocks. 

Weed Uprooting

The most troublesome weeds are perennials. Due to their genetic programming, they resurface every year. To prevent this, you must uproot them. Below are nifty tools to help you. You’ll find them at hardware and home improvement stores.

  • Garden Cultivator – having three prongs
  • Fishtail Weeder – for plants with long taproots, like dandelions
  • Long-Handled Garden Hoe – for weeds with shallow roots
  • Cape Cod Weeder – with a slim blade for tight spaces
  • Paving Weeder – for extracting stubborn weeds from cracks

Home Remedy

When your crops are a safe distance from pesky plants, use a natural weed killer. Here is one many gardeners love:

Combine 1 gallon white vinegar, 1 cup salt, and 1 tablespoon liquid dish detergent. Mix the ingredients thoroughly and pour into a spray bottle, refilling as needed. If you’d prefer, you can add the mixture to a 2-gallon pump sprayer.

Since this treatment doesn’t kill weed roots, you’ll need to reapply it periodically.

6. Adopt fun ways to conserve water

Recycle Suitable Household Water

After boiling eggs, pasta, potatoes, and the like, use the cooking water as fertilizer. Your plants will savor the leached minerals.

If you run a dehumidifier, when full, empty it into a watering can.

Water at Optimal Times

Will your garden have both in-ground and potted plants? If so, water your plot or field in the morning. Then, come late afternoon, give your container plants their turn. This schedule will enhance water intake for all your plants, wherever they’re situated.

Harvest Rainwater

To catch rainwater, attach your drainpipes to covered cisterns. Some gardeners use open rain barrels for rainwater harvesting. However, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Covered cisterns prevent this hazard, along with drowned bugs. Plus, you can buy cisterns with pumps. Such devices will accelerate water flow when draining your tanks.

Curb Water Evaporation With Mulch

Dress your soil with a 3-inch layer of mulch. This practice helps soil hold water while subduing weed growth.

Consider Installing a Drip Irrigation System

Buy a simple, do-it-yourself setup. Drip irrigation is more efficient than sprinkler watering. That’s because the perforated hoses deliver water to plant roots. By doing this, less water is lost to evaporation and runoff.

7. Repurpose Items as Plant Containers

Will your garden include potted plants? If so, avoid buying plastic containers. Instead, reuse objects you already have, turning them into planters.

Depending on what you choose, your garden can sport a stylish or whimsical look. In any case, your plot will have a distinctive personality!

To inspire your creativity, here are choice items you can repurpose:

  • Birdbath
  • Rain gutter
  • Wheelbarrow or wagon
  • Shipping pallet
  • Old tires
  • Watering cans
  • Buckets and barrels
  • Hanging pocket organizer
  • Chest of drawers

When dressed with colorful paint, some of these pieces are even cuter!

Note that a shipping pallet can become a vertical garden. You can get free shipping pallets from certain stores. Examples are those selling hardware, groceries, flooring, furniture, or pet supplies. To avoid legal trouble with pallet removal, get a store manager’s permission first.

If you don’t have anything to repurpose, visit a salvage yard or thrift shop. 

Garden Harmony

Creating an eco-friendly garden can help bring about garden harmony as well. To reiterate, here are seven options for greening up your plot:

1. Pair mutually beneficial plants.
2. Fence with recyclable or sustainable materials.
3. Grow plants in your garden that attract helpful insects.
4. Feed your soil with homemade compost.
5. Nix weeds with non-toxic strategies.
6. Conserve water in fun ways.
7. Repurpose items into quaint planters.

Happy Planting!

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