I began my sustainable living journey in 2015 and have come a long way since (s/o to those of you who have followed along)! A year ago, my hubs and I built a solar powered smart home and we’re constantly finding new ways to make it as green as possible—AKA we’ve made a lot of trips to The Home Depot. My latest project: an eco garden!
WHAT DOES AN “ECO GARDEN” EVEN MEAN?!
To me it means growing a garden filled with flowers, fruits, and vegetables both you and the environment can be proud of—one that’s organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly! So if you’re looking for a fun project to tackle, I got you. Making an eco garden is a rewarding activity that helps you relish in nature while staying thoughtful about your environmental impact. Plus it’ll add a whole new layer of beauty to your home!
I should know. Our home looked really sad and colorless until I rolled up my sleeves and started planting! I’ve put together this informative guide to show you 10 ways to build your own eco garden.
WHERE TO START
Believe it or not, I got the idea for this project while browsing The Home Depot website. They have this Eco Options program they created to address global concerns in the products they sell including carbon emissions, water scarcity, air quality, waste, etc. On the Eco Options page, they recognize the best of their products in 6 categories: energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable forestry, healthy home, clean air and circular economy. Eco-friendly products they highlight are LED bulbs, organic garden, EGO blowers, trimmers and generators, and BEHR low VOC paint.
That’s where I stumbled upon a list of the top green projects you can do that’ll have the best impact on the environment and your wallet. While browsing their Green Projects, I noticed a huge chunk of their outdoor ideas were related to gardening! I recommend you visit the Green Projects page so you can see the full scope of possibilities for creating your sustainable organic garden.
10 WAYS TO GARDEN SUSTAINABLY
1. Use Native Plants
Exotic plants are intriguing and all, but native plants are where it’s at. Native plants naturally adapt to their local environment, making them hardier and less maintenance than imported exotic plants. That also means more money in your pocket, because their ability to withstand weather changes will prevent you from having to replace them.
They are also essential to keeping the ecological system from going out of whack. Without native plants and the insects that co-evolved with them, local birds and many other species struggle to survive. Surrounding your humble abode with native plants gives you the benefit of experiencing close encounters with birds, butterflies, insects, and wildlife seeking food and shelter.
What We Have:
The Home Depot’s garden centers get plants from 250 local growers. So I visited my local Home Depot store to stock up on native flowers and vegetables for my fall garden. I bought pansies, violas, cyclamens, mums, dusty millers and kale—all native plants that will endure the cooler weather this fall and winter in Georgia.
2. Attract Native Pollinators
My 9-year-old neighbor Jayla asked me the other day why I don’t cringe when I see bugs. Aside from my genuinely insane love for animals (insects included), their existence is also vital to humans. More than one third of the world’s food supply is produced by crops pollinated by insects—but our insect population is disappearing. The good news is, we can help by attracting pollinators with our gardens!
Those native plants I mentioned will help with that. Non-native plants have the potential to wipe out native plants, and with them, native insect species. Leave small areas for wildflowers which insects love—and also bright flowers!
Pollinator-friendly plants will help bring in the bees and don’t worry—most bees don’t even sting. While I was gardening the other day, a bee was buzzing in the flowers next to me and wasn’t phased by my presence at all. The feeling was mutual. Use flowers on the yellow and blue spectrum to attract multiple species of bees, some of whom sleep in the closed flowers at night.
What We Have: Did you know hummingbirds are great pollinators? Hang up hummingbird feeders to attract them into your garden space! I have two feeders and a bag of nectar mix.
3. Utilize Natural Predators Instead of Pesticides
Biological pest control and sustainable gardening go hand in hand. By nixing chemical pesticides and relying on the natural enemies of pests instead, the predator and prey cycle remains unbroken, allowing nature to take its course without human intervention. Predators like birds, ladybugs, the praying mantis, and spiders (yes spiders) will naturally do what predators do and rid your garden of pests so you don’t have to—which should make vegan gardeners like me rejoice!
What We Have:
I placed a bird feeder onto a garden hook to attract more birds into my garden. Different birds are attracted to different kinds of seeds. If you don’t know what kind of bird food to get, try sunflower bird seeds. Sunflower seeds are appealing to many backyard birds and the best choice for any bird feeding newbies out there like me.
Note: Black oil sunflower seeds are the most common and are excellent for most songbirds. Larger striped sunflower seeds are suitable for bigger birds with stronger bills.
4. Shop Organic Everything
Nutrients: When you first start your garden, you probably won’t have a compost pile to nourish it with. When shopping for soil and plant food look for products labeled as organic—these will help your fruits, vegetables, flowers, and lawn grow in a more organic way free from chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Seeds: If you plan to plant seeds, focus on searching for non-GMO seed packets. Conventional seed production is usually lengthy, chemically intensive, and invites more pests and disease due to the longer production times. Organic seed crops, on the other hand, are carefully managed in protected environments that minimize disease pressure, greatly reducing the need for harmful chemicals.
5. Start Composting
Compost is the coveted black gold your garden will thank you for—organic nutrition you can add to your soil to help plants grow. You make it by combining non-meat food scraps, garden trimmings, and fallen leaves. It’s a great way to reduce food waste while keeping your garden happy at the same time. The moment you decide to grow a garden, you should consider starting a compost pile. It will take weeks for the compost to finish, so the earlier you start the better.
You can make your own compost pile by simply heaping your organic materials in a corner of the yard or you can buy a compost bin that’s designed to create rich compost a lot more efficiently. If you decide to purchase, there are several kinds. You can get a basic, enclosed bin that works well for people with limited space, but the contents will take longer to decompose. Or you can get a tumbler which is the more popular choice; it has an energy-efficient design that’s relatively easy to aerate, supplying bacteria with the oxygen it needs to speed up decomposition.
What We Have:I bought this compost tumbler because it looks neat in my garden, is made from recycled plastic, and has two chambers for me to experiment with. I can have two completely different compost piles going in the separate chambers. All I have to do is load it up, keep it balanced with the right mix of food and yard waste, and turn it every couple days. I also bought a compost bucket to collect food scraps that I keep in my kitchen. When it’s full, I empty it into my compost tumbler.
6. Collect Rainwater
Rainwater is free and natural, so why let it go to waste? Conserving rainwater lessens your impact on the earth and lowers your water bill simultaneously. Connect a rain barrel to your spout to collect rainwater and use it to water your garden. This will especially come in handy during the wintertime and in drought-heavy areas.
What We Have:
I just bought this oak rain barrel that has a brass spigot which I will use to fill my watering can to provide my plants with refreshing, natural rainwater.
7. Water Smartly
Between soaker hoses, drip irrigation systems, soil-moisture systems, and smart timers, you can save money and water when maintaining your garden.
What We Have:
We installed the Rain Bird Smart Irrigation System with a WiFi timer which allows us to control our watering schedule from our smart phones.
8. Add Mulch
Mulch helps retain moisture around plants, reduces evaporation, suppresses weeds, and keeps the soil cool. It also makes your garden look super polished. Use mulch as a protective barrier for your plants against outside elements that could harm or even destroy their natural growing process.
What We Have:
9. Ditch the Gas-Powered Lawn Equipment
According to the EPA, gas-powered lawn and garden equipment (GLGE) is known to emit high levels of toxic and carcinogenic pollutants. Switching to battery powered mowers, trimmers, and blowers means cleaner air and more money savings.
What We Have:
We have a robot lawn mower, but if you want something more traditional you can operate by hand, opt for an EGO lawn mower. Operating an EGO Lithium-Ion Cordless mower instead of a gas powered lawn mower for 1 hour reduces pollution equivalent to driving a car for 45 miles. You can also get an EGO trimmer, edger, and blower.
10. Install Solar Lights
Last but not least! When the sun goes down, don’t let your garden disappear with it. You worked on that thing! Shoooooot, I know I did. I put blood, sweat, and tears into mine and I want it to be seen morning, noon, and night.Do it the eco-friendly way! Reduce your dependency on electricity by utilizing the incredible power of the sun. Trust me—we have solar panels on our roof and can tell you a thing or two about just how effective solar is. It’s free and plentiful so take advantage of it by lighting a garden path with solar lights.
What We Have:
HAVE FUN WITH IT!
This is one of those projects that will leave you feeling so satisfied in the end. Honestly I look at what I did and can’t believe I actually did that. It took a few days to complete and my dad, husband, and little neighbor Jayla even chipped in at times when they saw me knee-deep in dirt. I don’t have kids yet, but I can tell you the kid next door genuinely loved it. So any moms and dads out there reading this—make it a family project!
Gardening is addictive. What I thought would just be one trip to The Home Depot, turned into a few. Before I knew it, I was buying garden hooks, pots, porch décor, and wayyyy more flowers than I originally intended. I guess it takes me back to my childhood. My mom and dad had green thumbs that I honestly never thought I inherited. So if gardening scares you, don’t let it. If I can do it, TRUST me—you most certainly can. My parents had a gigantic garden, and it didn’t happen overnight. That’s the fun thing about gardening. It’s a project that will bring a lot of beauty and joy to your life and something you can continue building for years.
Shop My Décor and Tools:
** Bulb Planter (note: if your property has wet clay like mine, this tool will work fine for digging the hole but it will be difficult to get the clay OUT–so you may want a regular shovel instead)
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