With summer around the corner, our green thumbs are beginning to itch. Isn’t it time you got your garden going? Get inspired by the “kitchen garden” of Michelle Obama or, simply, by a delicious tomato and the sense of accomplishment. Growing a garden is not only good for you it is also good for the environment because it reduces the carbon footprint of your food by decreasing the number of miles it takes to get food from the farm to your kitchen table. If you plant trees, it helps store carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. In both cases, gardening done right is good for your carbon footprint. Here is how to get a beautiful garden with a small footprint.
Map out your garden. With a little planning, you can avoid buying extra supplies and seeds, reducing your carbon footprint. Keep in mind that all of the things you buy had to be manufactured and transported, emitting pounds of CO2 in the process.
Work with your local climate. Early-season local vegetables, such as peas and lettuce, can withstand the cooler nights of spring, increasing your growing season. If you use local seeds, then the farm-to-table distance is close to zero. As a bonus, these plants don’t need heavy fertilizers, which have large carbon footprints.
Find out where the sunlight falls in your garden. You may have less than you think! It doesn’t mean you have to give up – just pick plants that like shade. To keep your garden full all season, think of harvest and flowering times. You can find a planning guide here.
To encourage growth, put plants that help each other together. For example, you can sow radish seeds in with cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles. Plants are like people – they love good company and hate pesky neighbors. While you can cram a lot into a small garden, make sure you know the ultimate size of your plants, so they don’t struggle and you can avoid replanting.
It all starts with soil
Good soil is the basis of your success in the garden, but not all regions have quality soil.
To improve your garden and eliminate the need for store-bought soil, put kitchen compost or leaves from the past fall into the soil. Also, cover the ground to reduce evaporation, so you can water less!
Keep your garden as organic as possible. Chemical and manure fertilizers are carbon-intensive products. Avoiding them will minimize your emissions. If you need to acidify the soil, use leftover tea and coffee grounds.
Maximize the positive impact of your garden
Did you know that you eliminate about two pounds of CO2e for every pound of produce you grow instead of buying? Grow what you eat! Those tomatoes, herbs and greens you usually buy are easy to grow even for a beginner gardener. Don’t forget to plant trees and flowers to keep nature in balance. This will keep the pests away and encourage the good bugs, which protect the plants.
Many of us urban dwellers think we have no time or space for a garden. Yet, with a container or two, even the smallest porch can give you a crop of vegetables or a nice green space. To liven up a fence or to frame an archway, use climbing plants. They demand little ground space and almost no attention.
Don’t waste that patch of soil in front of your home. A front yard garden is one of the best ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a community, because it inspires the rest of your neighborhood to change things up! People quickly find that islands of nature give you space to rest and bond with your family. Start a garden and in no time you will have others following suit!
Living in a high-rise? Little space – no problem! Reuse plastic bottles to create a hanging garden or make a living piece of art by planting on a vertical surface. Imagine how amazing a building would look if everyone kept a garden on their balcony! If you want more space, find a community garden.
Beautiful doesn’t mean new!
New things have pounds of CO2 associated with their production and transportation. Finding a new use for household objects in your garden is a double positive: it avoids the impact of newly bought things and doesn’t emit the greenhouse gases it would have produced at the landfill. You won’t believe how many objects in your house are just waiting to be reused. Here are some ideas.
Eggshell as seedling planter: Rather than buying a planter, poke a hole in the bottom of an empty eggshell half, put it in an egg carton and fill with soil and seeds. Once your seedling appears, plant the whole thing in the ground.
Pallets are an endless and mostly free source of wood! You can make a container or a vertical garden holder from them.
Planting tags. By conservative estimates, about one ounce of CO2e is emitted for each ounce of plastic produced. Instead of buying plastic tags, write the names of plants with a permanent marker on stones of various sizes.
A way to dry herbs. Unless you have an alternative energy source, using your oven produces CO2 emissions. On a hot day, instead of using the stove, just lay a cloth in your car and arrange the herbs on it. They will quickly dry to perfection and the car will smell great.
Water reuse. Whenever you open the tap the water treatment plant uses energy to clean your water, which in most cases means using fossil fuels and increasing carbon emissions. You can calculate the influence of your home’s energy use with our carbon footprint calculator. To reduce the carbon footprint of your home, collect rainwater by putting a barrel outside and the next time you boil or steam food, use the “broth” to water plants.
There is so much to learn about gardening and the best way is hands-on! So ready, set, get gardening! Share your tips and tricks on our Facebook page and check out our Twitter and Pinterest for more environmentally-friendly ideas.