By Bonique Hollinrake, Project Manager

Sustainable gardening is “the concept of using gardening practices that cause no harm to the earth and its inhabitants while attempting to actually enhance it.” While it would make sense for most people to want a sustainable garden, it might be more difficult than you think.  As you ramp up your gardening efforts, put a few of these practices in place to make your garden natural and healthy.

Soil:  Full of delicious microorganisms, soil is what forms the top layer of the earth. This is where your plants get their nutrients.  You should be feeding your soil, not just your plants.  When analyzing your soil, think about adding compost or other organic matter in place of chemicals.  Make your own compost all year long by using food scraps and compost bins.

Water:  While it seems to be raining all the time, we’re currently in a drought in the mid-Willamette Valley. Collecting rainwater and storing it is easy, and if you have the right soil (with mulch), it will also retain water for plants. Consider a water feature or a storage system to help naturally hydrate your garden.

Beneficial Insects: Not all insects are created equal. Some predatory insects can be a help to your garden. Spiders, Ground Beetles, Praying Mantises, the aphid-eating Green Lacewing, Ladybugs, and Hoverflies are just a few that eat pests that damage your plants.

Be Bee Friendly:  First, know your bees.  Honeybees (golden-color, striped) are helpful garden friends (not the same for yellow jackets, hornets, some wasps).  They generally won’t bother you if you don’t step on them or swat them.  They provide useful pollination services to your plants.  Some ways to preserve these precious helpers are to eliminate harmful pesticides and fertilizers and add lots of flowers to your garden.  If you do end up as a home for a honeybee swarm, make sure to call a qualified beekeeper who will gladly relocate the bees to a suitable hive.

The right plants for the right season and region. You’ll enjoy your sustainable gardening experience more if you choose the right plants and flowers for your soil and season. Check out the OSU extension services gardening schedule on their website. (maybe even become a master gardener!).

Feed yourself.  There is joy in eating what you’ve grown. There is no trip to the store, no packaging, nor wondering where your food came from. You are living a more sustainable life when you reap the rewards of your sustainable garden.

Green Acres Landscape, a full-service residential and commercial landscaping business and nursery in Salem, Oregon.

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