In the words of Gandhi: “The earth has enough for man’s need, but not enough for man’s greed.” This has become very apparent, with scientific studies, Hollywood, former Vice Presidents, and the media bringing it to our attention—perhaps just in time, before it is too late.
We are only tenants of this planet we call Earth, and only one of countless animal and plant species that try to coexist. It seems that we sometimes lose sight of this. Maybe we should look a little closer at how our footprint on the Earth will affect its future. As horticulturists and gardeners, we somehow feel closely connected to the earth and the gifts it offers.
Here are a few tips for making your garden and our world a bit “greener.”
Be aware of your inputs. Try organic solutions to remedy disease and pest issues before resorting to chemical warfare. Many organic solutions actually work. Maybe use a Neem-based fungicide or an insecticidal soap. Perhaps release beneficial insects like ladybugs or praying mantises into the garden to keep pests at bay. If you must use a chemical to nip an outbreak in the bud, follow the label directions. Organic fertilizers are good, but slow-release fertilizers work throughout the season as plants need it, minimizing runoff and leaching.
Conserve water and reduce erosion by mulching your garden with organics like cocoa bean or shredded wood mulch. As the mulch decomposes, it will also add organic matter to the soil, which helps retain moisture and nutrients for your garden plants. The more organic matter you can add to your garden the better, so compost your yard waste, and return it to the garden, versus hauling it away to a landfill.
Buy locally grown plants, and support independent businesses that believe in sustainability and the community surrounding them. Each year, we sustainably grow more and more of our own plants locally in our own Tangletown greenhouses just outside the Twin Cities. It makes sense. We can control inputs while improving quality, and increase plant diversity while saving copious amounts of fossil fuels by not having to truck in as much material from out of state.
Choose your plants wisely. For instance, if you have dry soil, choose plants that will tolerate that condition. Maintenance and inputs will be reduced, while conserving water in the process. Similarly, if you have a steep slope, plant groundcover that will minimize erosion.
Recycle. This can be turning yard waste into compost, recycling nursery pots back to the garden center, or buying garden products made from recycled or sustainable materials. It is easy to do as long as you are aware of your options.
At Tangletown Gardens, we are always on the lookout for new and innovative products and solutions to minimize our impact on the planet. We carry stylish design-forward containers for the home and garden made from sustainable products like bamboo and rice hulls. Similarly, we are experimenting with these sorts of pots for nursery production, signaling an end to the wasteful black plastic nursery pots prevalent in the industry. We also try to reuse black nursery pots over and over, encouraging guests to return them for recycling.
Fortunately for us, the very nature of gardening is “green.” Plants play an important role in our environment: reducing carbon and improving oxygen; cooling the earth; and providing food and wildlife habitats. Gardening strengthens the bond between man and nature, ensuring the success of both along the way.
What could be greener than planting a tree, or nurturing the earth for future generations, sharing the lessons we learn about gardening, sustainability, and green living along the way? Do what you can. The positive impact we make today is a means to accommodate the needs of a healthy future for our planet. We can all make a difference.
Scott Endres is co-owner of Tangletown Gardens and the new Tangletown’s Wise Acre Eatery at 54th and Nicollet in South Minneapolis.