A Guide to Starting a Sustainable Home Garden

published Dec 07, 2018
2 min read

Home Gardening

Starting a sustainable home garden is simple. How simple?

We’ll walk you through the process, showing you just how easy it really is. You can reduce your impact and build something beautiful in five essential steps.

1. Design Your Layout

You can still create a thriving garden with limited space, as long as you design its layout with efficiency in mind. Instead of planting in rows, for example, plant in 12-inch by 12-inch squares within a grid system to make the most of your available area. But the planning doesn’t end there.

Mel Bartholomew, the inventor of the square-foot gardening method, also suggests beginners choose an area for their garden which receives six to eight hours of sunlight a day, safe from water puddles and free of other impediments like tree roots.
Once you’ve organised your layout, it’s time to get your inventory in order.

2. Choose the Right Plants

While you might have an interest in growing a certain type of plant, not every species will find your area hospitable. You’ll have to select species that thrive and flourish in your unique micro-conditions, adjusting for light, moisture, soil quality and drainage. But don’t worry, because it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Take a trip to your local farmer’s market and browse for seedlings, perusing the selection of native plants. You’ll likely find a broad spectrum of options to choose from, and you can ask experienced gardeners for their perspective on how best to proceed. They’re often happy to share their informed opinion on the subject.

As they offer suggestions, you can compile a list of plants to add to your inventory. Just remember, stocky seedlings are best, avoiding those blooms and overcrowded root systems. In approaching your task with a discerning eye, you can ensure your garden’s health as you move into the planting phase.

3. Follow Planting Protocol

Beginners will often make the mistake of planting their seedlings without proper organisation. They’ll distribute their inventory as though every seedling were the same, failing to account for the subtle nuances that determine a garden’s success. Foresight is critical to achieving positive results.

Group the plants you intend to harvest — like vegetables and cutting flowers — to reduce water waste. You’ll also want to leave a buffer of space between your square-foot beds to promote air circulation, preventing fungus buildup. As for overshadowing, check suggestions online and thin where appropriate.

While you arrange your garden, set down a layer of organic mulch to limit the growth of weeds. You can also use burlap, straw or wood chips to do the job, but avoid lawn clippings unless you’re tending to plants that need a lot of nitrogen. On the subject of sustenance, you’d benefit from a rainwater collection system.

4. Follow Watering Protocol

You can employ a rain barrel to reduce expenditure, capitalising on a free resource to nourish your plants. You’ll no longer have to depend on tap water full of preservatives like chlorine and fluoride. Just invest in a rig and rainwater tank pump, and you’re one step closer to full sustainability.

On the subject of watering the plants themselves, you should attend to them in the morning when there’s a reduced risk of evaporation. Water the roots, not the greenery, and take care not to over-saturate your seedlings. To contribute to their continued health, you should also consider compost.

5. Start a Composting Routine

Known as “black gold” in the gardening community, compost will enrich your soil and accelerate your plants’ growth. It’s an eco-friendly, sustainable alternative to commercial fertilisers, and far less expensive if you start a composting routine. Any family can do it, and all you’ll need is a three-by-three-foot bin.

Prompt your spouse and children to discard any excess food scraps in a designated bucket, saving it from the garbage disposal. With every bucket you empty into your bin, you’ll gradually accumulate enough organic waste to feed your garden. But show discretion, because not every material is safe to add!

Avoid the following:

  • Meat and fish
  • Dog and cat waste
  • Dairy products
  • Dead plants
  • Glossy and printed paper
  • Tea bags and coffee filters

Research more tips about composting at home to clarify any confusion. Once you’ve involved your family in the routine, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of “black gold” in your garden while avoiding the costs and consequences of fertilisers. After that, your garden is good to go!

Happy Harvesting!

You now have the crucial knowledge you need to grow your very own fruits and vegetables at home. Sustainability is important, of course. But it also tastes great!


Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability freelance writer and blogger from Lancaster, PA. Check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter for the latest updates!