A Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Gardening Permaculture tips in your own backyard
It was in the 1980s that the word sustainability in regard to an environment began to be associated with nature, environment, agriculture, and thus gardening.
Horticulturalists believing in sustainable agriculture decided that it was easier for humans to use natural resources in a way to get better yields. They have been doing this for millenniums. However, this drain on the natural resources was going to cause the depreciation of such resources one time or the other because mother nature cannot keep nourishing and replenishing her without getting back something of what she gave.
And this gave rise to the concept of sustainable gardening.
Harvesting things you have grown your own self from your garden is such a positive feeling of achievement.
The idea was that use what you can, from nature’s bounty, and then give back to her, what you can so that you and she work in tandem in a symbiotic relationship.
So all of us home gardeners can use sustainable gardening tips to make beautiful gardens with eco friendly designs, use of biodegradable materials, use of organic fertilizer and using native plants to sustain the environment and make a sustainable garden.
A fruitful harvest is a lovesome thing God Wot – 14th-century saying
When I was being taught agronomy at college in the 80s, nobody bothered about sustainable gardening. That was because in the East, the traditional agricultural practices were with the use of natural resources, because the agricultural traditions still belong to the middle 14 century in many parts of the country!
That is why what is considered sustainable and organic gardening in the West today was an integral part of human existence in the Indian subcontinent at that time. We used organic fertilizer. We did not know about chemical pesticides or hormones. On the flipside, we did not know about agricultural development, which was taking place all over the world to get a better yield of food and crops.
And that is why we relied on just the monsoon to feed our crops, and prayed to the rain God. If he did not come on time, we would be sunk. The bank and the money lender would take our land and then there would be no resort but to starve or go to the city to survive or lend ourselves out in bonded labor to a more prosperous farmer.
This may sound shocking to people in well-developed countries, but this is still the sort of existence which is being led by people in many parts of the world. Even today, in this day of state-of-the-art technology and technological development, underdeveloped countries still follow obsolete agricultural practices, which do not take into account the natural resources already around them. And so, famine has been a part of their lives for centuries.
So here are some rules which you are going to implement right now to make sustainable gardening possible.
Important Points of Sustainable Management
The most important part of sustainable management to make your land more eco-friendly is to harness the natural resources available to you. Out of that, the air, the sun, and water are resources which mother nature has provided to you in such great abundance. This is going to include water harnessing of which you are going to learn more, later.
Principles of Sustainable Gardening
Sustainable gardening works on these major principles –
Do no harm to your environment.
Design your taking in consideration the culture and the nature of the environment as well as the geographic location and climate.
Your first priority is conservation, preservation, and regeneration of the ecosystem.
Provide eco-friendly systems, which can encourage and support living processes and life.
These are all guests and tenants of my sustainable garden…
Use the resources available to you, in the most beneficial manner with which you can be provided enough of facilities not only to sustain a garden, but sustain, preserve, and encourage life in all its forms.
Sustainable Gardening in Limited Spaces
This is where you are going to use your ingenuity. One of my friends who lives in a flat, with limited space has made her balcony a sustainable garden. She grows vegetable vines in large pots. These vines are tied to ropes all over the wall. So sitting in her balcony, we have cucumbers, and beans hanging over our head. She also loves growing dwarf trees and so do I. A tiny orange tree with about 20 mandarins looks so nice in my room, in my garden, or on my balcony.
Hard surfaces on your land should be replaced with permeable and porous surfaces, as far as possible. This is to allow easy percolation of water down to the soil levels.
Alas, in many cases and cities wide-open and green spaces are limited only to parks. We have confined ourselves in boxes.
Plant deciduous and shade bearing trees in your garden so that you can have plenty of greenery as well as a green microclimate and windbreaker around your home.
If you really have to add any sort of chemical fertilizer, gets soil testing done by experts. Follow their advice and do not over fertilize the land. Remember that this is potential poison, which is not encouraging natural, sustainable gardening in your soil. Over fertilizing can also have a side effect of more plants growing in a lesser area and struggling for survival. This is going to weaken their genetic strain and leave them more vulnerable to plant diseases.
Even though sustainable gardens have been around for millenniums in the East, with traditional methods of gardening, the concept began to gain popularity in the West only during The First World War. These were called victory gardens. Gardeners were encouraged to grow their own foods, crops and vegetables. The produce from these victory gardens fed the armies, and so the money could be utilized to buy more arms. Feeding armies! This in itself showed the scale of which the victory gardens produced their harvest.
These victory gardens were such a great success, that one wonders why that sort of sustainable farming has not been kept up with such technological developments in the 21st century.