Besides being beautiful, I would also like our gardens to be “green”, or Ecosystem friendly. Ecosystem gardening is basically conserving natural resources and creating a natural habitat for wildlife in your garden. In theory, this sounds great. But how to do this, and still remain affordable, is the question.
There are 5 main principles to Ecosystem gardening.
- Soil Health
- Water Wise
- Remove Invasive Plants
- Add Native Plants
1. Sustainability is basically managing what you “put in” and what you “take out”. This would be like “putting in” fertilizers, pesticides, mulch, and so on. “Take out” is mainly waste removal or organic matter, like leaves. Our company uses minimal amount of chemicals. We mainly only feed what really needs it (Roses and Annuals are the most needy), and try to hand weed as much as possible. We try to leave waste on site if possible, but in many cases, we are hauling loads out. If there is an area that could be used to compost waste on site, try this instead. The more we can avoid hauling away, the less fossil fuels we use.
2. Soil health brings up another topic from waste removal as well. It amazes me on the amount of mulch we are spreading every year. Imagine the amount of fuel we are using to haul trees and mulch in order to get that mulch to your garden beds. Yet, ironically, you most likely paid a pretty penny to have all those leaves removed in the fall. I know new mulch looks great. This is where we require a mental shift in how we think our gardens should look. Let’s start a new trend where we shred our leaves in the fall and use them as mulch instead. This is one of the best ways to create healthy soil, which makes for healthier plants. Plus, we save money on hauling away leaves, only to replace them next spring with a truck load of mulch. It’s win win!
3. We can reduce water usage very simply by choosing plants that don’t require a lot of water. Native plants are usually the best option here. And if you must have large lawns, add some deep rooted shade trees to help reduce the need to water.
4. Invasive plants are everywhere. Did you know Burning Bushes are invasive? I thought they were natives because I saw them in wooded preserve areas. Silly me. This is something that you can slowly transition over time. Perhaps replace that old Rose of Sharon with a Dogwood tree. Just a thought…
5. Planting more natives adds habitat and creates food for wild life. Think layers. Also a bonus, the deer don’t like the native plants. Again, win win!
We will be rewarded with more wild life visiting our gardens by making these simple changes. I honestly think your garden will look better in the long run by adopting these principles. Plus, we are creating a better place for our children and grandchildren to grow up.