Sustainable Gardening in 8 Steps

In warm weather, your yard demands more use of our natural resources. The following will help you create a beautiful leisure space that is sustainable too.

8 Steps to a Sustainable Garden:

1. Hydrozone

When you create hydrozones, it means that plants with similar water requirements are planted together. Planning in terms of water requirements saves water in your garden; plants that need more water will get the extra water they need and plants that don't need as much water will get less. Hydrozoning also results in fewer plant mishaps due to over or under watering.

Edibles2. Plant Edibles

Not only is growing your own food more convenient, but it's also tastier when you pick fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs straight off the vine. Plus, it has the added benefit of reducing the use of industrial agricultural chemicals, transportation fuels and packaging. Freshly picked food is more nutritious since it’s not sitting in cold storage or transit losing vitamin potency. Planting a small herb window box or a single orange tree makes a difference and you can reap the health benefits! Modern edible gardens integrate perennials and other ornamentals with edible plants resulting in a garden that is both beautiful and functional.

3. Use Drought-Tolerant and Native Plants

Drought-tolerant and California native plants require very little water after establishment and need only minimal maintenance. Natives have the additional benefit of creating habitats for native species and of doing wonders to strengthen our local biodiversity.

Organics4. Use Organics

Organic products don’t contain synthetic chemicals. Organic amendments, derived from decomposed plant and animal byproducts and source minerals, break down naturally in the soil. They are digested by naturally occurring soil bacteria and supply plants with the nutrients they need in a form they can absorb without the use of polluting petrochemicals.

Organic amendments foster soil health and nourish soil bacteria that digest elemental nutrients, making them available to plants. They are slow release and last longer in the soil so they require less frequent application, making them economical as well.

Synthetic chemicals found in conventional fertilizers require flushing and frequent reapplication, plus they deposit salts that kill beneficial soil bacteria.

Using organics also helps keep our water supply cleaner since agricultural products permeate into the soil and eventually enter our local water systems. Using organics is good for you and also supports the farmers and companies who supply them, ensuring their positive impact on global health and our economy.

5. Water Wisely

Water is key to any garden. Use slow release, targeted irrigation like drip irrigation systems and Oyas (ollas) pots that deliver water to the root zone of plants, where they need it most. Water releases slowly and seeps deeply, rather than running off into areas that don't need water (like your patio) or into the street. Because the water is directed only at desired plants, you’ll find fewer weeds, reducing time spent on maintenance. This allows you more time to thoroughly enjoy your garden. Some drip systems do not require the installation of an additional irrigation line; they simply attach to your hose bib. Ollas (pots) are planted in the ground near the plants you want to water and are filled as needed. The Ollas allows water to seep into the soil at a rate that plants can sip it.

mulch6. Mulch

Inexpensive, easy to apply and aesthetically appealing, mulching around your plants helps conserve soil moisture and protects the soil surface from the sun’s brutal Summer rays—which can create a cracked, dry surface that repels water and creates runoff. Mulch types range from Redwood Compost, to Shredded Redwood to Bark Mulch of various sizes.

7. Compost

It’s not garbage! At least not all of it. Produce scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, unbleached paper products, yard trimmings and much more can be kept out of your local landfill; plus it’s the best soil amendment you can get—and for free! Tip: grains, meats and dairy products do not belong in the compost. If you don’t have the time, space or volume for a compost heap or bin, try hole composting:

  • Dig a hole 10-12” deep
  • Place your scraps in the hole
  • Cover with 4-6” of soil
  • Step very gently with one foot to lightly compact
  • Leave to decompose

The layer of cover soil is deep enough to mask smells from curious roving animals and shallow enough to allow oxygenation required to break down your trimmings. Choose a different spot for the next compost hole. In just a month or two, the material will have decomposed and you’ll be able to plant in the area where you dug your compost hole.

8. Maximize Timers

Timers are a gardener’s best friend. Reliable automated systems provide great flexibility in programming and save you time, water and money. Set the valve that waters your tomatoes once or twice a week, while the rest of your vegetables gets watered every other day. The most significant water savings from timers comes with lawn irrigation through a practice called Cycle and Soak. Consult your timer guide to help you program the best times for your garden landscape.

To Cycle and Soak:

  • Determine which valve or zone waters your lawn or planting area.
  • Select an early morning time to avoid the heat of the day. Water 2 times a week for spring and fall, 3 times in the heat of summer.
  • Set your timer to run for 5 minutes 3 times over the course 1 hour for sloping surfaces, or 2 times for 8 minutes each for flatter surfaces. For example:
    • First run: 6:00-6:05AM
    • Second run: 6:30-6:35AM
    • Third run: 7:00-7:05AM
  • Cycle and Soak programming allows the irrigation to run, then gives the water time to soak in for each run you program, ensuring that the water permeates through the soil crust or thatch layer deep into the root zone without run-off. Cycle and soak results in more efficient, less frequent watering without waste.

Your Trusted Garden Advisor at SummerWinds can help you find the right combination of sustainable techniques that will work for you and your garden. At SummerWinds, We Guarantee Success!