About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Monday, October 07, 2013

What is Sustainable Gardening?

Sustainable gardening is one of those terms that is difficult to grasp. The  name is vague and really doesn't disclose a clear meaning.

In a sustainable garden, the gardener practices the art of improving their plot of land by composting waste, building the soil, creating a habitat for wildlife with native and Florida friendly plants, reducing the use of chemicals and gas powered equipment, and using available resources wisely.

In other words, we work to sustain our land in a way that leaves it in better condition than when we purchased it. It's an old concept with a fancy new name.

Why is Sustainable Gardening gaining in popularity?

After years of building sterile landscapes of lawn and foundation plantings, over-development of land, and harmful uses of pesticides, more people are coming to the conclusion that there's a better and simpler way of doing things. Adopting the practice of sustainable gardening is a way for people to make a difference. To change the status quo . . . to build up . . . to nourish . . . to improve. Something positive we can actually do in a world of many negatives. 

So, now that we've defined it . . . how does one begin the practice of sustainable gardening?

We begin by taking it one step at a time. It's a process of thought that involves questioning the way we've always done things, and then choosing new alternative ways of managing our yards in the future. The following are some ideas to incorporate into the maintenance of your landscape. The list of changes we can make is only limited by our imaginations, and I would love to hear the ideas that other gardeners have put into effect in their yards.  

Compost & Improve the Soil - Instead of hauling plastic trash bags or cans of yard debris to the curb every week, work towards composting the plant and tree waste that your yard generates. The compost will in turn enrich your soil. 

Reduce turf grass to a minimum. This will reduce the use of pesticides, fertilizers, water and loud gas powered equipment. Plant low maintenance ground covers or plants.

Reduce your use of water on the landscape by planting native and Florida Friendly plants. At the same time, you'll be providing a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.

Grow some of your own food. Not only will you be sustaining your land, but you'll be sustaining yourself and your family, reducing your grocery costs, and having much healthier food to eat. Save seeds for use in the future.

 Harvest rainwater. It's free and everything grows better with rainwater. Use rainbarrels, and cisterns to collect water for vegetables and container plants.

Retain rainwater on your property by installing rain gardens where runoff is the greatest. The water will then have a chance to slowly soak into your ground. Redirect the gutter water off your driveway and into your vegetable gardens.

Manually operate sprinkler systems or install drip irrigation systems for minimal use of water.

Eliminate Pesticides & Chemicals - Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or use organic pest control. A healthy yard will sustain the necessary natural predators that eliminate many pests. Only treat infested areas of turf grass for Chinch bugs instead of the entire yard.

    Design your yard before planting. Plant deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home to cool it in the summer and warm it in the winter. Provide a high, medium and low canopy of trees and plants to provide shelter for wildlife. Create pathways with natural materials that allow water to percolate into the soil. Group plants with the same water needs together for easier watering.

Mulch to retain moisture, reduce weeds and cool the soil - Use natural sources first from your yard such as leaves, small twigs, pine needles, etc. as mulch. Local communities frequently offer free mulch, and so do tree trimmers. Purchase Melaluca mulch or renewable pine bark mulch, but never cypress which is a very slow growing tree.

  Repurpose items instead of throwing them out - Find a use for tree branches and twigs by building fences or lining garden beds. You can even repurpose items from inside the home such as egg cartons to start seeds in, large chlorine containers to grow vegetables in, newspaper and cardboard as a weed block, etc. The ideas are endless . . . it only takes a little thought and creativity.

Did you notice that most of the above changes, generally provide several positive results?
i.e. composting our yard debris = compost to improve our soil + money saved in not having to buy fertilizer and plastic bags +  a reduction in material (both plant and plastic bags) that goes to the landfill. And, so it goes with sustainable gardening. 

As you can see, becoming a sustainable gardener will also turn you into a sustainable homeowner, as well. You'll find yourself looking for ways to reduce your overall footprint on the environment.

Start by taking small steps and continually build upon them. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day and you won't become a sustainable gardener overnight either. But, step by step, we can change our vision of what a landscaped yard should look like, and we can make changes that will preserve our natural resources and impact the health of the planet. 

As we make simple but impactful changes, we not only nurture our garden but we nurture ourselves as well. Life becomes a little less stressful, as we worry less about a few weeds in the turf. We have time for fun things instead of trimming, mowing, edging and fertilizing. In time, we build a symbiotic relationship with the earth. As we sustain the land, it sustains us.  

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Green Gardening Matters by Ginny Stibolt is a great resource for more information on sustainable gardening in Florida. 

This article is by no means comprehensive of all the changes you can make toward sustainable gardening. It's merely a starting point, and I would like to invite everyone who reads this article to share their "sustainable gardening tips" with the rest of us by leaving a comment. Thank you for sharing!


ChrisC said...

Great article!

daisy g said...

Great framework for someone just beginning to garden. I'm happy to say that we are following every part this philosophy.