Sustainable Gardening Collection

This bumblebee pollinates a purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens, Zones 3–8) flower.

The dirty little secret of gardening is that many of the common practices and products we use to improve our backyard oasis are actually bad for the environment. We use a lot of water to keep our plants happy. We use sprays and powders to ward off insect pests and detrimental diseases. And we buy a lot of single-use items such as plastic pots and mulch, or soil housed in bags that are not recyclable.

In the end, many of us are left wondering—do the ends justify the means?  The answer might be a bit clearer if we as gardeners adjust our approaches to be more earth-friendly. The following collection details ways to lessen the environmental impact of gardening. Here are tips on how to design a garden to be more sustainable, and they come with a bonus: The resulting beds and borders require less manual labor from you! We also cover ways to conserve and monitor watering in your landscape, leading to less wasteful runoff and lower water bills.

When it comes to pests and diseases, a few of the following articles discuss how to use host plants to attract a plethora of beneficial insects to take care of problems naturally. Want more pollinators in your backyard? Including native plants in your beds and borders might be the key, and we offer region-specific suggestions from authors familiar with your neck of the woods. And let’s not forget about fertilizing. Many synthetic fertilizers are a quick fix to nutrient deficiencies in plants, but when used in excess, they can cause harm to the surrounding ecosystem. A wiser course of action is to improve the soil in which your plants live, and that in turn will improve the plants’ health (as well as the health of the soil itself). In this collection you’ll find innovative approaches to making your own nutrient-rich compost so you can feed the soil and your plants.

Implementing just a few (or all) of these practices into your gardening routine can make a big difference in reducing your environmental footprint—and it will lead to a healthier and more beautiful landscape.