Plan for the Long Term With a Sustainable Garden

Do what's best for the earth and your yard at the same time, with sustainable gardening. Here, we share tips and tricks for "green"ing your green space.

Small Space Garden With Wildflowers

Secluded Outdoor Dining Among the Wildflowers

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design View original photo.

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Sustainability may be a lifestyle buzzword these days, but in gardening it's more of a philosophy than a style. Sustainable gardening centers around recycling and using renewable resources, accommodating biodiversity and conservation and adopting an organic approach to gardening.

In a sustainable garden, planting is key, and a healthy variety of wildlife habitats essential. Choose plants that thrive in existing conditions and complement each other, which in turn will help to reduce the likelihood of pests and diseases. Sustainable gardeners improve soil quality by using matter from their own compost heap and organic manures.

Extensive planting of prairie and meadow species is often used in larger sustainable gardens. Wilder areas can be planted in smaller gardens, too, aiming of providing a range of different habitats within a limited space, without creating an overly complex design solution.

Recycled Bottles Used as Decorative Element

Recycled Bottles Used as Decorative Element

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Old bottles are recycled into a decorative element for both the wall and bench in this modern design.

There is a popular idea that sustainable gardens are rustic in character, but this need not be the case. Many sharp and elegant designs - for example, the benches and wall which repurpose glass bottles into a chic design - include renewable materials, such as wood from certified plantations, and sophisticated planting designs. Local materials are used where possible, reducing the garden's carbon footprint and creating a greater sense of regional identity.

The materials used in a sustainable garden need to be assessed against a series of criteria. Recycled products are a good idea because they reduce the exploitation of new resources, but sometimes they have a large carbon trail in their movement from processing to production. On the other hand, sourcing new wood from managed, renewable and, preferably, local producers may be a better option.

Other factors to consider include the permeability or drainage of hard-landscaped surfaces. These should be either porous, in order to top up groundwater, or designed to allow water to run off into a collection unit, thereby reducing the strain on supplies.

Swimming Pond in a Backyard With Floating Plants and Docks

Peaceful Swimming Pond

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design View original photo.

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

A wooden deck leads into this mixed-use swimming pond with lily pads, low water plants, and small docks.

Habitats that support local species and help to increase biodiversity are incorporated into sustainable designs. However, this does not mean that gardens only include native species; exotic plants that attract beneficial insects and wildlife are also appropriate, as long as they are not invasive. Pests and diseases are kept at bay through natural controls and balanced ecosystems, rather than chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

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