Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: Seven Tips for Smart Gardening
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It’s Easy Being Green: Seven Tips for Smart Gardening

These seven suggestions can help make gardening easier while conserving resources such as water.

Parsley, shown above, is one of many herbs you can grow in your own backyard. Cultivating your own herbs allows you to produce only what you need. (AP/Dean Fosdick)
Parsley, shown above, is one of many herbs you can grow in your own backyard. Cultivating your own herbs allows you to produce only what you need. (AP/Dean Fosdick)

Read more articles from the “It’s Easy Being Green” series

You can add value and beauty to your home by maintaining a garden, but you may end up wasting time and money if you aren’t careful. Try these seven tips for keeping a garden that’s manageable and uses resources wisely.

Plant only what you can maintain. Overplanting will give you a headache and squander water, money, and other resources. To avoid this problem plant only what you can realistically maintain and look for plants that thrive on neglect if you aren’t around much to take care of them. If you are new to gardening, start small and work your way up. You can always add more, but getting rid of existing plants is both wasteful and frustrating.

Also, be sure to check the appropriate time to add new plantings to your garden. Adding plants out of season can require you to use harmful fertilizers and unnecessary amounts of water to keep them alive that you wouldn’t need if they were planted in season.

Compost your waste. Composting prevents yard trimmings, food scraps, and other household waste from entering landfills and reduces the need for watering by improving your soil’s water retention. It also enriches soil fertility and improves texture. You can use compost in garden beds, under shrubs, or as a potting soil for outdoor plants. Starting your own heap is easy and maintenance is minimal. For more information on what you should add to your compost, take our quiz.

Ditch the pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Pesticides and fertilizers can pollute ground water and turn your fruits and vegetables toxic. Mulch and compost are natural alternatives that aren’t pollutants—and compost is free if made from kitchen scraps. You can also make your own mulch from grass clippings and other yard waste.

Water smarter. Water in the mornings or at night and not during the day because the afternoon’s intense sunlight will cause water to evaporate. It is also important to water the soil instead of your plants’ leaves to keep your plants’ roots hydrated and prevent fungal disease.

Avoid annuals. Most annual flowers, such as petunias or impatiens, have shallower root systems than perennials. Deep root systems allow plants to tap into water deep within the soil and survive with infrequent watering after they are established.

Stick with native and indigenous plants. Exotic plants typically need more water than native varieties. Avoid rapidly growing plants with soft or fleshy trunks—they usually need large amounts of water. Most seeds and plants are labeled to indicate which regions they grow best in, and these guides can be helpful when determining what to plant.

Start an herb garden. Planting herbs can be the most economical decision you make with your garden, and they can save you trips to the grocery store. When you buy herbs from the store or produce market, the quantities available are often much larger than you need. Growing them at home allows you to harvest only what you’ll use, and they are easy to cultivate and maintain.

Read more articles from the “It’s Easy Being Green” series

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