Making the decision to live a more sustainable lifestyle starts with changing a few habits, and then slowly transforming other areas of your life. Looking to reduce your impact shouldn’t just remain within the four walls of your home, it should extend into your garden as well. We have put together a few ideas that are easy ways to help you start that sustainable garden and lower your climate impact.
Start your own vegetable patch.
Even if it’s just herbs to start, a veggie patch is a great way to support a more sustainable life. Producing some of your own herbs and vegetables will reduce the harmful chemicals used in farming and the carbon emitted in transporting the produce. And vegetable patches aren’t just for those with large backyards – herbs such as basil, mint and rosemary, as well as tomatoes and chilies are hardy plants that could survive living on a balcony, or even just a sunny windowsill. There are also great varieties of citrus plants that have been propagated to live in small spaces, if you are in a small space then stay away from watermelon and pumpkin as these are vines that tend to sprawl.
The top 8 veggies (technically some fruit as well) we recommend for small spaces are:
Tomatoes – they are versatile, come in all sizes like cherry tomatoes, they grow fast, but they can be a little challenging.
Lettuce – It grows fast, grows well in containers, and can even grow indoors. You can grow different types in the same container, so you have a good base for a salad.
Herbs – of these we recommend Basil, Chives, Parsley and Thyme these are the most popular and use in many recipes.
Beans – If you can set up a small pole or plant stand these can grow vertical and take up little space. They extract nutrients out of the soil so best to plant separately.
Egg Plant – These are probably the biggest of our recommendations but can be used as a meat replacement, they taste fantastic slightly smoked.
Radishes – one of the smaller veggies, but pack a flavor punch, these will grow inside or outside, these also grow really fast approx 1 month.
Lemons – These work well in warm climates and require a lot of sunlight, and soli needs to be kept moist, can be purchased in dwarf varieties.
Edible Flowers – Not only do they look good but add that splash of gourmet to your salad, they can be grown in hanging planters, small pots, inside and outside.
Create a compost bin.
Whether you have a large backyard, small garden or just an apartment balcony, there are compost bins for all environments. Investing in a composting kit is an effective way of not only reducing your waste sent to the landfill, but the soil it creates helps support your garden or vegetable patch, reducing the impact from outsourcing your soil. These can work well on balconies (body corporate permitting)
Install a rainwater tank.
If you have a backyard, investing in a rainwater tank that collects rain from your roof will not only save you hundreds of dollars in the long run, but it will dramatically reduce your water consumption rates. The water collected in the tank can then be used to sustain your garden or newly installed vegetable patch. They are quite simple to install these days connecting into one of your downpipes, water tanks start at around $750 for 1,000Ltr capacity.
Mulch your garden beds and vegetable patch
On the topic of minimising your water consumption, mulch is a great alternative to reducing your waste consumption. Acting as a protective layer from the sun, mulch reduces the garden beds water requirements by helping retain the soils moisture. For your vegetable patch, try adding sugar cane mulch as it is not only helpful for retaining moisture, but it also improves the soil by adding organic matter as the mulch begins to decompose.
Ditch the chemicals and go organic
By cutting out chemical-containing pesticides and switching to organic products, you’ll stop hazardous chemicals from entering the soil as well as reduce the potential of harming beneficial insects such as bees. These days you can simply buy these from garden centers or if you are up for it researching and creating your own homemade pesticides is another great way to cut out the harmful chemicals as well as unnecessary plastic.
Below are our top 4 homemade pesticides:
Vegetable Oil Spray – uses vegetable oil and mild soap. A great way to guard against aphids, mites and thrips. One cup of vegetable oil and one tablespoon of soap. Once mixed place two tablespoons of this mixed in a small spray bottle. Directly spray on plants.
Soap Spray – Like 1. but without the vegetable oil, this mixture deters against, minutes, aphids, whiteflies, and battles. Spray directly onto plants.
Garlic Spray – For plants that already have been infected with insects. Take two whole bulbs (not two cloves) and puree them in a blender with a small amount of water. Let the mixture sit overnight, then strain it into a jar, adding one-half cup of vegetable oil (optional), one teaspoon of mild liquid soap, and enough water to fill the jar. Then use 2-3 table spoons in 1 litre of water in a spray bottle spray liberally on infested plants.
Tomato Leaf Spray – Tomato plants contain alkaloids such as the aptly named “tomatine,” which can effectively control aphids and other insects. Chop two cups of fresh tomato leaves (which can be taken from the bottom part of the plant) into 1 litre of water, and let sit overnight. Strain out the plant material and spray it onto plant foliage.