Sustainability is a good objective to consider especially in times like these, when uncertainty is the only thing certain thanks to COVID-19. So, it seems there is no better time to start up a sustainable garden in your property than right now!
What is “sustainable gardening?”
Briefly, sustainable gardening is when the methods used to grow plants, flowers, and vegetables have little to no negative impact on the natural environment. If your gardening practices don’t harm the earth and even nourish it, then you pass as a sustainable gardener.
The benefits of gardening
With the state entering into new distancing and movement restrictions, there are many reasons to recommend gardening to home-bound Sydneysiders. Here are a few of them:
It’s a good way to exercise – Gyms will now have more restrictions to ensure physical distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19, so in case you don’t make it there, you can do lifts and squats while potting plants and moving sacks of fertiliser around. Trust us; it’s a work-out.
You can get your recommended sun exposure – Keeping in mind that vitamin D from sunlight is not a cure for COVID-19, according to the Center for Disease Control, spending time in the sun, like when you’re gardening, is still good for overall wellbeing and for stimulating vitamin D production. Of course, it’s important not to overdo it or else you may end up risking your health.
It can calm you down – The pandemic has been a very difficult time for people all over the world, so it’s not surprising that we’re all a bundle of nerves. Fortunately, gardening is linked to stress relief because it can distract us from our problems. Researchers have also learned that being out in nature can lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. Plus there are few things more calming to look at than a picturesque garden.
You can grow your own food – Since the virus is transmitted more easily where people crowd, if you can avoid too many trips to the supermarket, the better. One way to do this is to pad your food supply with home-grown nutritious vegetables and fruits. Now that’s a win-win situation if there ever was one.
It will give you something to do – You don’t have to be productive when locked down, especially if you’re not feeling up to it. But if you’re the type that gets antsy when you’re cooped up and bored, gardening is a swell way to occupy your time plus you get a sense of accomplishment if your flowers bloom or your veggies grow.
If you do it organically, you’re making a positive impact – All of the reasons above are applicable to gardening in general but it’s through sustainable gardening that you actually make a positive impact on the environment. You not only end up with a beautiful, scenic garden, but you can also nourish your plants, the soil, and an entire ecosystem.
Things to know about starting a garden
At this point we hope we’ve convinced you about the perks of having a sustainable home garden. Our next step is to give you tips on planting a garden in your property, pandemic or not.
1. Choose plants and flowers that grow in Australia – Make sure you’re only considering plants that grow easily in the country and specifically in your location. You should also pay attention to the seasons.
For instance, right now it’s the winter and you’ll probably be seeing the pansies and grevillea shrubs which were planted around March if you’re in NSW. Vegetables- and herbs-wise, winter yields English spinach, peas, coriander, parsley, and winter tarragon. However, if you’re planning your home garden for spring, you’ll probably want to go with broccoli, beetroot, capsicum, dill for veg and herbs, or snapdragons, zinnias, and begonias for spring flowers.
2. Work with fertile soil – If your soil is already fertile, you can eschew chemical fertilisers. However, if you think it needs a little help, you can move things along by fertilising with compost and manure. You can typically test soil health by checking for earthworms and fungi. It’s also darker brown and crumbly.
3. Make a compost heap – One of the marks of sustainability is being able to waste less, so if you’re able to divert food waste and grass cuttings to a compost pile, you can make natural fertiliser for your soil.
4. Collect the seeds from your plant – It might not immediately occur to you but the plants you’re growing are a veritable seed factory. Don’t forget to collect them so you can sow more seeds for the next season.
5. Water your plants enough but do so economically – Yes, your sustainable garden needs water to thrive but it can be wasteful to use sprinklers. Some ways to control your water use without risking your garden are to install water harvesting systems, save water from your cooking, and to use vermicast (worm faeces) and compost to hold moisture better.
6. Go manual – Instead of relying solely on powered gardening tools, look into gardening shears, rakes and the like. Not only do you avoid consuming too much energy or gas, but it can be a way to exercise. If you need to use powered equipment, make sure to buy something that’s energy efficient.
7. Start simple – Finally, if you’re just a newbie gardener, don’t rush into complicated landscaping and fragile flowers and crops. Instead, ease into the process by trying hardier plants first. Remember: the lockdown is already quite stressful; we don’t want to add a “black thumb” to our list of anxieties at this time.
We hope these tips inspire you to stay at home during the lockdown to take up gardening so you can be safe from the COVID-19 scourge, have a relaxing hobby, and practice sustainability at the same time.