We’re continuing our series on how your garden helps the planet this week by looking at the elements of trees, plants, and garden design. If you missed our first post in this series, check it out here to find out about lawns and their environmental impact: How Your Garden Helps the Planet: Lawns.
Ways Your Garden Helps the Planet
What comes to mind when you think about a garden: carefully cultivated, visually appealing flowers? Shade trees and benches along paths? Perhaps a pond? Do you think about how you, your family and friends will use the space? In reality, there are many impacts that your space has on the natural world around you, and you can greatly benefit the environment with a few simple choices! Below we’ll examine a few of the ways that your tree and plant choices can help the planet.
Pollinators are a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem, but right now, they’re losing the fight against habitat loss and climate change.Jode Roberts, Senior Strategist, Projects, David Suzuki Foundation
Our populations of pollinators are declining and the impact of this is unsettling as, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, these insects are:
- A key source of food for birds and fish
- Ensure that crops flourish – about 30% of the food we eat depends on insect pollination
- Ensure that wild plants flourish – about 75% of wild flowering plants depend on insect pollination
To make a positive impact for pollinators, we can plant trees and flowers that are a source of food for them! A few ideas from the list of 25 plants that Bee Friendly recommends planting are:
- Bee balm
- Bachelor’s Button
If you have some room to plant trees, consider the following recommendations from Friends of the Earth:
- Red Maple
- Honey Locust
- Wild Plum
Another option to plant trees–especially if you don’t have room at home–is to do so via Get Offset, a way to purchase carbon offsets or plant trees on an automatic basis!
Nitrogen Fixing and Companion Planting
Often commercial and hobby gardeners opt to apply chemical fertilizers in order to amend the soil to produce large and healthy plants which is not optimal for the environment. However there is a way to increase the nitrogen content of your soil without applying any product! Gardening Know How states that “nitrogen for plants is vital to the success of a garden [as] without sufficient nitrogen, plants will fail and will be unable to grow”. However most plants cannot simply pull nitrogen gas out of the air and so must rely on the addition of fertilizer or be in proximity to the specific plants that can. Nitrogen fixing plants, such as clover or peas, release nitrogen into the soil as they decompose, thereby increasing the nitrogen content in the soil naturally.
It is possible to control some pests without using pesticides by planting specific plants together. For example, to control the aphid population on our kale last year, we planted nasturtium to draw the aphids off of the kale and to the nasturtium flowers – and it worked quite well!
Gardeners’ World.com highlights a few surprising actions we can take to reduce our carbon footprint in the garden, including:
- Create a pond as they store carbon with the “potential to hold more carbon per square metre per year, than equivalent areas of grassland and woodland”
- Choose no-dig gardening as it allows carbon to remain sequestered in the soil
- Use peat-free compost to avoid the destruction of peat bogs
- Planting more! More plants absorb more carbon
Have you ever considered how you can positively impact the environment with your garden?