Creating a sustainable backyard is great for your health and the world around you. It’s also a wonderful family activity, as children of all ages love to get their hands dirty in the soil, and older teens will enjoy the responsibility that comes with maintaining a vegetable patch.
However, some gardens can take more from the environment than they give. The average American household uses a whopping 96 gallons of water per day for things like watering the lawn, and soil rich in peat carries a heavy carbon cost.
So, here is how you can create a sustainable backyard that gets the whole family excited about gardening and environmental responsibility.
Peat used to be known as the gardener’s best friend. That’s because it helps create nutritious soil and is relatively cheap. However, peatland around the globe stores 600 gigatonnes of carbon. This means digging up peat for gardening releases massive amounts of greenhouse gasses and represents a deeply unsustainable practice.
Fertilizing your garden with your own compost is a great way to avoid peat and maintain a sustainable garden. Start by DIY-ing a compost bin from an old, heavy-duty garbage can. You’ll just need to add a few holes for ventilation and a secure lid. Fill your bin with compostable items like tea leaves and vegetable scraps, but avoid using animal produce, pet waste, and any synthetic materials.
It’s probably best to keep young children away from compost, but do get them involved with sewing, replanting, and watering your veggie patch. If your family includes a canine companion, ensure that you only grow fruits and vegetables that are safe for dogs to avoid disaster.
Most gardeners are a little intimidated by the thought of landscaping. But, in reality, landscaping can be an easy, family-friendly DIY activity that promotes sustainability.
When landscaping, consider using natural materials to attract wildlife to your yard. In particular, try to make a few bug hotels from old scraps of wood, pots, and bricks. Bug hotels provide insects and other small creatures with a great place to lay their eggs and are simple to construct. This makes them ideal for family fun and the promotion of biodiversity in your garden.
You can also promote sustainability in your garden by investing in water capture and buying plants that properly suit your garden. For example, if you live in a wet climate like most of the Pacific Northwest, you can probably collect enough water through rain butts to maintain a lush, green garden with a variety of flora and fauna. However, if you live in a desert-like region, maintaining a lush lawn and a full flower bed probably isn’t the most sustainable design choice.
The best way to establish whether a garden design is right for you is to abide by plant hardiness zones. For example, if you notice that your hardiness area gets lower rainfall and higher heat, then you might want to opt for plants like spineless cacti or succulents like ghost plants. These plants naturally suit dryer climates and will ensure that your garden doesn’t consume more energy than it gives back.
Designing a sustainable garden can double as a great lesson for your kids. Involve them in the planning process, and show them hardiness maps to deepen their understanding of the natural world and their local ecosystem.
Creating a sustainable backyard is a tricky, but rewarding, endeavor. You’ll be able to rest easy in the knowledge that your garden is helping local wildlife, and your family will be able to enjoy the pleasure of maintaining and harvesting a vegetable patch. Sustainable gardening also increases the wildlife in your garden and can get kids interested in conservation efforts at a young age. Just be sure to opt for sustainable materials and always choose peat-free composts.