Sustainable Gardening 101
What exactly is "Sustainable Gardening"? It's far more than planting a garden full of vegetables that will take care of you and your family through the summer, and hopefully through the year - with enough careful planning. Sustainable gardening MAY be that to some people, but it's true meaning encompasses much, much more. From it's "official" international beginnings in the latter part of the 20th century, sustainable gardening had the entire planet in mind, and the future generations who will inhabit it. Far from simply attempting to take care of one's own family one year at a time, it attempts to take care of any and all who could potentially benefit from responsible living.
"Getting back to nature" pretty much sums up the idea behind this type of gardening. Farming and gardening practices would return to the "old fashioned" ways of our ancestors. What is labeled as "organic" gardening today, was simply the way things were done, well, pretty much from the beginning. Crop rotation, natural pest reduction/repellents, planting several different crops (polyculture), using plants that are native to the region, and animal manure used as fertilizer are just a small part of this premise. Today, individuals, communities, and even countries are experimenting with these ancient methods. Not only are they realizing how beneficial it is to farm and garden in this manner, they are beginning to understand that it is necessary.
One major "tool" in sustainable gardening used by many, is the compost pile. Easy to make (or buy), easy to maintain, and worth it's weight in gold. Compost piles are typically made up of anything and everything that you would use as garbage. Leftovers from meals, household trash, pet or livestock manure are all useful. Clippings from trees, shrubs, grass, and leaves are wonderful additions. Not only do you not have to worry about how to get rid of unwanted items anymore, you are creating something that will give your garden a huge boost in nutrients and fertilizer. While some just throw anything and everything into their compost pile, and see worthwhile results, still others try to make a mix of green and brown refuse. The idea in doing so, is that your compost pile is just that much more low maintenance. Any type of meat product, to include dairy, is probably going to attract pests and unwanted animals, so use those with caution.
Whether you build or buy your compost container, there will be a little more work required than simply throwing all things useful into a large pile. At some point in time, hopefully in regular intervals, it's a good idea to mix your growing compost pile. It's possible to buy a compost bin that has a rotation devices built right in, or the handy man in your life might be willing to make one. If owning one of these isn't an option, simply use a shovel or a pitchfork to mix and turn your savings. A few reasons as to why this needs to be done are: air and (simply said) a good mix. Without enough air, your compost pile could potentially rot or mold and then become worthless, depending on what type of plants you're wanting to use it on. And then there's the mix. Think of cake, bread, or anything else that has to be mixed evenly. If it's not, your finished product won't taste right, it won't look right, it just won't be right. The same is said for compost. All of the bacteria and nutrients need to be mixed up well enough that each and every part of the compost has just about an equal share of all the wonderful organic material that you've worked and waited for.
Some very useful information can be found in books, magazines, and of course online. One very good online article that is pretty thorough, and will get you off to a great start is at planetnatural.com, and another that offers 82 tips on gardening by their readers is at motherearth.com. There is no end to the inspiration and instruction that can be found with a little effort. Hopefully we've wet your whistle enough to spark some interest. So.....happy gardening!