Eco-Friendly Gardening Advice

Eco-friendly gardening is a rewarding and sustainable way to grow your own organic food, and it can lead to great garden savings.

| March 2013

  • Eco-friendly gardening means making the most of the space and resources available to you, and trying innovative designs such as vertical gardening or yard sharing.
    Photo by Fotolia/Alina G
  • "Ecothrifty" by Deborah Niemann is a offers advice for anyone who has ever wanted a greener life, but thought it to be too time-consuming, expensive, or difficult.
    Cover courtesy New Society Publishing
  • Plants that are very bushy and produce lots of little fruits, such as tomatoes and bush beans, generally work best planted in a single row because it makes harvest easier when you have direct access to all sides of the plant.
    Illustration courtesy New Society Publishers
  • In the traditional garden design, plants are lined up in a single row with a wide aisle between the rows, which means the majority of the space in your garden is used for walking rather than for growing. In wide row gardening, the dynamics are reversed and the majority of space is used for growing plants. Root crops work especially well in wide row gardening because they can be spaced fairly close together, and because the plants are not bushy, it is easy to harvest them.
    Illustration courtesy New Society Publishers
  • This diagram for a salsa garden illustrates how planting in wide rows permits more plants in a smaller space. You might be able to get a third tomato plant in this space, but by putting only two tomato plants here, there is plenty of room to put pepper plants (either hot or sweet), onions, and herbs in the open areas. This design works best with determinate tomatoes, which don’t get as big as indeterminate tomatoes.
    Illustration courtesy New Society Publishers

Ecothifty (New Society Publishers, 2012) tells us that consumer binge — where we can get everything for next to nothing, and then throw it out when we're done — is beginning to take its toll on our society. Our environment is littered with plastics and other unrecycled trash, and prices of all goods are skyrocketing along with the price of oil. We're not doomed though, reassures author Deborah Niemann, and she lays out simple, practical ideas to help turn the tide. The excerpt comes from chapter 7, and offers eco-friendly gardening advice.

You can purchase this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: Ecothrifty

There are few things you can do in this world that offer as much reward, financially and personally, as gardening. A tomato seed, which costs only pennies, can grow into a plant that can produce twenty or more pounds of fresh, organic food. In addition to the financial benefits, gardening provides you with a reason to go outside, breathe fresh air, and get some exercise. And once you’ve tasted a garden fresh tomato, you will understand why it is the number one vegetable grown in backyard gardens. But the benefits don’t stop with tomatoes. Practically every vegetable tastes better when it’s fresh and ripens on the vine, and it is more nutritious. From the time produce is picked, it starts to lose nutrition, and if it is picked green, it has lower nutritional value than if it is vine ripened.

Sometimes articles or books make eco-friendly gardening sound like a terribly expensive hobby, requiring high-priced tools, raised beds, and gravel-lined pathways. In reality, you can start growing some of your own foods for less than $10 by purchasing a few inexpensive bedding plants at your local garden center. If you have never had a garden, start small with your favorite, most-often purchased vegetable. Nothing is more disappointing than seeing a garden consumed by weeds because it was too big for you to be able to tend through the growing season.

Garden savings: How much money you save will depend on what vegetables you grow. If you plant easy-to-grow, prolific and expensive vegetables like bell peppers, you will save a lot more than if you plant inexpensive vegetables like carrots, which yield one carrot per seed and can be a challenge to germinate. Assuming half a pound of fresh produce per square foot of garden space, you can expect about 300 pounds of produce from the average 600-square-foot garden. At $2 per pound, that adds up to $600 of fresh produce. The average investment for a food garden is $70, providing you with a savings of about $530 annually.

Small spaces

You may think that you need a big yard to have a garden, but you can grow vegetables in almost any space that you have, provided it gets sun. Even if you have no yard at all, you can grow plants in pots on a balcony or in front of a sunny window.



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