There is a growing grassroots movement in suburban and urban areas where the local action of growing food is beginning to profoundly transform our neighborhoods and our world. It begins first with a simple attitude shift, when we start thinking of our lawns and backyard gardens as opportunities for sustainably growing food. As we each start to plant a seed, we are healing not only ourselves, but the planet as well.
10 Ways Sustainable Gardening Practices will Positively Transform Your Neighborhood:
1. Turn “Waste” into Soil
Practices such as composting household waste builds healthy soil and reduces landfill: food scraps and other kitchen waste, paper and cardboard, and garden trimmings are recycled back into the soil. Productive gardens start with healthy soil.
2. Protect Your Home Environment
Conventional gardening with the use harmful chemicals (pesticides and chemical fertilizers) threatens local ecosystems and poisons suburban and urban environments. Chemicals runoff into water systems and also contaminate soil; this causes long-term harm to people and wildlife.
3. Restore Local Ecosystems and Create New Wildlife Habitats
Gardens with diverse species of flowering plants encourage pollinators and restore local ecosystems by providing food and habitat for wildlife such as birds, insects, and reptiles; this contributes to a balanced ecosystem. Companion planting with beneficial herbs, flowers and native plants promotes a healthy thriving garden. Monocultures of plants attract pests and plant diseases and encourage the use of chemical intervention.
4. Appropriate Use of Limited Resources
Growing food instead of a lawn is a much better use of precious resources, such as water and arable land; and fresh organic produce is much more delicious to eat than lawn clippings. Suburban and urban garden spaces represent land where food can be grown. By eating local seasonal produce we also avoid wasting enormous amounts of fuel to transport non-seasonal goods (resources are used by packaging and refrigeration too).
5. Access to Fresh Healthy Food
Growing edibles in community gardens provides easy access to better nutrition and reduces consumption of fatty fast food and junk-food. Convenient access to nutritious food is a must to reduce obesity and improve health.
6. Basic Skills and Know-How
Growing vegetables and fruit keeps us in touch with the natural cycles of the seasons. Appreciation and availability of seasonal foods educates us about the requirements of plants, on which all life depends.
7. Building Community
The abundance from the garden leads naturally to sharing our bounty with neighbors and the needy, creating community. Communities have been sharing food with each other for thousands of years. The pleasure of sharing homegrown food creates bonds.
8. Preserving Our Heritage
Growing open pollinated heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruit and saving seeds preserves the invaluable historic and genetic diversity of food plants. Large-scale commercially grown crops are extremely limited in diversity, and more prone to disease. This trend of wide scale planting just a small handful of hybrid food crops has led to an increasing loss of a wide selection of plant varieties that have been traditionally cultivated, shared and adapted to specific areas.
The loss of this genetic diversity of food plants is a serious threat to our food security. As the genetic pool becomes smaller, we become dependent upon food plants that are extremely susceptible to being wiped out by diseases, and are also limited in their ability to adapt to climate change. Grassroots efforts such as Seed Savers Exchange are invaluable.
9. Educating Our Next Generation
Family and school vegetable gardens are a key tool in teaching our children where food comes from, basic gardening skills, and healthy eating habits, and self-sufficiency.
10. Building a Local Food Hub
Communities with an appreciation for fresh healthy food also support local organic farmers through farmers markets and joining CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Farmers Markets are also a source for many locally produced products: honey, nuts, tofu, local seafood, fresh eggs and meat from animals that are not “factory farmed”.
We each actually have much more control than we ever thought possible over how we and our families eat and the future of our food sources.