It's New Year's resolution time, but this year how about resolving to do less in the garden? I don't mean avoiding chores. I'm talking about easy ways of making your landscape more sustainable.Healthy soil contains organic material that provides the nutrients plants need. Soil also helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon.
Our gardening habits can help or exacerbate these challenges. By using sustainable, Earth-friendly techniques that mirror the natural environment, we can protect and enhance our surroundings. Here's how that translates to less in the garden.
In nature, soil is constantly covered with fallen flowers, leaves, twigs, cones, and branches. As this organic material decomposes, it feeds countless underground organisms that provide the nutrients plants need. The more this organic matter builds up, the greater the soil's capacity to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change.
This efficient exchange happens over time. If we interrupt it, soil, plants, and the environment suffer. No one rototills soil at Muir Woods or applies fertilizer to Mt. Burdell. The soil manages itself.
To replicate this natural process, do less to your soil. Simply add a thin layer of compost and mulch. Avoid digging unless you're planting. Avoid fertilizers that may harm beneficial soil microorganisms. Don't walk on it when it's wet.
Doing less to your soil protects the life beneath your feet. A new mantra for 2021? Shovel less, nurture more.Include all four native plants to provide year-round blooms: manzanita, California lilac, sage, and California fuchsia. Photo credit: PlantMaster
Marin's native plants offer distinct beauty and unsurpassed environmental benefits.
Like a thumbprint, Marin's blend of native plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms only exists in Marin. Ecologists call this biodiversity, a key measure of environmental health. California is among the most biodiverse places on Earth, yet today 30% of our native species are threatened with extinction.
To protect Marin's biodiversity, simply do what nature does: grow the plants that were here long before we were. They are naturally adapted to our climate, soil, and other conditions. They need no pesticides or fertilizers. Some need no irrigation.Hummingbirds and bees find native manzanita flowers irresistible. Photo credit: GardenSoft
These four natives provide year-round flowers: manzanita (Arctostaphylos) in winter, California lilac (Ceanothus) in spring, sage (Salvia) in summer, and California fuchsia (Epilobium) in fall. These plants are readily available and treasured by bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. If you plant them, they will come.
We're fortunate that we can grow plants from all over the world. This year, try some low effort, high performance native plants. They ask for little but give a lot.
Less water and energy
In the wild, all energy comes from sun, wind, and other Earth forces. Rainfall soaks into the earth, where it recharges our groundwater, evaporates, and falls again as rain. Nature has no waste. Everything is recycled and reused over time. One organism's waste is food for another, creating an efficient, perpetual cycle of growth, decay, and rebirth.
It's challenging to mimic this elegant system, but we can lessen our impact by conserving natural resources.
Again, it's all about less. For 2021, choose plants that need less water. Use less solid paving so rainwater flows into soil instead of sloshing into storm drains. Compost at home so there's less plant and food waste to haul away. Use less fossil fuel by choosing manual or electric tools and recycling plastic pots.
A delicate balance of plants, pollinators, and other wildlife live in harmony in the wild. No pesticides are needed. Many native plants have developed their own defenses. Creatures such as lady beetles and wasps act as natural enemies, keeping harmful pests in check.
When pests or diseases strike, it's tempting to ignore these natural processes and reach for chemical solutions. However, pesticides often have unseen negative effects.
For 2021, use less chemicals that may cause unintended harm. When problems arise, search for solutions that are the least harmful to people and the environment. This approach is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Learn more by visiting ipm.ucanr.edu.