``Sustainable” is one of gardening’s trendiest buzzwords, yet it carries a range of definitions. Just what does it mean in practical terms, and how important is it to the average gardener?
Very important, according to a recent plant trends study by horticulturalists with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). It found strong interest in native plants, ``re-wilding’’ gardens, growing edibles, and going easy on wildlife, among other concerns.
Sustainable isn’t necessarily the same as organic, noted Erica Chernoh, an Oregon State University Extension horticulturist.
```Organic’ has become legally recognized,’’ Chernoh said. ``Sustainability is more of an open book, combining ecological, sociological and economic factors.”
Ross Penhallegon, a horticulturist emeritus with Oregon State University Extension, said sustainability requires that we all ``look at our garden and ask what we can do to reduce carbon imprint, reduce irrigation and use less products.”
Some simple sustainable gardening goals, he noted in a fact sheet, include:
— Starting compost piles rather than throwing away yard debris. ``Composting keeps all the nutrients stored in yard debris in your garden on site and feeds the soil,” he said. ``It also saves you money since buying compost isn’t necessary.”
— Shifting from standard sprinklers to drip irrigation or soaker hoses. ``You can reduce your water use by up to 80 percent,” Penhallegon said. ``Also, consider using drought-resistant plants to save water.”
— Lessening pesticide use by planting large seedlings that withstand pests and diseases better than small ones.
— Fighting bugs with Integrated Pest Management, which uses the least toxic methods, minimizing risks to humans, animals, pollinators and other beneficial insects. ``If you must use a pesticide, use a low-toxicity one,” Penhallegon said.
Gardeners operate on a smaller scale than farmers but still can have major impacts, Chernoh said.
``They can do that by not over-fertilizing, by eliminating any spraying that isn’t necessary,’’ she said. ``Their size may be unlike farmers’, but their goals are the same.”
For more about sustainable gardening, see this fact sheet from Colorado State University: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/sustainable-landscaping-7-243/
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