Have you ever heard of the term eco garden? An eco garden is both a mix of nature and garden. Most conventional gardens contain invasive species and pests are killed using harmful pesticides. Not an eco garden: It’s designed to operate like a mini ecosystem in and of itself, with a little human help along the way. Most eco gardens contain native species, organic pesticides, and natural predators (animals that eat pests – lady bugs, birds, etc.). They are safe havens for wildlife and help reduce your environmental footprint.
Step 1: Prepare the Soil
Before you can begin your eco garden, it’s important to start with the most basic part of gardening: Soil. Without good soil, nothing will grow (except maybe some weeds). Don’t wase your time adding chemical fertilizers to the soil. Instead, use natural remedies to add nutrients. Products like blood meal, bone meal, cottonseed meal, and fish emulsion are good.
But the biggest nutrient to soil is compost! Consider buying or making a compost bin (even small yards should be able to fit a small compost bin). Compost is essentially food waste mixed with other organic material that has decomposed. Some material worth composting includes shredded paper, fruit and vegetables scraps, dead leaves, lawn clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and meal leftovers. Avoid composting any meat or dairy though.
Once you’ve gathered enough materials for the compost heap, it should generate its own heat as the material decomposes. You can help keep the heap moist by adding some water and aerate it by turning it over with a pitchfork. Or, to make your life a little simpler, you can also buy a tumbling compost bin. All you have to do is turn it once a week and you’ll have fresh compost in as little as 14 days.
When you have all these extra nutrients, make sure to mix them all into the soil. Now your garden will be ready for planting!
When creating an eco garden, it’s important to choose native plants to grow. That’s because this will help create biodiversity. Plus, native species require less water, fertilizer, and labor. They’ll definitely thrive, as long as you know what their individual needs are. So while that rose bush might look lovely, you have to consider what actually belongs in your area when creating an eco garden. Doing some research into this doesn’t need to be too difficult: Just google “native plants” and then write in your state. You can also visit a local plant nursery and ask them which plants are native to the area. You might even be able to get a few of them while you’re there.
You can start natives from seed, or you can grow them from saplings. Whatever your choice, make sure you place them in an area they will prefer: Do they prefer being near water? Under shade? Under full sun? Whatever they need to thrive, make sure you find it out ahead of time. You might even want to consider planting some native trees: This will help provide shade and homes to animals, like birds. Or, if your plant thrives near water, perhaps consider installing a miniature pond. Also, consider giving your native plants a companion plant that will help them flourish. This may require some extra research, but the wildlife in your area will greatly appreciate it! After all, natives are their first sources of food.
Step 3: Conserve Water
In an eco garden, it’s important that no water goes to waste. Perhaps consider investing in a drip line or a soaker hose to water your garden. These devices water plants efficiently because they target the roots of the plants. You can also set out barrels or other containers to gather rainwater from your downspouts. Then, you can simply use the captured rainwater o your garden (or even on your lawn!). If you’re not sure how to make a rain barrel, you can always buy one. This rain barrel is made from 100 percent repurposed olive barrels and can contain as much as 60 gallons. Considering the average person uses 100 gallons of water a day, I think it’s time we start thinking about our water consumption levels and do all we can to conserve it. Having an eco garden really helps with that!
Step 3: Get Rid of Weeds, Naturally
Weeds are every gardeners ban, but they don’t have to be. There are many ways to get around weeds, without using chemicals. For starters, that weed might actually be edible! You’d be surprised at how many “weeds” can be foraged and eaten. Do some research before popping it into your mouth of course, or better yet, ask a seasoned forager. The last thing you want is to be poisoned.
Another helpful tip is to start weeding early, and weed when it’s wet. That’s because weeding when the soil is wet makes it easier to pull the weeds out of the soil without breaking them off at the root. The soil is often softer when moist, which allows pulling the whole weed out easier with one pull. Also, it is better to start picking weeds when they are smaller in order to prevent them from growing a bigger root system.
If you must use some sort of herbicide, try corn gluten. It’s all-natural and will stop any weeds from sprouting. That’s because it literally stops seeds from developing into plants. It does this by inhibiting root growth, so even though seeds may germinate, they can’t develop roots. I suggest applying them to the ground when it’s dry and at the beginning of the season, so they’ll work more efficiently. Here are some other ways to naturally get rid of weeds (without harming your plants).
Step 3: Reduce Pests with Natural Predators
Another gardening struggle most people face is pests. I highly recommend inviting birds (and maybe even bats!) into your garden. They will help hunt a lot of natural pests that can plague a garden. Welcome them by setting up a bird or bat house. Or, introduce a bird feeder into your garden. There are also certain plants that birds and bats love which you might want to consider planting. Doing your research into this can help a lot and keep a very lively mini ecosystem going in your garden.
You can also welcome helpful insects too, such as ladybugs, bees and butterflies. Lady bugs eat a lot of pests that plague gardens, and butterflies and bees will help pollinate your garden. Consider making a lady bug feeder, or building a bee box. Butterflies like specific flowers, so consider searching native plants that butterflies like in your area. This will certainly help encourage the little helpers to stay near your garden!
If, for some reason, natural predators aren’t working out, invest in an organic pesticide. You can even learn how to make your own organic pesticides. Keeping everything organic and natural ensures your plants, and the wildlife that visits them, do not ingest toxins.