Gardening to improve health, secure food supply, save money, and reduce CO2 emissions
Growing a garden is good for you and your budget, and it helps stabilize climate. It significantly reduces CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by decreasing processing, packaging, and the distance the food travels to get to your kitchen table. If you plant trees, it helps store carbon from the atmosphere into roots, stems, branches, leaves, and soil. Gardening done right is good for you, good for your family, good for your community, and good for the earth.
Plan – Map out your garden. With a little planning, you can avoid buying extra supplies and seeds, reducing your carbon footprint. Keep in mind that all of the things you buy had to be manufactured and transported, emitting pounds of CO2 in the process.
Work with your local climate. Early-season local vegetables, such as peas and lettuce, can withstand the cooler nights of spring, increasing your growing season. If you use local seeds, then the farm-to-table distance is close to zero. As a bonus, these plants don’t need heavy fertilizers, which have large carbon footprints.
Find out where the sunlight falls in your garden space. You may have less than you think! It doesn’t mean you have to give up – just pick plants that like shade. To keep your garden full all season, think of harvest and flowering times. You can find a planning guide here.
To encourage growth, put plants that help each other together. For example, you can sow radish seeds in with cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles. Plants are like people – they love good company and hate pesky neighbors. While you can cram a lot into a small garden, make sure you know the ultimate size of your plants, so they don’t struggle, and you can avoid replanting.
It all starts with soil – Good soil is the basis of your success in the garden, but not all regions have quality soil.
To improve your garden and eliminate the need for store-bought soil, put kitchen compost or leaves from the past fall into the soil. Also, cover the ground to reduce evaporation so that you can water less!
Keep your garden as organic as possible. Chemical and manure fertilizers are carbon-intensive products. Avoiding them will minimize your emissions. If you need to acidify the soil, use leftover tea and coffee grounds.
Maximize the positive impact of your garden – Did you know that you eliminate about two pounds of CO2 for every pound of produce you grow instead of buying? Grow what you eat! Those tomatoes, herbs, and greens you usually buy are easy to grow even for a beginner gardener. Don’t forget to plant trees and flowers to keep nature in balance. This will keep the pests away and encourage the good bugs, which protect the plants.
Think space – Many urban dwellers think we have no time or space for a garden. With a container or two, even the smallest porch can give you a crop of vegetables or a nice green space. To liven up a fence or to frame an archway, use climbing plants. They demand little ground space and almost no attention.
Don’t waste that patch of soil in front of your home. A front yard garden is one of the best ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a community, because it inspires the rest of your neighborhood to change things up! People quickly find that islands of nature give you space to rest and bond with your family. Start a garden and in no time you will have others following suit!
Living in a high-rise? Little space – no problem! Reuse plastic bottles to create a hanging garden or make a living piece of art by planting on a vertical surface. Imagine how amazing a building would look if everyone kept a garden on their balcony! If you want more space, find a community garden.
Beautiful doesn’t mean new! New things have pounds of CO2 associated with their production and transportation. Finding a new use for household objects in your garden is a double positive: it avoids the impact of newly bought things and doesn’t emit the greenhouse gases it would have produced at the landfill. You won’t believe how many objects in your house are just waiting to be reused. Here are some ideas.
A way to dry herbs. Unless you have an alternative energy source, using your oven produces CO2 emissions. On a hot day, instead of using the stove, just lay a cloth in your car and arrange the herbs on it. They will quickly dry to perfection, and the car will smell great.
Water reuse. Whenever you open the tap, the water treatment plant uses energy to clean your water, which in most cases means using fossil fuels and increasing carbon emissions. You can calculate the influence of your home’s energy use with our carbon footprint calculator. To reduce the carbon footprint of your home, collect rainwater by putting a barrel outside and the next time you boil or steam food, use the “broth” to water plants.
Other ways of improving food production, food security, and overall efficiency:
- Gather like-minded friends, combine energies, find land, form agrarian villages, grow food, and protect forests.
- Expect less money flow – deliberately invest your time and energy in your community to enhance community multiplier effects and economic spin – enjoy a richer life.
- Employ yourselves usefully – gardening, baking, building, fireproofing forests, educating, reshaping metal and glass, maintaining bicycles, composting, enhancing photosynthesis, capturing sunlight – but be careful, this lifestyle is not for everyone. Probably less than one percent of people in western economic systems will find this appealing or palatable.
- Enrich your soil, enhance organic content and water-holding capacity.
- Save water – Use composting toilets, spread the compost in around fruit and nut trees in the forest.
- Avoid using detergents and chemical soaps that are unsafe for plants.
- Recycle gray water through garden beds and orchards.
- Install drip irrigation and / or wicking beds.
- Fireproof your house and outbuildings. Air crete is fireproof and low cost. Use metal or tile roofs to collect water for gardens and trees.
- Evolve/shift from open field gardens to forest gardens – tree crops, vines and shrubs, raised beds with covers.
- Build small supper efficient houses – more efficient for heating – little or no mortgage.
- A greenhouse built into slope and bermed will grow food all year. If the greenhouse is part of a well-designed house, you will need less wood for heating during the winter.
- Diversify your crops and growing techniques.
- Grow oaks that produce low tannin acorns – usually a cross between swamp and burr oaks. Plant chestnuts, hicans, and walnuts.
- Grow Honey Locust for high-quality grain and baking flour – can also be used for sweetening.
- Plant stinging nettle and other wild foods and medicinal plants in forests.
- Grow hazels in damp areas in mounds – 1m x 1m square by 400mm high.
- Plant turnips in small patches in forest areas – they tolerate frosts, as do most clovers.
- Grow lots of garlic and ginger – they have multiple uses.
Growing Food in changing climates can be difficult. Warming oceans, intense heat cells generating powerful cyclonic storms that spin warmth to polar regions – melting Arctic sea ice, melt-water from Greenland flowing into and weakening the thermohaline ocean conveyor, the jet stream oscillating in response to these new conditions – bringing warm spring days and late frosts.
Some problems and suggested remedies:
- Warm weather in early spring followed by heavy frosts. Tree buds open early and then freeze.
Inter-plant food trees into forests – plant some trees on cool northern slopes to delay flowering.
- Frosts in late May and early September damage garden plants.
We use row covers, cold frames, and greenhouses to extend the growing season.
- Heavy rains leach nutrients from topsoil
Trees with deep roots bring nutrients to the upper layers of the soil. Collect leaves and small branches from forests and compost them into garden beds.