Top 10 Sustainable Gardening Methods

Updated on May 3, 2019
naturegirl7s profile image

For years, Yvonne has been developing a sustainable homestead complete with chickens, food plants, on-site water, solar power, and more.

Cucumbers and Swiss chard in a lasagna garden, which is mulched with leaves and pine straw.
Cucumbers and Swiss chard in a lasagna garden, which is mulched with leaves and pine straw.

Organic Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Your Backyard with Urban Agriculture

Sustainable, organic gardening and permaculture are big topics! Everyone wants safe, organic fruits and vegetables and even eggs, which means many of the old "Victorian" practices of backyard gardens and keeping poultry and other animals are making a comeback. Many people are practicing urban agriculture in vacant lots and in backyards all over the country.

Here are 10 methods that will make it easy to go green and create your own organic, sustainable garden system in your own backyard. You'll soon be growing your own healthy, inexpensive food and, at the same time, you'll be minimizing the time and money you spend on maintaining an exotic lawn and/or ornamental plants.

Sustainable Gardening Is Good for You and Is Good for the Environment

1. Reduce Lawn Size

Satsuma trees bear in the fall of the year in south Louisiana. The sweet-smelling flowers attract pollinators.
Satsuma trees bear in the fall of the year in south Louisiana. The sweet-smelling flowers attract pollinators.

Many years ago, we decided that we would rather spend our free time enjoying the little backyard sanctuary that we had created instead of toiling at the weekly ritual of cutting and maintaining a lawn. We began whittling away the lawn by replacing the grass with islands of multi-purpose trees, shrubs, ground cover and mulch. We were always careful to make gentle curves, so that the grass could be cut without having to back up the mower. We also used hardy ground covers and ferns in areas under trees. Pretty soon instead of taking hours, mowing time was reduced to an hour or so and we did not have to water or fertilize, because the grass that we left was in the "right" place for it to grow.

What sustainable gardening techniques do you use?

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2. Catch, Conserve and Use Water On-Site

Rain Barrel
Rain Barrel

The old folks used to say that rainwater did magic on the plants and I agree. There is nothing like rain water to really get your garden growing. So why do we let it run off of our property before it has a chance to soak in?

Rain gardens, swales, French drains and rain barrels or cisterns are inexpensive ways to harness and control rain water. For areas of your rain gutters where a spout won't work, try attractive and decorative rain chains, combined with other control methods. You can even make your own rain chain from easy-to-find materials. By keeping storm water on-site, you not only benefit from the precious rain, but you help to alleviate flooding down stream and help to keep harmful contaminants out of the aquatic food chain.

Rain Water Recovery System

Most rain barrels are easy to install on a standard rain gutter down spout. It's best to get one that has a screen included so you don't have to worry about mosquitoes laying eggs in the water.

How to Make a Rain Chain

Water Conservation Poll

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3. Make a Compost Pile

Rich "black gold" worm castings compost.
Rich "black gold" worm castings compost.

Using non-meat kitchen scraps and other excess plant materials to make rich black soil is something that all gardeners should do. Instead of putting leaves and grass clippings on the curb to go in the landfill, it makes so much more sense to put them into a compost pile or do sheet composting in the garden. Compost piles are easy to make or you can buy ready made ones.

If you don't have many trees, then just go through your neighborhood the day before the trash is picked up and collect the nicely bagged bounty that the neighbors put out.

Another good composting option is worm composting. By adding red wiggler worms to your compost pile or setting up a separate worm bin, you will have even richer soil than with regular composting methods.

Worm Factory Composter

I have a Worm Factory vermiculture composter. I like its tray design and the container with spigot to catch the nutrient rich "worm tea." A detailed instruction book, shredded paper and coca fiber brick comes in the kit. Once you get the composter and get it set up, then you can order your red wiggler worms. This adds another rung to the sustainability ladder, because the worms can also be used as bait to catch fish.

4. Mulch With Available Materials

Mulching with leaves, pine needles or wood chips (or other materials that you have on hand) helps to keep the soil moist, enriches it and keeps the weeds down. Cypress mulch is not recommended because in most cases, it is not made from the by products of cypress lumber, but from harvesting and grinding whole young trees.

It is much better for you and for the environment if you use mulch from your own yard. In fact, when we lived in the city, we used to pick up the neighbors' bags of leaves to use in our yard and compost pile.

How to Mulch a Garden

Compost and Mulch Poll

Have you tried composting or mulching with on-site materials?

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5. Use Native Plants

Sneezeweed, stiff-leaved verbena and coreopsis attract honeybees, native bees and butterflies to the garden.

Plants that are native to your area are already accustomed to the seasonal changes and the periods of drought and/or flooding. They are hardier and require much less maintenance time than the imported exotic plants. They will also save money, because they won't have to be replaced ( they can usually with stand fluctuations in the weather).

Many native plants have edible fruit, berries, nuts or roots. Examples include pecans, blackberries, wild blueberries, plums, crabapples, red mulberry, ground nut and many others.

6. Plant Perennial, Multi-purpose Flowers

Daylily flowers are edible. The buds can be cook like green beans and the flowers stuffed, battered and fried.
Daylily flowers are edible. The buds can be cook like green beans and the flowers stuffed, battered and fried.

Old-fashioned double orange daylilies are a favorite perennial in the South.

Perennials and especially native perennials are the sustainable gardener's friend. They come back every year and multiply. They are low maintenance and cost less because they don't have to be replanted each season like annual bedding plants.

Many perennial flowers are edible, too. Examples include daylilies (shown above), roses, violets, monarda (bee balm) and many more.

7. Intersperse Fruits and Vegetables Among Ornamentals

Tomato plants growing in an ornamental planter.
Tomato plants growing in an ornamental planter.

In sustainable gardening, vegetables and other edible plants are not planted in masses as with traditional gardening. By mixing edibles in with ornamental plants, pest and disease damage is reduced because the pests are attracted to the large mass plantings of the traditional garden.

Planting good companion plants near vegetables can also aid in growth, taste and help repel harmful insects. Plants that have clusters of tiny flowers, like parsley, will also draw predatory wasps as well as small pollinators to the garden. My favorite combinations are basil with tomatoes, savory with beans, oregano with peppers and French marigolds sprinkled throughout the garden.

8. Don't Use Chemical Pesticides, Encourage Natural Predators

Goldenrod attracts many pollinators when it blooms in the fall. Green anole in goldenrod available on Zazzle.
Goldenrod attracts many pollinators when it blooms in the fall. Green anole in goldenrod available on Zazzle.

This green anole hunts for insect prey among native goldenrod flowers in fall. Goldenrod is an important plant for honeybees, native bees and butterflies.

Organic pest control techniques go well with sustainable gardening and are beneficial to the environment. By not using chemical pesticides, the predator and prey cycle remains unbroken. The natural predators are able to do their job and rid the garden of pests.

Controlling Slugs Organically

Filled with accurate and practical information from bird seed and bird houses to bird-friendly shrubs and trees, the book, Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds: Creating Natural Habitats for Properties Large and Small, is an encyclopedia of everything you need to know to make your property a more welcoming and more beneficial habitat for wild birds.

Pest Control Poll

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9. Make a Lasagna Garden

Hens in Chicken Tractor Behind Pumpkin Vines
Hens in Chicken Tractor Behind Pumpkin Vines

When we first got our hens they lived in a chicken tractor, which we move around the garden. We also let them out each day to forage. In front you see the giant pumpkin and squash vines growing where the chicken tractor was parked last fall.

Lasagna gardening is a fabulous way to garden. It is a "no dig" method. If you have a chicken tractor or movable coop, you can park the chickens there, first and they will help till the soil, get rid of the grass and fertilize, too. If you let them out, for a few hours each day, they will remove weed seeds and insects like grasshoppers from your yard.

Even if you don't, in early fall, you can layer newspapers, Starbuck's coffee grounds, grass clippings, leaves, hay, manure, kitchen scraps and other compostable materials over the grass where you want your garden to be. Then by spring, you'll have a nice planting bed for your garden.

Keyhole Garden

Key hole gardens were designed to save water in arid regions, the concept combines lasagna, raised and organic gardening with a permanent compost bin. Traditionally the individual gardens are ciircular with a 6-6 1/2 foot diameter. A wire cylindrical compost bin sits in the middle. The sides and soil depth is 2 to 3 feet. A pie shaped wedge is cut in one part so that the compost bin is accessible.

The theory is that the garden is self fertilizing via the compost bin. The rich compost tea filters into the soil every time the garden is watered. This type of sustainable garden has been successful in many areas including Africa and West Texas.

We are in the process of installing a modified key hole garden, using the materials that we have on hand. Ours will be more rectangualar because we have some boards from a deck that will be repurposed to make the sides. Small sticks and dead branches will be on the bottom layer to aid in drainage. Cardboard, newspaper and other non shiny paper will form the next layer. Chicken manure and soil plus leaf mold, hay and pine needles will form other layers. We'll top it off with some topsoil. We hope to have it done by fall so that it can age and be ready for spring planting.

Lasagna Gardening Vid

Lasagna Gardening

Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!
Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!
I have been using the gardening techniques from this book for years and my plants (as well as my back and knees) appreciate it.

Lasagna Garden Poll

Have you tried a lasagna garden?

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10. Get Some Chickens

A few hens in a movable coop are great additions to the sustainable garden. In addition to the fresh, organic eggs, the chickens can help you till the soil and weed in areas where you'd like to have a patch of fruit trees or vegetables. You just park the "chicken tractor" there for a while and the hens will clear the area and fertilize it for you. Then you move the coop to another location.

We also let them out for a few hours each day. The chickens eat many insects and weed seeds. This makes both the chickens and the garden and yard healthier.

Backyard Animals Poll

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The Beauty of Pollination - Everything is Related

Amazing photography of our pollinators including hummingbirds, various bees, butterflies and insects, also bats. From flowers to fruits and vegetables, night and day the native pollinators are at work in this enchanting video excerpt from TED.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Yvonne L B

Share Your Gardening Tips or a Comment.

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      i have tried a couple of csompot bins. To be honest i have gotten the best results just making a pile and leaving it, turning it every couple of weeks. Two drawbacks in my opinion of bins is air circulation and creating a barrier for insects to enter. i had a black csompot bin which from what i read was a popular model. The contents never got hot. This baffled me for a long time then i decided to just make a pile in a sunny area. after a good rain it gets piping hot.

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 

      6 years ago from Virginia

      Terrific lens! Its been featured on "The Green Thumb: A Place For Gardeners To Gather" Facebook page. Please like/share it with your friends!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      7 years ago

      I loved this lens. Bookmarked and linked to my own lens on landscaping with fruits and vegetables. :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting insight into your mind

    • profile image

      MariePalmer LM 

      7 years ago

      I love your lens, I squidliked and shared on Twitter! And I made you my favorite green lens for my squid quest!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is an awesome lens. It has great information and tips. Thanks for sharing.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      7 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Excellent info, in a wonderful easy to understand format, with lots of great pictures. You make organic gardening fun and practical! I've featured your lens on my lens Make a Healthy Garden ~ SquidAngel Blessed! B : )

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great info. Thank you for publishing this lens. We have a garden that just is. No chemicals. No special anything. Water from rain, except during the summer when there is no rain (I'm in California). And it works just fine.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I must try make compost at home. thanks for new suggestions.

    • freesamplerevie profile image


      7 years ago

      So much useful information here! Can't wait to start putting some of these suggestions into practice, thanks!

    • suepogson profile image


      7 years ago

      This is GREAT! Thanks

    • suepogson profile image


      7 years ago

      This is GREAT! Thanks

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 

      7 years ago

      This is fascinating gardening methods thanks for the tips!

    • N Beaulieu profile image

      N Beaulieu 

      7 years ago

      I'm glad I stopped by your lens - I picked up some useful tips on sustainable gardening. I save the water from my dehumidifier along with rain and leftover coffee from the pot to water my gardens. I liked your lens so much I'm featuring it on my best-self-sufficient-vegetables lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have learned a lot from reading this lens and it has helped me think about additional ways to be sustainable. Your section on lawns got me researching further and I simply didn't realise what an adverse effect they have on ecology.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. I'd love any advice you could give me on my garden. Thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a great post. This has got me really interested in composting and lasagna gardening. Great ideas for people that don't know where to start and therefore don't try. I really love it.

    • profile image

      PeacefieldFarm LM 

      8 years ago

      I have really enjoyed reading your lens. I love to garden and try to live more sustainably every year.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      8 years ago from USA

      The 3 year old taping the shoot was the best!

    • marlies vaz nunes profile image

      Marlies Vaz Nunes 

      8 years ago from Amsterdam, the Netherlands

      A most informative aricle! Thanks for sharing all these tips.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      An excellent presentation of sustainable gardening ideas and congratulations for being honored as one of Squidoo's best on the 2012 Earth Day Monster Board. I don't garden right now but long for the day I'll have a yard again. These were all common practices years ago and its good to be teaching them to new generations for sure!...*

    • JohannDog profile image

      Johann The Dog 

      8 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      Great ideas! Woofs! Johann

    • KateHonebrink profile image


      8 years ago

      We used all these sustainable gardening ideas you've just described when I was growing up on the farm and working in our family garden. We didn't know it actually had a name. Thanks for a great lens! Well done!!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting ideas. I don't think my neighbors would appreciate adding chickens, but the other ideas are doable.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You've done a great job on using sustainable gardening methods. Very informative too.

    • jed78 profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice work, great lens very informative!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent advice and tips. A few years ago a group that I'm involved with started what's become an annual SkillShare Festival where we gather people like you, the local 'experts,' to put on demonstrations and hands-on sessions. The response has been great and we've been able to teach thousands tips and skills like you've written about here. Keep up the good work.

    • MindPowerProofs1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the tips and advices. Great lens

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      nice lense. I love organic gardening and the info about the chickens.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      8 years ago from Colorado

      Stopping back by to sprinkle a blessing over your sustainable gardening tips. Appreciated!

    • earthybirthymum profile image


      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great ideas for gardening. Nice Lense, you've inspired me to increase my composting.

    • KiwiSanet profile image


      8 years ago

      I like your lens .Packed with lots of good information. I have not heard of Lasagna gardening before but we have two hens in a cage which we move around on our raised beds. They do an excellent job of fertilising and turning the soil and in general preparing the bed for the next planting.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      8 years ago from Colorado

      Excellent tips for sustainable gardening and living. Thanks for teaching me new methods (lasagna gardening, etc.). I will apply what I have learned here. **Blessed**

    • KarenTBTEN profile image


      8 years ago

      What a lot of ideas! It also sounds like a more humane way to raise a chicken. SquidAngel blessings.

    • RawBill1 profile image


      8 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      What an awesome lens! I had not heard the term "Lasagne Gardening" before but it is basically what I did at my old house and featured in my lens "From Lawn To Food Forest". I am now doing the same thing again with a similar garden in my new house using mostly materials found onsite. It will be the focus of a new lens very shortly!

    • mellex lm profile image

      mellex lm 

      9 years ago from Australia

      I really like your lens... full of excellent ideas for sustainable gardening. Thanks for taking the time to share :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      were open, and so were the equally wide garden-doors; orange-trees in sinequan online. tubs, and tall flowers in pots, ornamented these portals on each side; exelon online.

    • chezchazz profile image


      9 years ago from New York

      Great job! Blessed by a squid angel. Lenrolled to my invasive plants lens and featured on "Wing-ing it on Squidoo," our tribute page of bless-worthy lenses. Enjoy!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very nice lens, and thanks for blessing mine!

    • jackieb99 profile image


      9 years ago

      I love the site...very well done!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great Info!! i love sites that give ideas o a bigger scale Please check out myirrigation and sprinkler services

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm with you all the way with the principles you explain on this lens!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks amazing article perfectly put together great tips!!!

      Seamless Gutters

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      It's sad to know that not all bugs are destructive enough to be eliminated or exterminated. But they are really sometimes that natural pest controls must be done to eradicate all of them due to more beneficial purposes.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      What wonderful inspiration for the Springtime garden. Thank you for adding it to Here Comes Spring! Springtime Headquarters Group.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is yet another great lens with brilliant sustainable gardening tips. And thank you for featuring my Bees lens.

      We are currently using the masses of leaves that fall from our very large apple tree to make mulch for next year.

      You just rake them up, put into a large plastic sack (an eco-friendly recycled one of course), tie a knot in the top, pirce with a garden fork in a few places and then leave it behind the shed until next summer.

      Lensrolled to my "green" lenses and SquidAngel Blessings for you.

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 

      10 years ago

      Great ideas & tips!

    • profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      10 years ago

      Some really great tips on sustainable gardening.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      10 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      This is a great list! We used to do all of this, including the chickens, when we lived on a farm. Nowadays, we live in the woods, so our "yard" is essentially a bunch of mulch and native plants. I do miss the chickens, hunting and scratching and pecking all over.

      I'll add this lens to the plexo on my Top 10 Lists lens.

    • GonnaFly profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      Fabulous collection of lenses. I will come back often!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Beautiful! You have some really great pics on here; I especially loved the orange lilies--stunning. And lots of great links and resources--nice work!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      LOVE this lens!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Great job! Rolled to "Honey Bee Awareness".

    • wyrm11268 profile image


      11 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading your lens and have picked up a lot of tips.

      I found it very peaceful and relaxing to read - I can see why you got your purple star.

      Congratulations a big *5

    • Laniann profile image


      11 years ago

      Congratulations on your purple star. Excellent lens. 5*s

    • MsSnow4 profile image

      Carol Goss 

      11 years ago

      Very nice lens thanks for sharing

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 

      11 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Excellent information . . . I learned something today! Thanks for featuring my organic gardening journal lens!

    • puzzlerpaige profile image


      11 years ago

      You've got a ton of great information on this lens. I use many of these practices you've mentioned. By far, I think the most interesting part of my gardening is the compost pile. It is always full of surprises - I had countless tomatoes come up last year. Some folks frown on adding anything with seeds, but I say LIVE A LITTLE and find out what grows. Anyone who does not compost is missing out for sure. 5*

    • NanLT profile image


      11 years ago from London, UK

      An excellent lens, and one I will come back to when we get our garden going where we want it.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is a fantastic lens naturegirl7. The "How To Mulch" video was especially helpful, we are in the processing of planning a garden and are looking for as much good information as possible. Squidoo has been a great place for it. We have a lens dedicated to top ten lists: You can post this to our site and link back to your lens. We are trying to create a directory for top ten lists where people can find your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image


      11 years ago

      Excellent ideas and a wonderful lens. Angel Blessings to you

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Another extremely beneficial lens with lots of environmentally friendly information.

    • naturegirl7s profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L B 

      11 years ago from Covington, LA

      [in reply to spirituality] One way is to join a local native plant society. In Louisiana, we have the Louisiana Native Plant Society and the Folsom Native Plant Society. Both have websites. Another is to take a look around in natural areas that are similar to your own conditions, making note of the plants that grow well there.

    • religions7 profile image


      11 years ago

      Oh & blessed by a squidangel today :)

    • religions7 profile image


      11 years ago

      :) now that's the way to do a lensography. great tips. What I've always wondered though: how do you FIND the plants that are going to work locally? I mean - most places that sell plants, sell them by looks primarily.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 

      11 years ago from USA

      Excellent lens! As a lifelong gardener, this will be a favorite of mine.

    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Lynn 

      11 years ago from Missouri

      Great info Thanks for Sharing!

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      11 years ago

      Excellent job, sustainable is definitely the way to be. 5*


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