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Sustainable Gardening has a number of definitions, depending on who you talk to. But at the root of the effort is the concept of "sustainability." True sustainability should incorporate a set of practices that act as a foundation for renewable gardening. Proper execution of sustainable gardening will indeed require a fair amount of up-front effort, and ongoing discipline, but will reap manifold benefits for you and your family for years to come.

Composting

"Don't throw that away! We compost!" Famous words by a serious composter. Eggshells, greens, coffee grounds, oh my! If you don't have a compost bin, it's easy. Go to your favorite "Big Box" home improvement store, go out back, and ask an employee for 4 wood pallets. You can screw together a three-sided bin with a bottom that is not plastic, and does a GREAT job of composting your refuse. This will turn into GOLD soon and will make your garden thrive without putting nasty, expensive chemicals or fertilizer on the food you'll be eating.

Water Conservation and Reclamation

Watering your garden from tap can be expensive, and depending on the source of your water, could potentially have harmful chemicals. Creating a "catchment" system from rainwater into 55-gallon barrels is a great way to conserve and reclaim water for use on your garden. If this isn't an option, another great option is to hand-dig a well. Before you get discouraged, don't think a "hand-dug well" requires you on your knees with a spoon. It is much more sophisticated than this and uses the power of water to dig the well. Yes, you can actually do this with very little effort! To accomplish this, go to the USGS website and look at your state's data. You will be able to see how far down an aquifer or other water source might be. With about $100 in parts from your favorite home improvement store, you can actually dig a well that will produce MORE than enough water for your garden. If you're feeling fancy, you can even pick up a small drop-in well pump and a solar panel from the same store!

Crop Rotation

As mentioned in a previous post, your pH is very important, and while OCD people like myself (who keeps every square foot and row in the garden in an excel document year after year) would like to have every plant variety in the same place every year, it is truly not best for your soil. Keeping a log of everything you plant is a wonderful idea to ensure you get proper rotation and subsequently proper nutrition in your soil, without completely depleting the resources necessary to growing a healthy plant.

Save Your Seed

While it is easy to go to the store and buy seed for your garden each year, you're spending unnecessary money. As well, you're likely unknowingly buying "sterile" seed which has been genetically modified (GMO) to produce plants with more brilliant color, resilience, pest-resistance, or greater production. While these benefits sound great, they come with a great price–your health and safety. Start with Heirloom Seeds, which are non-GMO and are intended to be harvested, and planted the next season. Did you know you can get up to 50 seeds (and sometimes more) from a single Heirloom Tomato? Take a couple of tomatoes from your harvest, save the seeds, and plant again next year. Talk about sustainability. Of course, SeedCatalog.com has hundreds of varieties of non-GMO, Heirloom seeds for you to start with. Get yours today!

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