7 Tips For Waste Free Gardening
As summer draws to a close, you’re likely experiencing a huge influx of produce in your vegetable garden. Late summer is a time of plentiful food and vegetation, and while it may seem overwhelming, it’s not difficult to use all of your garden in time. There are dozens of ways to eliminate waste in your homegrown garden. Here are a few ideas.
1. Learn how to can and preserve your own food
Canning is an inexpensive and enjoyable hobby and a practice that will allow you to preserve your excess harvest. Water bath canners can be fashioned out of large stock pots, or purchased for a relatively low price at local farm and garden stores. Canned goods last indefinitely, and just about any food can be pickled and canned in a water bath canner (some foods, due to their low acidity, require the use of a pressure canner instead).
If canning is too time consuming, consider freezing or dehydrating your leftovers. This will allow you to use up every last bit of your harvest before it spoils.
A compost pile or machine can help convert food and garden scraps into rich garden soil to be used next year. If you don’t have room for a compost bin outside, consider starting a vermicomposting system inside your home. Worm bins don’t give off a smell and can be used even throughout the winter months to reduce the amount of waste that your home and garden produce.
3. Reduce water usage
As we move into the hottest months out of the year, it may seem impossible, but it is easy to eliminate water waste in your garden. Water intelligently, only giving your garden a good soak once every couple of days. When you water, do so deeply. If finances permit, install a drip irrigation system, which can eliminate the need to manually water your garden and provide good control over exactly where the water is going.
You can also capture and reuse water to help water your plants. Greywater systems help capture “waste” water from your home, like from the washing machine or dishwasher, and allow you to use it to water your garden instead of releasing it back into the ground. If you’re feeling exceptionally motivated, you can also add a rainwater collection tank beneath your gutters to capture rainwater that can then be used to water the garden.
4. Select native plants
When you’re planning next year’s garden, choose plants that are appropriate for your climate. If you live in a drought-prone area, don’t select vegetables or fruits that require a lot of water to be successful. Choosing native plant types makes for easy gardening and contributes to the environment by maintaining the ecosystem for animals and insects. Research your climate, soil type, and other factors, which will help you figure out the best plants for your area.
5. Shun planting “must-haves”
While you might need a few pots or trays to start seedlings in each year, or for container-bound species, remember that you don’t have to throw out the plastic containers just because you’ve transplanted the original seedling. Plastic plant pots and trays can easily be reused, or you can DIY your own planters from recyclable items like yogurt cups. You can even make your own plant labels out of items like popsicle sticks that you would otherwise just throw out.
6. Donate and share
If you have items that you just can’t find a use for, like old planting tools or even extra vegetables, consider donating them. Some food pantries take donations of perishable food items, as do local farmers markets. Don’t throw out anything you think someone else may have a use for.
7. Get creative
For example, if you find you have a bountiful harvest of zucchini – but maybe don’t love how zucchini tastes – get creative. There are hundreds of recipes out there to help you transform an ordinary vegetable into something with a taste that is out of this world. Use Pinterest and other websites to help you find new recipes, and reach out to friends and neighbors to get their help with taste-testing your creations. You’ll likely find that you use up that garden bounty much quicker than you expected.