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Sustainable Organic Garden Design

Updated on September 12, 2011
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

There is alot of talk on the Internet this summer about buying local food, and ONLY local food as much as possible, because it is good for the environment. When you buy locally you are supporting in small farms, you are decreasing your impact on the environment by buying things that do not need to be transported, and when you buy fresh there is less packaging to deal with. All great ideas.

Growing Your Own Food Lowers Your Carbon Footprint

The next step, though, is to grow as much of you own food as possible on your own homestead, in your own garden, with your own seeds. By doing that you create even less of an impact on the earth than just buying locally. You control what goes on and in your food and can be sure that you are getting healthy, organic, fresh vegetables and fruit. It can become an enjoyable hobby for the whole family and also have a positive financial impact on your life.'s frugal to grow your own vegetables!

Local Environment and Sustainable Design

The first thing to consider when designing a sustainable garden is your local environment. What is your weather like? What are average highs and lows for each month? How much rainfall do you get? What type of soil do you have? By answering these questions you will have the knowledge you need to choose seeds that will flourish in your area's specialized ecosystem. To be sustainable a garden should be part of it's natural surrounding, it should allow it's caretaker to live in harmony with nature and the cycles of nature.

Make It Part of the Landscape

There is no written law that a vegetable garden can't be part of a beautiful landscape, or that flowers, fruit, and vegetables can't be grown in the same garden. There as many types of gardens as there are gardeners! Consider bordering a walkway with strawberry plants, spinach, or colorful leaf lettuce. Marigolds are a colorful way to repel garden pests and my parents always had a wide border of the colorful flowers around their vegetable gardens. Rather than having the normal privet or holly foundation plantings, what about blackberries or raspberries? Shade trees add beauty and value to your home but there is no reason that the shade trees cannot also produce fruit or nuts!

Location, Location, Location

In considering where to place your garden try to change the land as little as you can. If possible find an area that is flat and in a sunny spot, rather than excavate and remove trees. Build the soil up with natural, organic products; well rotted manure and compost. Mulch with organic mulches to cut down on the need for water and to keep the root systems cool. Mulches also enrich the soil as they break down, doing double duty in the garden. Use companion planting methods to control pests and allow your plants to thrive. Use organic controls like diatomaceous earth to control soft bodied pests as well as enrich the soil. In your gardening plans create habitats for beneficial birds, animals, and insects to interact with your garden and keep it growing in a healthy manner.

Heirloom Plants

Heirloom varieties of plants are normally much hardier than the hybrid and modern varieties. These plants have been grown for centuries in some of the harshest conditions and are proven over time. A nice side benefit is that the heirloom varieties normally have more intense flavors than the hybrids as well. Do some research and learn how to save your own seed, because with the heirloom plants the seeds will be viable. Your initial investment will pay off for you for years to come!

Growing Zone

It is important to know the zone that you are in. This map helps to know what the low temperatures are and your seed packet or description will have matching information so you can know ahead of time that a certain plant will do well in your area. It is also important to know the dates of the first and last frost, so that you know when to start certain seeds inside, and when to start seeds outside.

Sustainable Water Management

The preferred method of watering a your earth-friendly garden is by sustainable water management. That is a popular term that basically just means collecting and managing rainfall. Simply, you can use your roof as a catchment system and divert the water into barrels with gutters and downspouts. From there it is a simple thing to water your garden whenever you may need to. A more intense approach is known as SUDS, an acronym for sustainable urban drainage systems. In this very intense approach the homeowner (or municipality) adopts a zero runoff policy and literally catches all runoff using french drain systems, tanks, and retaining ponds to divert and store the water. In this system water permeable pavement is often used. This is an exciting option, being used more and more, that could have a huge impact on over-delveloped, flood prone areas.

Make It Beautiful

For dramatic night lighting solar lighting can illuminate the beauty of your garden and provide security. There are so many different types of solar lights, in so many different styles that it is hard to choose! It is a simple matter to pick a style that will compliment the look of your house and garden. Cost is somewhat low, and the new types are very simple to install. The solar cell collects energy form the sun all day and then powers the light during the night.

Your garden paths should also be an earth friendly material. Wood mulch is a good choice, as is gravel, or even pavers with low growing herbs like creeping thyme growing between the pavers. You want to make sure that rain water can seep through or around the material so that you are not changing the ability of your property to assimilate the runoff. In this way you can collect free water as well as protect your small farm from flooding.

Small steps make huge differences when many people do them. The payoff in beauty, health, and savings is well worth the time it takes to create your own urban oasis. And, let's face it, a red, ripe tomato still warm from the sun has to taste better than an almost ripe tomato shipped in from 3500 miles away! DO the research and then have fun with it! What are some of your favorite varieties of heirloom vegetables? Let me know!


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    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 

      6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Nice hub Marye! Very well thought out and full of perfect concepts. I enjoy the way you encourage organic gardening by showing why it is important. Well done.

    • prism3x profile image


      6 years ago

      Great ideas and also love growing my own vegetables!

    • profile image

      heirloom seeds 

      7 years ago

      I am so appreciative of these varied resources that have been published for anyone’s benefit. wonderful piece of information, I appreciate it

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      good hub,thank :-)

    • Shealy Healy profile image

      Shealy Healy 

      8 years ago from USA

      Lots of good advice here. I hope to learn more. This year due to the change in the world's economy I plan to learn about planting. It is good to know you have good advice.


    • belliott profile image


      8 years ago

      Great information. It's time of year again to think about starting a garden. A great way to eat healthy and stretch our dollars.

    • profile image

      Growing Vegetables 

      8 years ago

      I's frugal to grow your own vegetables! And don't forget, home grow vegetables do taste better than store bought produce. This is a great hub with lost of information for gardening newbies!

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando FI Chor 

      8 years ago from Andalusia

      Thanks MaryeAudet for the motivation. The more I find out about the food industry the more I want to grow my own. Now is the perfect time to start. So I'll get off the computer and start digging!

    • ccdursina profile image

      Carolina Dursina 

      9 years ago from Spring Green WI

      Great hub, I know our community is very much focused on growing and buying local! Keep writing!

    • profile image

      Garden Lamps 

      9 years ago

      I am very fortunate to have nieghbors who all share their crops with each other. We all grow differnt things and the sharing gives us a nice veriety.

    • profile image

      Led Grow Light System 

      10 years ago

      We are going organic... hydro systems are the way to go

    • profile image

      Pest control 

      10 years ago

      I love using my local farmers market they have the best organic produce. Nice hub!

    • gardenresources profile image


      11 years ago

      I have been meaning to convert my garden to an organic one so found your hub very informative many thanks.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      11 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      That is so true! Thanks Tracey!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Good ideas, thank you. Lots of good mulch is sitting, bagged up and free, by the curb every fall... thouse leaves are great and better than filling the landfills with them! Haul them home, run a mower over them a time or 2... or let the littles jump through them till they are well crushed.. and mulch away!


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