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What is a sustainable plant? its benefit for the environment

Sustainable plant. The definition of a sustainable plant is a plant that does not suffer from a known insect or disease problem, is tolerant drought (once established), is not invasive, and is a long-living plant. Sustainability is now becoming a much-discussed term. 

Growing a sustainable plant can be a very effective first step towards sustainability. After centuries of rampant use, we have reached a stage when resources are getting depleted faster than we can replenish them.

The loss of nutrients is causing us to resort to all kinds of artificial methods. These are not only costly but also harmful to the environment.

What is the sustainable use of plants?

Chiefly, sustainable plants are of great help to the environment. The whole range of actions involving sustainable plants is in the conservation, diversification, adaptation, improvement, and delivery to farmers through seed systems.

How can I grow sustainable plants in my garden?

If you are thinking of growing sustainable plants in your garden you are doing a favor to the whole world. Gardening sustainably just makes sense in this world of climate change and environmental damage. However, doing it in your own backyard takes a little effort. More and more gardener owners are finding that every step is worth it to create a sustainable garden that not only looks after your plants, and you, but also help the whole planet.

Here are a few tips to create your garden with sustainable plant

  • Plant more trees
  • Grow your organic fertilizer food for your plants
  • Compost your kitchen waste
  • Take social responsibility for your gardening practices
  • Help to stop the spread of weeds which causes damage to the environment
  • Only use renewable resources in the garden
  • Build your garden for the future, not for fashion

We have over-tilled our lands to the point of exhausting them. Then we have moved on to newer patches and destroyed much of the native vegetation to grow crops and plants more useful to humans.

All this has been happening at a much faster rate than that needed for the environment to adapt. This has led to depletion and leaching of resources, necessitating further harsher measures.

This is a vicious cycle. Unless we consciously break away from it, soon we will have more fallow land than arable ones.

Sustainable gardening is the surest way to avoid such a future. It is the process of growing plants in a way that minimizes inputs, so as to allow the existing ecosystem to support vegetation. The way of Nature is always the best way. One of the key aspects of sustainable gardening is to plant a sustainable plant.

Choice of the right kind of vegetation, appropriate to the soil conditions

Whenever we move into a new piece of land, our first step is to raze the existing foliage. This is mostly done from an aesthetic point of view.

Native species are often ignored in favor of exotic ones, especially when it comes to gardening. This is the wrong step. Not all plants grow comfortably everywhere.

The vegetation of a place will have adapted itself to the existing soil conditions over the years, maybe even decades. A new plant species will take almost as much time or maybe even longer to get used to those soil conditions.

Introducing new species may also sometimes backfire. Their propensity to turn into weeds can be extremely detrimental to the local ecosystem.

This is a cost-effective method of gardening sustainable plant

Resorting to chemical supplements is a costly affair. Often these are associated with side-effects Solving these supplementary issues involves more supplements.

This leads to an escalation of costs. Following the natural way of growing plants is the safest way to garden. Sustainable plants, as discussed previously, are already well-adapted to the existing soil conditions.

These are hardy and resilient. Hence they require minimum care.

A sustainable plant is thus a local variety, which is easily available and hard to kill. It will have developed resistance to pests and diseases.

Their sustained presence in the land enables an extension of the root system, which holds the soil together. This prevents soil erosion.

A sustainable plant can far outlive the new plant species. In the long run, this will prove to be a more practical solution to our gardening and farming woes.

The sooner we understand that, the easier it will be for us to treat the land accordingly. We owe our future a lot, considering what our forefathers have already left us. Sustainable gardening is one of the many ways we can achieve that.

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How to create a sustainable garden?

How can we create a sustainable garden?

Sustainable Garden in the backyard
Sustainable Garden in the backyard of a house.

Contrary to most beliefs, building a sustainable garden is far easier than employing numerous artificial means. A sustainable garden is one where every aspect retains its natural way, rather than human interventions. This method minimises inputs and depends on the natural ways to support foliage.

Building a sustainable garden only requires a thorough knowledge and understanding of how the vegetation of a region survives. Hence, a careful study of the flora and fauna is the first step towards developing a sustainable garden.
Besides, there are a few common steps that need to be followed when building a sustainable garden. These are as follows:

Developing a sustainable landscape and maintaining the same

Choosing the right patch of land and developing the same holistically is a very important factor. This involves understanding the area’s inherent ecological challenges and providing solutions for the same. These challenges can be multi-fold and deal with erosion, water conservation, leaching of nutrients etc. The target of sustainable landscaping is to preserve the existing mineral and water content, reduce wastage and prevent water run-off.

Ideally, we should not compact the soil. The well-tilled soil is airier and more capable of absorbing water, thus preventing run-offs. This will also allow plant roots to spread extensively under the surface. This brings us to water conservation. Water, mostly in the form of precipitation, is the largest source of groundwater. We should design a soil drainage in such a way that it allows maximum percolation of water underground. Also, over-tilling is harmful, as it leaches the soil of its nutrient reserves. Recycling materials and using composts are natural ways to boost the mineral content of the soil.

Choosing sustainable plants

More often than not, native plants are the strongest plants to survive in a region. Foreign species have to be provided with a lot of support to help them pull through. Sustainable plants can solve several problems. They can drought-resistant and ineffective to local pests and diseases, thus reducing costs associated with maintenance. However, native plants need not necessarily be the only susceptible plants. Sometimes, exotic species may add the necessary biodiversity to the ecosystem. But we must be careful while adding exotic species to the mix. Sometimes, these plants turn into weeds, destroying the local vegetation.

The upkeep associated with sustainable plants is minimum and can be easily provided. This is in contrast with the high-cost maintenance required for growing unsuited plants. Also, plants can be arranged in a way that they themselves can act as a control for light and rain, in the form of tall trees (to provide shade) and shrubbery (to allow greater percolation of water).

Using sustainable breeding and maintenance processes

Even a small bath tub can serve as a ground for sustainable garden
Old bathtubs are the best accomodations for sustainable plants

Nature has her own ways of maintaining a forested land. There is never so much growth is a forest as to suffocate the existing life forms. It is also not too sparsely covered so as not to provide sustenance to the ecosystem. Sustainable gardens, similarly, we should treat them with as little mechanized interventions as possible. Our forefathers did not own bulky mowers and tractors. Manual labor, though difficult, is the mildest way of pruning and harvesting.

Creating a sustainable garden is a study in the ways of nature. Barring sudden extinctions, nature has always allowed evolution and the ultimate creation of resilient species. We as humans need only mimic her ways and gain results that will outlive a single generation.

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Eco-garden; what it is?

What is an eco-garden?

An eco-garden is short for ecology garden or ecosystem garden. As the name suggests, it is the best of both worlds. To get to the bottom of this concept we need to understand the properties of both an ecosystem and a garden.

Eco-garden around houses
Eco-garden around houses

What is an ecosystem?

An ecosystem is a biological setup, in which several organisms live. Each organism performs a role. This is beneficial to both other organisms as well as the entire ecosystem. The ecosystem also includes inanimate components like air, water, soil, nutrients etc. They too play their role in supporting the existence of this biological setup.

Several nutrient cycles and energy flows characterize an ecosystem.  These characters enable the living and inanimate components to derive benefits from each other. Existing climatic system acts as a moderator in this process. An untouched ecosystem can be characterized by a high degree of biodiversity in terms of both flora and fauna.

The climatic conditions determine the course of an ecosystem. The ecosystem itself can also dictate the course of the climatic conditions. The very concept of global warming rests on this principle. All natural processes go hand in hand. A disruption in one system will ultimately impact the entire natural way.

What is a garden?

Image of an ideal garden
Ideal garden around the house

A garden is a slice of an ecosystem. It is a milder version of one, in fact. A reasonably designed, modern garden is a collection of plants. It is either potted or planted directly in the soil. The garden includes microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. They add nutritive value to the soil. Insects like bees, wasps, and butterflies act as pollinators and help in propagation. Besides natural precipitation, gardens are fed with water manually as well.

The difference between an eco-garden and a full-fledged ecosystem is that the former lacks in diversity. Also, it involves more than the natural shape of human intervention.

How can we combine both of them?

In order to get the best of both worlds. It is necessary to include attributes of both an ecosystem and a garden.

The first step would be to prepare the ideal soil. We can do this by developing compost using organic scraps. Plus decomposing the same over days. Then mix this compost with the soil to boost the nutrient levels. For the maintenance of a drainage of the soil; we should till the soil (preferably manually). Drip irrigation and rain-water harvesting techniques are ideal in mimicking the natural sources of water.

Further enrichment of soil can be obtained by using organic wastes. We generate organic wastes in our daily lives (egg shells, coffee grounds, vegetable peels). The diversity of vegetation can be maintained in a garden, simply by allowing indigenous foliage to grow. Native species are more resilient and grow with minimum inputs. In the course of time, pests and diseases affect plants. The best way to deal with them is by using organic deterrents like potassium bicarbonate, baking soda etc.

Ultimately, breeders have the following opinion. Maintaining the eco-garden is far simpler than working on a high-bounty one. High-bounty one involves a lot of chemical supplements and is much costlier. The eco-garden is environment-friendly and a holistic solution to our gardening needs.

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How to Lower Soil pH with Vinegar?

Lower Soil pH with Vinegar. Soil and Environment plays a crucial role in the growth and development of a plant. It is only through the soil, that the plants get their nutrients. Alkaline soils lack some nutrients like Manganese, boron, phosphorus, etc. Plants that thrive well in the acidic soil like a rose, blueberries, etc. may have limited, problematic growth in alkaline soil. So we might what to change the nature of the soil to suit our plants. One common household item used to make the soil acidic is Vinegar.

What is Vinegar?

Vinegar is varying concentrations of acetic acid, mixed with water. It is formed as the end-result of a chemical reaction between sugar and yeast. Alcohol and carbon dioxide are released by this reaction. Alcohol further reacts with oxygen and bacteria in the air to form acetic acid and water. This is the organic method. You can create Acetic acid by a chemical process involving methanol.

What is vinegar?

How to lower Soil pH?

  1. First, take a soil test to determine your soil pH. The values vary across various zones and depths in your garden. But it can give you a rough idea of what needs to be done.
  2. Based on how much you want to lower the soil pH, decide on a vinegar. Household vinegar or plain or distilled white vinegar has about 5% acetic acid. It is safe and harmless to use. Horticultural vinegar is a solution with higher concentrations. It has about 20% acetic acid. One should excise caution if you decide to use it for a quick fix.
  3. Plain vinegar has a pH of about 2.7. Adding water does not alter their acidity. But your water has a pH that varies across regions. Most tap water, well water is alkaline. Test the pH of your water with a pH tester to determine the hardness.
  4. Then, add vinegar to water (Not the other way round). Ideally, you can add 2 to 9 tbsp of vinegar to one gallon of water. Test the water using the pH tester after adding the vinegar. If the desired value is reached, stop adding vinegar. Note down how much of vinegar was added.
  5. You can put this diluted mixture into the soil using a watering can or hose. You can inject it into the irrigation system. Based on your garden size, the amount of solution required to alter the soil pH changes.
  6. Do not add the vinegar to water in your reservoir. If the vinegar is unpasteurized or contains alcohol or sugar residue, it can react to form more vinegar – Mother of Vinegar. The reservoir might become laden with scum like vinegar.
  7. Continue watering your soil with vinegar at regular intervals. Test your soil pH frequently. Bacterial action can degrade the strength of acetic acid over time. Hence this will only be a temporary fix unless repeated.

Vinegar test at home to check pH
Vinegar Test at home

Soil pH – Uses and Limits

In addition to lowering the soil pH, vinegar also acts as a herbicide on plants. It deters the growth of weeds in the soil. Acetic acid can dissolve insoluble calcium salts, which will flow away with rainwater. But, if your soil is very much alkaline – rich in lime, the base will neutralize the acidity of the vinegar. Hence vinegar might not have any effect on your soil pH. Vinegar affects only the soil it touches. It is a safe cost-effective method to lower soil pH. But, it is not a longstanding efficient solution for large-scale use.

Conclusion – How to Lower Soil pH with Vinegar?

Change the pH of the soil gradually. Sometimes even after multiple amendments, you might not get the results as per your expectations. Work patiently, or choose an alternative – construct raised beds or choose another ideal plant for your soil.

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Adjust Soil pH after Planting

How to adjust soil pH after planting

Adjust Soil pH after Planting. Soil pH indicates if your soil is acidic, neutral, or alkaline. While most of the plants grow in any type of soil, some plants have specific soil requirements. Soil pH affects absorption of nutrients from the soil by the plants. In some cases, minerals are unavailable for absorption by plants. So based on the soil pH, we choose the appropriate plant. Or, we alter the soil based on our choice of plant.

Things to Consider while adjusting soil pH after planting

Even if you begin with an ideal soil, over time the soil pH changes due to a number of factors. Excess use of chemical fertilizers can alter the soil pH. Heavy rainfall or too much watering can drain your soil of the essential nutrients and can change the soil pH. Similarly, pollutants and resulting acid rain can make the soil acidic. Excessive farming of a crop can lower the pH. E.g. Legumes. So we need to take corrective measures, as often as possible, to revert the soil pH.

Analysis of How to Adjust Soil pH after Planting

pH scale for various soils

Begin by taking a Soil Test at various depths across various areas for an appropriate result. Along with the soil pH, test result also gives us the list of nutrients and minerals absent in our soil. Even if the soil pH is appropriate, lack of some nutrients can cause inconsistencies in plant growth. If we have to alter the pH as well as supply a specific nutrient, we can choose an amendment correctly based on the results.

How to Raise Soil pH

  • Fluid lime and pelletized lime can immediately raise soil pH. Hydrated Dolomite lime can be added if magnesium is also deficient. Adding lime improves phosphorus and calcium availability in acidic soil. The high amount of lime can hinder potassium and magnesium absorption by plants.
  • Highly soluble potassium carbonate can be used instead of lime as part of irrigation. It acts quickly, reaching greater soil depth. But it is a synthetic material.
  • Wood ash that is produced from unpainted wood can also be used sparingly, instead of lime in sandy soils to raise pH.
  • Oyster shell flour, crushed egg shells, or, aragonite can be used to increase the pH.

How to Lower Soil pH

  • Adding organic material like treated manure, green manure, compost, alfalfa meal, peat moss, pine needles, etc. to your alkaline soil, improves microbial activity, reduces pH, improves soil, and increases phosphorus availability. But it lowers pH gradually.
  • Similarly, humic acid and fulvic acid in powdery or liquid form can be mixed with seaweed to lower the pH.
  • Vinegar or citric acid diluted with water can lower pH of the alkaline soil.
  • Synthetic fertilizers like Aluminum sulfate and ammonium sulfate are acidifying. They quickly lower pH and you should use them cautiously. Elemental sulfur is organic, requires bacterial action to lower pH and is slow. Copper sulfate chelated with citric acid may be used if copper is also deficient in the soil.

How to apply?

While adjusting soil pH after Planting, these amendments can only be added on the surface. So, it will alter the pH of the soil only to some depth. Mix powdery forms with water to use as liquid fertilizer. Take care to avoid direct application on roots, leaves or other plant parts. The pH of water differs – most tap water is alkaline, while rainwater is acidic. Take this into consideration while diluting the mixture. Take soil test at regular intervals, to check the progress. Continue altering your pH, only if required.

Conclusion – How to Adjust Soil pH after Planting

Mulching with organic material can help prevent draining of nutrients during heavy rainfall or watering. Similarly, adopt such natural organic methods which promote sustainable farming, to achieve and maintain the soil pH.