Sustainable gardening is somewhat of a buzzword at the moment. It’s gaining popularity, and rightly so. More people are realizing the importance of sustainability, particularly when it comes to food.
But isn’t gardening hard work without even thinking about sustainability?
Gardening does require some work (but, honestly, what doesn’t?), but starting a sustainable vegetable garden doesn’t have to be daunting. The best part is that the easiest crops to grow in a sustainable garden are the ones you’re most likely to actually eat.
In this blog, we look at why starting a sustainable vegetable garden is important—and totally worth it—as well as the best crops for a sustainable vegetable garden. But first, what is sustainable gardening?
Sustainable gardening refers to growing food without destroying land, air, or water. For example, that means there’s no excessive use of water, there’s no using chemicals and toxins that will leach into and destroy the soil and water, and there are no gardening practices that will pollute the air.
Put another way, a sustainable garden is one that uses resources efficiently and doesn’t damage the environment. It’s all about creating a system where the plants and soil can work together to create a healthy ecosystem.
Now, onto the why.
Why start a sustainable vegetable garden?
A sustainable vegetable garden is a great way to reduce your carbon foodprint.
Here’s a quick stat: the average American has a carbon foodprint of over 12,000 pounds of CO2 per year, which includes emissions from growing and processing food on farms as well as emissions from transporting food to the consumer.
However, if you grow your own veggies, you can slash that number in half, or even more. That, and the fact that:
- You’ll be doing your part to help conserve resources and promote environmental justice.
- You’ll know exactly where your food is coming from; no hidden additions that may not be so great for you.
When it comes to the easiest crops to grow in a sustainable vegetable garden there are a lot of different factors to consider. From the amount of space you have to the tools to the type of soil in your garden.
That said, we know you’re looking for the easiest place to start, and our favorites are five relatively low-maintenance and relatively fast-growing veggies: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, and spinach.
Tomatoes are one of the most popular crops grown in home gardens since they’re relatively easy to grow. No need to buy expensive starts from the nursery—simply sow the seeds in some good quality potting mix, and water regularly. In a few weeks, you’ll have healthy seedlings.
Moreover, tomatoes produce a high yield and are incredibly versatile; they grow vertically and so they are a serious advantage when you have a container garden. They do need some additional care, such as staking or trellising, but they are generally low-maintenance.
When it comes to sustainable gardening, tomatoes are an excellent choice because they can be grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Plus, you can grow a pretty large number of them on just a few plants, making them a great staple for self-sufficiency.
Cucumbers are often thought of as a water-intensive crop, but when grown in a sustainable garden they can be quite drought-tolerant. When grown in dry conditions, cucumbers will produce smaller fruits, but they will still be just as nutritious.
Cucumbers are also beneficial to the ecosystem since they are great for attracting beneficial insects to the garden. They are a host plant for several species of ladybugs, and their large leaves provide shelter for other beneficial insects like lacewings and syrphid flies.
Cucumbers are very easy to grow from seed, and they don’t require much space. They can be grown in containers or in the ground, and will even climb trellises or other supports if given the chance.
Peppers are another easy crop to grow. They are a versatile and sustainable crop for the home gardener for several reasons:
- They can be grown in a wide range of climates and soils, and require minimal inputs.
- They don’t need too much water. As a general rule, peppers should be watered about once every week.
- They can be grown in containers, and they don’t require a lot of space.
- They are relatively pest- and disease-resistant, making them a low-maintenance crop.
Lettuce is one of the quickest and easiest crops for a sustainable vegetable garden. For one, it doesn’t require much space; you can grow it in containers on your balcony or porch, even indoors. All you need is some sun and water, and you’ll be able to harvest your crop in just a few weeks.
Secondly, lettuce is a fast-growing, cool-weather crop that can be grown year-round in many climates. This means that it can be harvested relatively quickly and does not require a lot of energy to maintain. Lettuce is also relatively easy to grow. It requires little fertilizer or water, making it an ideal crop for sustainable gardens that are looking to minimize their impact on the environment.
Finally, lettuce is a highly versatile crop, providing a variety of textures and flavors that can be used in salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. This versatility allows gardeners to get the most out of their lettuce crop, whether they are growing it for their own consumption or for sale at a farmers’ market.
Another easy-to-grow, sustainable vegetable garden crop is spinach. It’s a cool-weather crop that can be grown year-round in many parts of the world, meaning it doesn’t require that much energy to grow.
Spinach can be grown in containers outside or in indoor containers. It doesn’t need much soil and it only requires six to eight weeks to be ready for harvest.
FAQs about getting started with sustainable vegetable garden crops
Q: These sustainable vegetable garden crops are all warm-weather plants; can I grow them in a colder climate?
A: You can still grow these crops in a colder climate, but you’ll need to provide some extra warmth for them. You can do this by using cloches, cold frames, or row covers.
Q: What type of soil is best for sustainable vegetable crops?
A: You don’t need special soil to grow vegetables in a sustainable garden; any good quality potting mix will do. However, if your garden soil is not too rich, you can use a mix of peat moss, compost, and perlite. This will help your plants get the nutrients they need to thrive.
Q: What type of water is best for sustainable vegetable crops?
A: You can use either tap water or rainwater in your sustainable garden, as long as you’re not using chlorinated water. And don’t forget to water your veggies regularly; a deep watering once a week is usually enough.
Q: What can I do with any extra vegetables I get from my sustainable garden?
A: You can freeze your veggies or can them. If you have that many, consider giving to neighbors, donating, or taking them to the farmers’ market to make some extra cash.
Want to up your sustainable gardening game? Check out these these top 10 tips for starting a vegetable garden that’s sustainable.