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Southeast Gardening: Sustainable Gardening

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Sustainability in the garden means using local and recycled materials, choosing adapted plants, and using less water.

A path of woodchips marks the way to nearby planting beds.
drought-tolerant species planted together

We'd all like to have a more sustainable garden as long as it doesn't require more time, energy, strength, or money. Here are some ways to make your sustainable garden an enduring one.

Tip 1: Water Wisdom

While I have the best intentions of installing an efficient drip-irrigation system, I haven't gotten beyond a leaky pipe and a sprinkler. However, I learned a lot a few years ago when watering was restricted due to drought.

  • My garden needs less water than I previously thought to survive and grow. I try to group drought-tolerant plants to create areas that seldom need water.
  • Watering well once (or twice if the soil is sandy) each week is better than a little bit every day.
  • Reducing the water pressure to the sprinkler increases the droplet size and reduces the mist that usually evaporates.
  • Watering in the early morning means plants are ready for the heat of the day with minimal evaporation.

Tip 2: Lawn Insights

  • Raise the cutting height in summer to prevent the lawn from drying out.
  • Use a reel mower for exercise and freedom from noise, fumes, and trips to the gas station.
  • Fertilize only enough to support healthy grass, not excessive growth.

Tip 3: Tool Rules

  • Buy tools that fit your hands, your height, and your needs.
  • Sharpen all blades, including shovels and hoes.
  • Use the right tool for the task; for example, use loppers rather than hand shears for a limb larger than your thumb.
  • Buy well-made tools for long-term savings and enjoyment.

Tip 4: Good Ideas

  • If you have a tree removed, recycle the wood chips for garden paths.
  • Compost the easy way by burying non-meat kitchen scraps in empty garden beds. 


blue phlox reseeds itself

Tip 5: Go Native

  • Often the diehard plants are those that are nature's gift. Blue phlox reseeds itself in my garden.
  • Look to nature for well-adapted plants in problem areas. In a dry bed, eared coreopsis, moss verbena, and bird's foot violet bloom without care. In a wet zone, sweet bay magnolia, Virginia sweetspire, and swamp hibiscus are thriving.