Getting down & dirty: How to create a climate-friendly home garden

Guide 6 planting seeds

For some, gardening is just a hobby, a meditative experience of connecting with the soil and nature by digging in the dirt. For others, gardening is a way to farm the land on a much smaller scale, in order to harvest and eat the fruits and vegetables they grow.

Gardening really began to “bloom” at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as people were finding ways to be outside safely, stay busy, and improve their mental health. In fact, 88 percent1 of Americans said that plant-keeping during lockdown improved their mood. 
In addition to keeping you happy, healthy, and fed, there’s another big reason to garden: Gardening can be used as a tool to fight climate change.

How your garden can fight climate change

Gardens trap carbon

Humans, through respiration, take in oxygen and breathe out CO2. Plants, on the other hand, take in CO2 and “exhale” oxygen through photosynthesis. When you have a healthy garden, your plants trap and hold onto CO2, which is great, because it means there’s less in our atmosphere, where, in high levels, it can contribute to climate change.  

Storing2 more heat-trapping gases than are generated makes gardens climate-friendly. The caveat to this is that using synthetic fertilizers and herbicides (products that release hazardous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere) makes your garden less climate-friendly3.
The key to a climate-fighting garden lies in locking up carbon in the soil4 — also referred to as sequestration5. Healthy soil stores more carbon, so when you fill your garden’s soil with carbon-rich organic matter, it holds onto it, reducing the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere. When your soil is healthy, it doesn’t need additional synthetic fertilizers and herbicides to grow healthy and productive plants, it works just the way nature intends. 

Gardens can encourage pollination

Healthy gardens support more than just carbon and soil. A healthy garden will also have a “buzz” about it from helpful pollinators like honey bees, butterflies, moths, and beetles, which benefit far more than your flowers. These pollinators are essential6 to keep your carbon-locking plants thriving.
When you create an environment in your garden that encourages pollination from bees and butterflies, any vegetables and fruits you grow will also thrive. Around 80 percent7 of all food and plant-based products produced require pollination; it’s an essential part of our ecosystem. We’d even go as far as to say the human race could not exist without pollination, so keep your garden buzzing!

Gardens allow you to grow your own food

If you use your garden to grow and eat food, you’re doing good! A 20 x 30-foot garden produces $6008 worth of produce per season. (Hello, grocery store savings!) Considering supermarket produce travels more than 1,500 miles9 from its source to the shelf, opting to grow your own produce reduces the carbon footprint of food.

Go Green Gardening: Garden Tips

Now that you know the benefits of starting up a garden, where do you begin? Read on for our tips to ensure your garden grows green and is green as a tool to fight climate change. 

Garden Tip #1: Nurture your garden naturally

Instead of using gas-powered tools that emit CO₂, opt first for rakes, push mowers, or electric-powered equipment when possible. You may get more exercise, and if you are breathing hard, you may be helping plants grow too! 

A climate-friendly garden is also a reduced-emissions garden. Since greenhouse gases come from fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, commit to only using natural pest and weed control methods. Some pesticides are so harmful10, in fact, that the EPA has been taking action to ban them since the late ’50s11
Keeping toxic chemicals out of your garden also makes it naturally bee and butterfly friendly12, thus encouraging pollination. To fight unwelcome pests naturally, try adding ladybugs13 — they’ll eat insects like aphids that can cause damage.

Garden Tip #2:  Keep that dirt active!

A garden cannot thrive with “dead dirt,” which is soil that’s dried, over-developed, or damaged from chemical use, thus killing healthy microbial activity. The more active you can keep your soil — in other words, keeping carbon going through it — the better. 

That’s where worms come in. Worms can improve the health of your veggies and soil because they eat the organic matter and, in turn, fertilize it. When they “tunnel14,” they loosen the soil and allow water and oxygen to percolate through. Just make sure to keep those worms happy. Many farmers markets sell a form of “compost tea” or “worm tea” for them to snack on as they improve your soil.

Finally, leave the leaves in your garden! While you may not want your lawn covered by a leaf blanket, your garden will thrive if you leave them as-is. The nutrients in leaves are great for dirt, and help feed the roots of your plants. And where you do clear your leaves, try a rake instead of a fossil-fuel-dense leaf blower as a greener solution. 

Garden Tip #3: Turn spoils to soil

If you’re composting your yard and food waste to create rich soil for your garden, you’re doing your part to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill. High five!

Gardeners can turn grass clippings, dead plants, and food leftovers into mulch or compost. Rich in organic material and nutrients, compost is like a delicious, healthy meal for the plants in your garden.
Additionally, ensuring your food scraps and yard trimmings go into your garden instead of a landfill is a great way to do your part in fighting climate change. That’s because yard trimmings and food make up more than a quarter15 of what is sent to the landfill. (Plus, when that organic matter decomposes, those landfills emit methane, a greenhouse gas approximately 26 times more potent than CO₂ and responsible for accelerating climate change!)

Apartment & Small Yard Living

Small place? No problem. 

Many localities are starting to collect yard waste and kitchen scraps for centralized composting, and the movement is growing. If your locality doesn’t offer centralized composting and you don’t have a large backyard space to start a garden, consider these options: 

Mini composters

Even appliances are getting into the composting game (they can be pricey, but hey, they could make for a fun addition to a wedding registry). Countertop composters16 allow you to toss fruit cores and veggie peels, can be as small as a cubic foot, and eliminate any unwanted smells. Another option are vermicomposters17, which are like fish tanks… but for worms. A fun way to make soil that you can use for your potted plants, vermicomposters are small bins that are used to feed food scraps to worms. You can keep them in your apartment or on your porch. Just make sure you’re going slow with the food scraps you feed your worms, as they have small stomachs!

Container growing 

Gardeners limited to a balcony, porch, or patch of sun can still grow many plants in containers18. If you want to start a container garden, be sure to choose pots and containers with proper drainage so that the soil doesn’t become waterlogged (thus killing your plants). 

Hydroponics

Hydroponic19 gardens eliminate the need for soil — so you can grow a garden without land or dirt. Plants grow on a wall-like slab with shelves or a free-standing tower that feeds them. Some hydroponic set-ups20 only use water and liquid nutrients, while others swap soil for composted bark, gravel, or moss as the media for the plants to grow in. Either way, it’s a small footprint that can yield big results.

Community gardens

Prefer a traditional, large garden space and want to connect with like-minded people? Meet your neighbors over dirt! Many apartment complexes include large, shared gardens spaces as an amenity, where residents can reserve specific plots. 

You could also get involved in gardening by finding a local community garden. These are designed for people without a big gardening space, so they can reap the rewards of growing season, too. You can find them all across the country, but here are a few we love:

  • Urban Harvest STL21 grows produce across a network of seven urban farms in the heart of St. Louis, donating harvest to nonprofit partners. 
  • Green Bronx Machine22 teaches urban agriculture at schools, specifically focused on transforming marginalized communities into neighborhoods that are inclusive and thriving.
  • Denver Urban Gardens23 is a network of community gardens across six metro Denver counties, and focuses on creating communities that can come together to grow food.

Do Good Chicken is an easy way to make a difference. 

When you know you can do better, you can do good. 

While you’re doing your part in your home and garden, we’re focused on our mission of eliminating food waste and combating climate change. We created a large-scale solution to food waste that’s good for your plate and our planet. At Do Good Chicken, our chicken feed, made from surplus groceries after community donations, diverts food from landfills where it would otherwise generate greenhouse gases, thus helping combat climate change. 

By being more efficient in the production of chicken and helping to end food waste, we make real chicken with a real impact: 

  • Easy accessibility. We put our chicken into the grocery stores you know, love, and shop at every day, making it easy for you to make a delicious, Earth-friendly choice for you and your family. 
  • Sustainable packaging. Our packaging is made from rPET24, otherwise known as recycled PET containers. 
  • A plan for expansion. These aren’t just big dreams. They’re already in action. And one day, you’ll be able to find our climate-change-fighting chicken at your favorite restaurants.

What are you waiting for? Get ready to toss some chicken in your shopping cart and bake up some buffalo chicken dip. Progress is for dinner.

For more tips on preserving food, follow Do Good Chicken on Facebook and Instagram.

1 https://www.trees.com/plants-improve-mental-health
2 https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep00057?mag=five-steps-to-making-your-garden-a-carbon-sink&seq=3#metadata_info_tab_contents
3 https://www.greenroofers.co.uk/green-roofing-guides/ultimate-guide-eco-friendly-gardening/
4 https://www.audubon.org/news/the-hidden-carbon-trap-your-garden-its-all-about-soil#:~:text=When%20you%20become%20a%20carbon,your%20own%20life%20easier%2C%20too.
5
https://www.colorado.edu/ecenter/2021/03/04/carbon-sequestration-through-soil-health
6 https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24933260-100-pollinators-are-our-secret-weapon-in-the-fight-against-global-warming/#:~:text=As%20such%2C%20pollinators%20ensure%20the,for%20that%20we%20need%20pollinators.
7 https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/importance.shtml#:~:text=It%20is%20an%20essential%20ecological,80%25%20require%20pollination%20by%20animals
8 https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep00057?mag=five-steps-to-making-your-garden-a-carbon-sink&seq=2#metadata_info_tab_contents
9 https://attra.ncat.org/product/food-miles-background-and-marketing/#:~:text=Recent%20studies%20have%20shown%20that,1%2C500%20miles%2C%20before%20being%20consumed.
10 https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/08/18/us-bans-toxic-pesticide-food-crops#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20Environmental%20Protection,agency%20to%20do%20exactly%20that.
11 https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/ddt-brief-history-and-status#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20Department%20of%20Agriculture,evidence%20of%20the%20pesticide’s%20declining
12 https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/create-pollinator-friendly-garden-birds-bees-butterflies/
13 https://www.drakes7dees.com/ladybugs/#:~:text=Why%20You%20Should%20Want%20Ladybugs%20in%20Your%20Garden&text=Ladybugs%20help%20control%20insects%20like,aphids%2C%20mites%2C%20and%20scale.
14
https://www.gardensalive.com/product/the-worms-go-in-the-worms-go-out
15 https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials#:~:text=In%202018%2C%20about%20146.1%20million,less%20than%2010%20percent%20each.
16 https://www.vitamix.com/us/en_us/shop/foodcycler-fc-50
17 https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/64413244/3-bin-worm-composter-vermicomposter-in?ref=shop_home_feat_1&ep_click=1&bes=1&source=aw&awc=10781_1558555422_0cb592f929a0993d40fda30fb76b5c1a&zanpid=10781_1558555422_0cb592f929a0993d40fda30fb76b5c1a&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=affiliate_window&utm_campaign=au_buyer&utm_content=447821&utm_term=141123&source=aw&zanpid=10781_1645543272_2b710ae93ea95fab5313c65d5379200c&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=affiliate_window&utm_campaign=au_buyer&utm_content=447821&awc=10781_1645543272_2b710ae93ea95fab5313c65d5379200c
18 https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/a20707074/container-gardening-tips/
19 https://thespoon.tech/how-to-grow-a-hydroponic-farm-in-a-closet-sized-apartment/
20 https://sowamerica.com/hydroponics-another-alternative-for-apartment-gardening/
21 https://www.urbanharveststl.org/about-us
22 https://greenbronxmachine.org/about/
23 https://dug.org/
24 https://bottledwater.org/rpet-facts/