Starting a Garden
for Earth Day 2023

Starting a Garden for Earth Day 2023

Earth Day is a great time to consider your commitment to the planet. Whether you have a big yard or no yard, a garden has a lot to offer. It can help wildlife, provide chances to learn and even produce healthy foods!

We'll walk you through starting a garden and using it to help our blue marble as much as possible.

Why Start an Earth Day Garden?

One of our favorite Earth Day activities at ecoATM is starting a garden. Why? Because gardens are more than just a pretty fixture in your yard! They're also:

  • Habitats: A garden provides nutrients and homes for many critters. Bugs, frogs, birds and bats can use it. Even in the winter, bugs can use a garden to hibernate.
  • Educational opportunities: A garden can help kids learn about growth and life. It can show them where food comes from. After all, it doesn't just appear at the grocery store!
  • Air purifiers: Trees might get all the credit, but smaller plants can also help remove carbon dioxide from the air. Plants play a powerful role in our fight against climate change. Removing carbon from the air is an important goal.
  • Healthy food sources: A garden lets you control what's in your food. You can grow fruits and veggies made without added chemicals or fertilizers. They support a healthy, fresh diet. Plus, garden produce doesn't need to move across the country. It gets rid of all that extra carbon that comes from driving.

Remember these benefits as you start your Earth Day garden this year!

How to Start a
Garden for Earth Day

1. Choose Your Plants
2. Choose Your Gardening Products
3. Decide How You'll Water Your Plants
4. Start Composting
5. Maintain Your Garden

How to Start a Garden for Earth Day

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes, but we're here to help make yours friendlier for the planet. Here's a quick guide on environmentally friendly gardening for beginners.

1. Choose Your Plants

Perhaps the most important part of starting an Earth Day garden is choosing your plants. Some are easier to care for than others, and some attract different creatures. Start by looking up your area's hardiness zone. This zone helps you find plants most likely to thrive in your location. Look for plants that match your zone for the best chance of success.

Think about what kind of plants you want. Trees offer shade, fruits or nuts, flowers and privacy. They remove lots of carbon dioxide too. Flowers are a beautiful way to attract pollinators like bees and bats. They help the entire garden thrive. Fruits and vegetables are a fun way to enjoy healthy produce and save on groceries. You can also grow cooking herbs like basil, thyme and chives.

Some fun things to put in your garden include:

  • Wildlife corridors: A wildlife corridor is a route that animals use. Think about a bee trying to get from one pollen source to another. If there's a large city and no greenery in the way, the bee might not make it. But if parks and gardens are scattered throughout the city, the bee can use those spaces as landing pads. It stops, refuels and continues on its journey. You can help by making your garden a wildlife corridor.
  • Pollinator plants: You can use your garden to help pollinators. Pollinators spread pollen from plant to plant. They include bees, bats, butterflies, hummingbirds and moths. We can thank them for about one-third of our food and drink products. A pollinator garden helps these creatures thrive with attractive plants, food and water. You can also support pollinators with shelters, like bee or bat boxes. Going pesticide-free is another great way to help them out.
  • Biodiversity: Add a big mix of plants to your garden. If you diversify your garden, you attract more bugs and animals. It can also help endangered native species grow.

2. Choose Your Gardening Products

Gardening usually calls for more than just plants and dirt. You might also need things like soil, fertilizer, seedling pots and plant ties. Choose organic products when you can. Homeowners don't cover as much ground as farmers, but they use 10 times as much chemical fertilizer and pesticides per acre! These products can eventually pollute waterways and hurt ecosystems. Look for a fertilizer certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).

Organic soil lacks these extra fertilizers and chemicals and uses natural sources instead. Organic soil does something inorganic soil doesn't — supports the natural ecosystem. It boosts soil quality in the long run. Rather than feeding plants, it fits perfectly into the landscape.

Avoid plastics while gardening. Choose compostable materials whenever possible, like when buying seedling pots and plant ties.

One thing you don't need to worry about is the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in your seeds. You might see some packages labeled “non-GMO,” but you cannot buy GMO home gardening seeds. Generally, only commercial farmers can.

Consider these environmental impacts as you choose where and how to set up your garden. You could use a raised planter box, a patch of good soil in your yard or even a windowsill box. The sky's the limit!

3. Decide How You'll Water Your Plants

Many gardeners don't water their plants correctly. They might overwater the plants or water them in a way that lets some of the moisture evaporate or run off. Try these tactics to conserve water in your garden:

  • Water at the root. Instead of spraying your hose wildly over your garden, aim for the base of the plants. Watering other areas wastes water through evaporation. It can also cause moisture to collect on plant leaves, promoting bacteria growth.
  • Water when it's cool. During hot months, water plants in the early morning. Morning weather is usually cooler and less windy. The water has a better chance of soaking into the soil before evaporating or blowing away. Plus, you get to finish your gardening sweat-free. You can get up early or set up a timer with your hose.
  • Add mulch. Mulch keeps water from evaporating and reduces weeds. Some types of mulch include compost, straw and grass clippings. Make a pile up to 2-4 inches thick. Leave a little space around the crown where the plant meets the ground.
  • Use drip irrigation or a soaker hose. Drip irrigation and soaker hoses deliver water slowly to the plant's roots. A drip irrigation system has a network of flexible tubes with holes in them. The water drips through into the soil. A soaker hose is simpler and cheaper. The wall of the hose has tiny pores in it. Water slowly seeps through these pores into the garden. Both options are a great way to save water and send it straight to the root.
  • Use drought-tolerant plants. Drought-tolerant or low-water plants require less water than most. You can find these resilient plants in many styles. They include succulents, ferns and bright, colorful flowers.

These strategies can help you save water. Another water-friendly method involves a rain garden. As rain moves over surfaces like roofs and roads, it collects pollutants. This runoff can then carry pollutants into the sewers and nearby water sources. A rain garden intercepts the polluted water and filters out the extra substances. It can remove up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and 80% of sediments from runoff. These gardens have a thick layer of specialized soil and sit at the bottom of a slope.

4. Start Composting

Composting is an excellent way to reduce waste and give plants a powerful fuel source. It also improves soil quality and reduces the need for fertilizer. You can start a scrap pile right on the ground or make one in a special bin. You can use your compost in potted plants and gardens.

Compost is packed with nutrients. They come from decaying organic matter, like food scraps and plant materials. You might toss veggie scraps from dinner or pruned weeds into your compost bin. Different organisms then break down the material. Insects, bacteria and fungi all help turn it into plant food. A compost pile depends on a few main ingredients and the ratios between them:

  • Nitrogen: Nitrogen mostly comes from fresh organic material. Some examples include grass clippings and food scraps. These “greens” let helpful organisms grow and reproduce.
  • Carbon: Decaying plant material has more carbon. “Browns” include dead leaves, twigs and paper. They work as food for the decomposers.
  • Oxygen and water: As with any living organism, decomposers live off oxygen and water. Depending on your composting method, you may need to add some water or stir your pile to add them in.

There are many different ways to compost, so do some research and find the method that works for you. For example, “cold” composting takes longer but has less maintenance. It uses microorganisms that don't need oxygen. Cold composting can also be smellier or wetter than hot composting.

Hot composting requires more attention, but it works much faster. It can also help you avoid harmful pathogens. You'll need to keep the ratio of carbon and nitrogen at the right place. Adding the right amount of oxygen and water also helps keep the microorganisms alive. These critters like a lot of oxygen.

5. Maintain Your Garden

Keep your plants happy and healthy to get as much mileage from your Earth Day activities. Weeds and dead vegetation can pull water from your other plants, so get rid of them quickly. Watch for damaging insects, too. Get out there and feel the soil often. Don't let it dry out. Read up on what your plants need to help them stay hydrated.

A healthy garden will take some work. Most people find that the hard work pays off. You might get tasty veggies, gorgeous flowers or another perk. They'll all come with the satisfaction of helping the planet too.

Other Ways to Use Your Yard for Earth Day

A garden is a great way to use your lawn or indoor planter for good. Here are some other things you can do to help the planet this Earth Day:

1. Get Rid of Your Grass

Grass-covered lawns can hog a lot of resources. They take time, energy and money to maintain. Landscaping irrigation uses about a third of residential water in the United States. Plus, half of that water gets lost to evaporation, runoff or wind! Grass isn't a very helpful plant, anyway. Lawns can prevent diverse plants from growing, keep pollinators away and reduce soil quality.

Instead, try a grass alternative like clover, microclover, thyme or fescue. These plants are drought-resistant and pollinator-friendly. They need almost no mowing. It's a win-win — you can save time and water and avoid emissions from a lawn mower.

You could also replace thirsty grass with succulent or rock gardens. Or, let your yard run wild! Tall wildflowers can give your property a beautiful, untamed feel.

2. Consider a Reel Mower

If you're not ready to part with your grass, consider switching to a reel mower. A reel mower has vertical blades and requires no fuel — besides a little elbow grease. You “power” it simply by pushing. It's not for everyone, but a reel mower can:

  • Avoid fuel consumption and emissions from gas-powered lawnmowers
  • Give you a great workout
  • Create very little noise
  • Improve safety with blades that stop moving when you do
  • Help you mow your lawn for a lower price
  • Be easier to maneuver in tight spaces

A reel mower can't tackle twigs or leaves. They also aren't as good as gas-powered mowers in tall grass. Still, they can be a great choice, especially if you have a smaller space to maintain. A big gas mower might be too much to deal with.

If you still want a regular lawn mower, look into battery-powered options. These electric lawnmowers can help you avoid traditional fuel and heavy emissions.

3. Start a Rain Barrel

Rain barrels sit at the base of your roof gutters and collect water after it rains. Remember how we mentioned that rainwater collects pollutants as it moves across surfaces? A rain barrel can capture those pollutants. It prevents them from reaching our drinking water. That means you shouldn't use the water from a rain barrel on fruits and vegetables or for drinking. It works well on non-edible plants, like flowers and ferns. You can also use it to fill outdoor fountains or clean up around the yard.

Do Your Part
for the Planet
With ecoATM

Building a garden can help you grow food, support wildlife and reduce waste.

Do Your Part for the Planet With ecoATM

Building a garden can help you grow food, support wildlife and reduce waste. But your Earth Day efforts don't need to end there. After creating your garden, head inside and take a look at your junk drawer. Do you have some used electronics collecting dust? Bring them to an ecoATM. We give used phones a chance at a second life. We might be able to offer you cash on the spot. If not, you can leave your phone with us for responsible recycling.

E-waste happens when used devices get thrown out. It comes with several big problems. For example, e-waste sends toxic materials into the environment. At ecoATM, we're committed to fighting e-waste, but we'll need your help. This Earth Day, find an ecoATM kiosk near you to do your part!