How to Create a Sustainable Garden in Marin
A garden that’s nice to our surroundings.
You may have a garden in Marin, but is it a Marin-friendly garden? That’s a term adopted by UC Cooperative Extension and the Marin Municipal Water District. It means, for starters, a garden that reflects a sustainable, environmentally aware approach to design, construction and maintenance. And it has benefits: helps fight global warming, conserves valuable resources, prevents waste and pollution, promotes wildlife habitats and supports the health of the San Francisco Bay watershed. That may seem a tall order, but some of the practices involved are actually simple and can translate to fewer chores. Here are friendly pointers to steer you in the right direction.
Instead of using a tiller or other machines, prepare beds by hand, and maintain them with little or no tilling to minimize soil disturbance. Choosing hand tools over gas-powered means less air pollution.
START AT THE BOTTOM
A healthy garden always starts with healthy soil. Amend with organic compost and grow winter cover crops such as beans and peas to enrich soil and help it store carbon.
KNOW YOUR H20
Install an efficient irrigation system and water according to your plants’ needs. Also consider a rainwater collection system.
MULCH TO DO
When you use mulch, you build healthy soil, reduce waste, conserve water and encourage wildlife habitats, and you spend less time watering and weeding. Use leaves, homemade compost and chipped plant debris. Sheet mulching (laying down cardboard) works as natural weed control.
MIX IT UP
Create wildlife habitats by planting a variety of plants that flower and produce fruit and seeds at different times of year. Use California natives and avoid plants considered invasive.
Choose outdoor lights that are energy efficient or solar powered.
Choose permeable materials for surfaces so water can soak in rather than become runoff and pollute waterways. Terrace steep slopes to prevent soil erosion.
Reduce yard waste in landfills by keeping plant debris on site. Try grasscycling (leaving grass clippings on the lawn after mowing) or composting the material.
Avoid synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides and herbicides.
Reduce plant and water waste by not overfertilizing, overwatering or overplanting.
For more tips on gardening with the environment in mind, read our article on water-wide gardening.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s February 2020 issue with the headline: “Friendly Earth”.
Kier Holmes is a native, Marin-based landscape designer who works at M2 Design and Construction, for over 15 years, has artfully designed and created sustainable gardens that are dynamic year round. She also writes for Gardenista, is an elementary school garden educator, a garden speaker for adults and leader of the Garden Club for kids at the Mill Valley Library. Holmes readily admits that she is a nerd about all things plant related, and can geek out on a dinner-plate dahlia like nobody’s business. Her natural habitat is among flowers and her hands are almost always dirty.