Eco-Friendly Gardening

Grow great-tasting vegetables and bold, beautiful flowers the healthy way.

Edwin Marty
Gardening Naturally
Van Chaplin / Styling: Ellen Ruoff Riley

A stroll through Anna Schmidt's backyard touches all the senses. Colorful tomatoes and peppers commingle with pungent herbs, whose fragrances dance in the afternoon breeze. Insects buzz in and out, pollinating fruit and filling the air with their cacophonous hum.

To obtain this sensational garden, Anna uses only natural components. She creates a balanced garden ecosystem that allows plants to flourish and provide the highest possible yield. Anna reaps the benefit of her bountiful yard with nutrition-packed fresh vegetables. Follow these ideas for a healthy garden that actually becomes more productive over time.

Start With Soil
Plants need well-drained soil with plenty of nutrients. Follow these steps to make sure your soil drains well.

  • Limit use of the rototiller because it destroys soil structure. Instead, use a garden fork to break up the ground.
  • Mushroom compost from a garden center provides an affordable way to put organic matter back into the soil.
  • Rotate the plants you grow in your garden every season so that the same nutrients aren't depleted year after year. Follow a shallow-rooted plant, such as lettuce, with a deep-rooted plant, such as tomato, to help break up the soil.
  • Don't walk on the garden because it causes compaction, which breaks down soil structure and reduces its ability to drain.

 A World of Bugs
When healthy plants grow in healthy soil, a diversity of insects follows. The key is to establish enough beneficial bugs to control the bad ones. It's actually very simple. To provide a habitat for beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, wasps, and spiders, keep flowering plants in the garden as long as possible. Don't spray insecticides that kill all bugs indiscriminately. Instead, monitor an outbreak of bad bugs, and use a spray made specifically for those.