I attended a lecture yesterday evening about historic preservation. A recurring theme was that sustainability begins with historic preservation. A lot of energy went into building the original buildings, and while it may be quicker to tear down a building than restore it, there is still all the energy and materials that has to go into building a new building. All the efforts of previous generations to build the building are wasted.
It is similar in a garden. It takes time to grow a tree. Many times, a tree you plant, you will not see in it’s mature state. You do plant for the future. But care has to be taken to plant the right tree in the right place, the first time. Before you plant a tree, take the time to look at full grown trees of the same kind. Does your space allow for the size of that tree? If not, you are wasting today’s resources on something a future person will have to remove.
So many times I see a plant that naturally grows 15′ tall in front of a window that begins 4 feet off the ground. Eventually that plant will block the window. Often people will say, “Oh I can just prune it.” You are fighting nature. Nature always wins in the end. A lot of energy will go into fighting to keep that plant in a manageable size. It is better to plant something that will only reach 4 or 5′ high in that spot.
The same goes for growing grass under the shade of a tree. It’s an uphill battle. Plants that like full sun could eventually be shaded by the growing tree you just planted. Now sometimes you will have to plant filler plants to take that space while the tree is young. Just make sure you realize they will not be there long term and don’t plant your favorites in that spot.
Another way to make gardening easier is to plant plants native to your area. Plants from your area are conditioned to the natural weather patterns of the area. However, there are micro-climates in any region. The plant still needs similar growing conditions to where it grows in the wild. Factors to consider are moisture, sunlight, and exposure. Paying attention to all these factors will make gardening more pleasant, less work and more sustainable.