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A huge amount of what we do is gardening. Sustainable and organic gardening.

In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Report, also known as "Our Common Future", defined sustainability as,
“… design, construction, operations and maintenance practices that meet the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

aka: Don't mess up the good stuff you have now so that there's something good left for later.
Nowdays, sustainability has become somewhat of a catch term that many and various people use to define something that they
feel is "less work", or something that can tolerate it's environment, even if that *something* isn't environmentally sound. That's not what we're talking about here.

Sustainability, at least to us, is planting, growing, caring for and harvesting with little to no impact on the environment.
What we do in our space not only has a local impact, but has a trickle down effect that can and does impact things unseen or far away.
We don't "clear-cut" or "farm" an area to accomodate our need or desire to grow plants. We grow native plants because they are an established,
natural part of our local and immediate landscape.We care for the plants that grow naturally by making sure they are safe and free from vermin,
mold and bacteria. We work with our local extention office.

We don't kill the critters. We ward them away from things we don't want them getting into by putting up things they don't like,
be it a barrier like a netting or fence or a shiny pie pan that sways in the breeze, or a noisemaker like a string of dangling bells.
Mostly, we just let them be.
We don't kill the insects.(Unless they're in the house causing damage). We plant things they don't like near things that they do.
We spray essential herbs they don't like on certain leaves or on tree bark.
We don't use chemical fertilizers or insecticide, which makes what we produce 100% organic.
Non-native plants are mostly grown inside. We do have a few that are non-natives growing outside that we love, like our wisteria and our willows.
Others do consider these to be invasive, as they can spread out, which increases the chance that they can choke off native plants.
We are as careful as we can be to monitor growth. We're not perfect,but we try. We've found that the benefit of having these plants out-weighs not having them at all.

Gardening this way makes what we do ecologically responsible, as it causes little to no impact on the established native ecosystem.
We collect fallen leaves, old bark, nuts, berries, etc., never depleting and always within moderation. After all, we're forest critters too
and know we share these wild things with other forest critters.:)
The butterfly effect is a real thing. Even the smallest action has a reaction. We do our best.

Ways you can start gardening sustainably right now:
Compost only green waste, like scrapped vegetable bits, old leaves and vegetable tops.
You can even save those bits in a large freezer bag and when you have enough, boil them down to make vegetable essence for soups!
Composting doesn't require a ton of space and is something you can do on your porch, deck or even under your kitchen sink.
Vermiposting is one option done with worms.
You can also Bokashi
Ask folks you know how they do, research and find something that fits your situation.
You *can* hard compost (just leave in-tact open air style: not recommended), but it can cause bacterial and gas build-up and invites mold and vermin.
Composting saves you money and creates a nutrient dense soil for gardens and houseplants.

* Save heirloom seeds
Heirloom seeds are non-modified seeds that have been going around for a while.
They're plants that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Some heirlooms date back hundreds of years. Sometimes, even thousands.
Seed Savers is a great place to start.

* Research and plant and protect natives
Native plants are typically defined as those that occurred in North America before European settlement.
Those not native to an area are referred to as exotic plants.
Tennessee native plants
National Wildlife
~ work with your local ag center and extention agent
USDA Co-op & Extentions

* Warding instead of annhilating
~ beneficial insects and plants. Microbes, such as beneficial nematodes, are a great way to keep grubs and other internal ground larva at bay. They take a few years to really get going.
A few plants that ward away varmints are:
-Marigolds. The scent of a marigold will deter mosquitoes, aphids and rabbits.
-Chrysanthemums. Bugs hates it. !!!Toxic to cats and dogs.
-Peppermint *can* repel spiders, ants, and mosquitoes. Not always. !!!Can be toxic to cats.
-Basil. Repel mosquitoes and houseflies.
-Bay. Crushed bay leaves deters ants and weevils.
-Citronella grass. Repels biting flies and mosquitos, however you need a lot of it, or planted by windows and doors.

Salt wards. It hurts soft crawlers, so they avoid it. It will also kill your plants, so be sure only to use it on pathways and in retaining ditches.
I prefer making a spray of essential oils to spray on my window screens and along baseboards.
Essential Oil Spray
Fill 1/2 a spray bottle with witch hazel, and 1/2 distilled water, then add 20-30 drops of essential oil.
If used outside, it will need repeat application, especially after it rains.
! Be super careful which essential oils and plants you choose because there are a few that are TOXIC to cats and dogs.
Even if you don't have pets, your neighbor might.

* Mulch
Mulching helps keep moisture in and cold out.
Be careful what you buy at the store because it could contain elements you dont want in your garden.
I like to use pine needles. Insects also do not like pine, and they hate cedar.

* Opt-out your lawn
Lawns take a LOT of care and maintenance. Grass is also a nitrogen sucker.
Lawns don't provide food, and they don't grow so well in the shade.

Keep the bottoms of plants clear from debris that can invite vermin. Dig retaining ditches between your garden and "the wild". Use garden barriers.

The best thing to do first is to look around at your environment.
Really take note of any debris, toys laying about, tools, shadowy polaces the unwanteds can lurk and hide, trash and compost cans, pet food bowls, etc.
See where low laying shrubs fall, take into account your water features. Think "if I was a varmint, where would I hide?".
Research funguses, molds, and critters in your area.
Wards are always your first line of defense.

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