The Unity Garden uses sustainable agricultural practices to provide maximum yield with minimal environmental impact. Sustainable methods reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers – chemicals which can harm aquatic life, poison beneficial insects and birds, damage soil communities, and which are unhealthy for human consumption. Sustainable gardening involves thinking about our food plants as members of a biotic community, using nature’s own defenses to grow vigorous crops within a healthy environment. Some of these methods include:
- Crop Rotation – By changing what plants are grown in each space year after year, we can prevent pests from becoming established and reduce soil stress by shifting to new plants that have different nutrient needs.
- Companion Planting – “Companions” are plants that benefit from growing together, either by deterring pests, adding nutrients, providing support, or attracting beneficial insects.
- Organic Soil Amendments – When available, we use compost, leaf mulch, and decomposed chicken manure to add nutrients to our soil, limiting our need for chemical fertilizers.
- Cover Crops – Cover crops like rye and clover add nutrients to soil during the slower winter months, and can be tilled into the soil as a “green manure” before spring planting begins.
- Seasonal Planting – Growing food in season means growing crops when they are most prosperous. For example, squashes and tomatoes prefer the heat of the summer, while lettuces and collards prefer the cooler winter months. By growing plants during their preferred season, we can increase yields and save energy and water by utilizing our outdoor growing space.