Benefits of low impact growing


By Lindy Sharpe

If you wish, you can download this factsheet as a Word document. Click on the link at the foot of the page.

Low impact growing means growing in a way that makes the smallest possible negative impact on the environment. Even better, aim to make a positive impact.

There are different systems of low-impact growing. The best known is organic. Narrowly interpreted, this means growing without using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. More broadly (the way it was originally conceived), it is a holistic way of growing, which recognises that all living things depend on each another in mutually beneficial ways -micro organisms in the soil, insects that live in the garden, the plants and wildlife, and us humans. As growers, we are responsible for safeguarding this community of life for future generations. Over time, organic growing builds rather than depletes soil fertility, because the natural composts it uses actually improve the structure of soil and its ability to hold nutrients.

Another low-impact system is permaculture (the name combines the words permanent and agriculture), which aims to use perennial cultivation practices to mimic the structures and interrelationships found in nature.

If you want to look more deeply into these systems, see our Links section. But for beginners, some basic steps will minimise your negative impact:

  1. Don't use artifical fertilisers or chemical pesticides. They can be hazardous to use, can poison wildlife, damage the soil ecosystem and leach into and poison ground water. Additionally they may produce large, watery crops, and often leave toxic residue on the food you want to eat.
  2. Make compost to fertilise your garden. If you have enough space, making compost is a double winner: it uses up lots of your household waste and fertilises your veggies. This fulfils one of the main tenets of sustainable living: turning your outputs into inputs. Some local councils provide cheap or free compost bins. (Councils which collect compostable waste may make the resulting compost available to local gardeners, which is invaluable if you don't have space to makeyour own.)
  3. Think of using containers to collect rain water. A big water butt can be connected to your external drainpipe, to collect the water that falls on the roof.
  4. Grow open-pollinating vegetable varieties so you can collect seed to re-sow and swap, and to protect plant biodiversity.
  5. Don't buy a load of expensive new equipment. Plants aren't snobs. Tools and pots can be picked up at local car boot sales. Seeds can be saved, swapped or cadged. Seedlings can be grown in containers you would otherwise throw away, such as egg boxes or plastic milk containers. Recycle and re-use as much as possible.

Benefits of low impact growing (146k)
Factsheet (Word document, 146k)

This page was added on 26/01/2008.
Comments about this page

Just started this year, with a polytunnel, finding all info useful and can't wait until harvest...hopefully we will have some plants and seeds to be proud of. As for recyling every tub is being utilised, very satisfying.

By anne-marie bush
On 15/02/2011