Zero-Waste Gardening Made Easy
If you’re thinking about starting a zero-waste garden, you’re in good company. Growing your own produce is an amazing way to save money, reduce waste, and take care of your health. It’s also satisfying and tasty!
There’s a crazy amount of how-to information out there, so we’ve distilled all the essentials for you to reduce overwhelm.
Whether you’re a growing pro or a first-time gardener, these simple steps will help you reap the benefits of at-home gardening in no time.
Why We Need Organic Fruits and Vegetables
We all know it: eating fresh fruits and vegetables is a key part of staying healthy. And ideally, choosing organic produce can be even more beneficial.
Organic fruits and vegetables are grown through more natural methods, without GMOs, synthetic fertilizers, or harmful pesticides.
What makes organic produce better?
First, eating organic produce keeps pesticides and other chemicals out of home and your body.
Second, organic growing methods are healthier for the planet. Over the past few decades, conventional farmers have used more and more chemicals to increase crop yields.
But this practice can actually destroy the soil's essential microbiome and strip away nutrients. As time goes on, pesticide and fertilizer use increases nitrogen levels in the soil. Then soil releases more carbon into the atmosphere instead of absorbing it, which contributes to climate change.
What limits access to fresh fruits and veggies?
Unfortunately, accessing fresh produce can be harder than it sounds — in 2017, the CDC found that only 1 in 10 American adults get enough fruits or vegetables.
What gets in the way?
Fresh produce can be expensive, especially if it’s organic. Season changes and harsh weather conditions often drive the price up, too. And in some areas, not everyone has access to produce on a regular basis.
Fruits and vegetables also tend to perish quickly. So for busy adults who can’t shop often, stocking fresh food can be a challenge.
Does fresh produce create waste?
Sadly, the answer is often yes. For most of the year, the fruits and vegetables we see in the supermarket are grown in other parts of the world and shipped to our stores. This creates a large transportation footprint — even just for one little tomato.
And a lot of produce is packaged in plastic wrapping that can be tough to recycle.
So how can you make organic produce more affordable, sustainable, and convenient?
Try growing it at home!
The Benefits of Zero-Waste Gardening
If you’ve never gardened before, you might think it takes a ton of time and energy to grow your own food. And yes, getting started with a zero-waste garden does take a bit of effort. But it’s easier than you might think — and the results are worth it.
When you grow your own food, you get organic produce that is:
- Deliciously fresh
- Full of nutrients to help you feel your best
- Incredibly affordable compared to store-bought foods
- Free from chemicals that can impact the earth and your health
And you’ll also have more peace of mind knowing you’re cutting down on plastic & transportation waste. Plus, gardening can be a great stress reliever..
Gardening’s Amazing Snowball Effect
Planting a simple garden your first year is a good place to start. With a small investment in supplies, seeds, and tools, you’ll be ready to go.
Over time, your garden becomes more self-sustaining. You can use seeds from previous years to plant new crops. And you can preserve excess produce to enjoy all year long.
How to Start Your First Zero-Waste Garden
Even a beginning gardener can enjoy fresh, tasty produce at home. When you’re ready to start a zero-waste garden, here’s what you need:
- Somewhere to grow plants (we’ll go into options for this later)
- Seeds to plant
- Basic tools — to start, all you really need is a small spade
- A way to water your plants (like a small pitcher or watering can)
Once you’ve assembled your supplies, the first step is starting your seeds.
How to Start Seeds Indoors
Starting your own seeds is much more affordable than buying seedlings. And you can avoid the plastic pots most seedlings come in. The good news is, starting your own seeds is simple (and fun)!
When should I start my seeds?
For most plants, you should start your seeds 6–8 weeks before you plan to transplant them. Or 6–8 weeks before the last frost in your area. You can use this tool from The Farmer’s Almanac to find out when to plant in your area..
How do I plant the seeds?
Most seeds just need a bit of soil and plenty of water. You can plant them in small, shallow containers — we’ll go over some ideas for planters later.
- Put a small amount of potting mix, seed compost, or a pre-formed pellet in the container. (Avoid plain potting soil; it’s too dense for tiny roots to grow well in.)
- Use the tip of a pencil to push the seeds down to the recommended depth.
- Sprinkle a little more soil on top (if needed).
- Water carefully using a watering can or turkey baster. Too heavy of a flow could wash away the seeds.
- Label your containers.
- Check the soil regularly and keep it moist. If it dries out, the seeds may not germinate.
Once the seeds sprout, move them to a bright area or under grow lights.
Which plants are easy to grow from seed?
When you’re selecting your first crop, we recommend choosing some easy-growers to start. A few plants that are well-suited include:
But really, you can start just about anything from seed. And the thrill of seeing a tiny green sprout come up from the earth is priceless. :)
Zero-Waste Garden Seed Kits
To help you start your zero-waste garden, we stock three fantastic seed kits. These kits are developed and tested by experts to make the process as easy as possible.
Each of our kits is made to be both beautiful and plastic-free with the highest-quality sustainable materials. And they contain carefully selected seeds to give you the best growing experience.
With these convenient kits, you get everything you need to succeed with growing your own food & flowers.
What’s in a zero-waste seed kit?
All of our kits come with...
- 6 coco fiber pots
- 6 expandable soil pellets
- 6 reusable seed tins
- 6 wooden plant markers for labeling pots
- And planting instructions
One great thing about biodegradable coco fiber pots is that you can put them directly in the ground when planting. This reduces root damage and helps your plants thrive.
To use our kits, all you have to do is add water to the soil pellet, plant your seed, and wait 7–20 days for it to sprout.
This kit will have you seasoning like a professional chef in no time… and you can skip the overpriced plastic tubs of fresh herbs at the store.
With our herb garden kit, you can grow Italian Basil, Cilantro, Chives, Garden Sage, Flat-Leaf Parsley, and Mammoth Dill.
Some of these herbs are perennial, so you can continue enjoying fresh herbs year after year without having to replant. .
Each lovely flower in this seed kit attracts butterflies like crazy! Butterflies are hard-working pollinators that help all your other plants grow better.
Our butterfly garden kit contains ‘Pale Purple’ Coneflower, Nasturtium mix, ‘Shirley’ Corn Poppy mix, ‘Russell’ Lupine mix, ‘Gloria’ Cosmos mix, and ‘Blush’ Zinnia mix.
You’ll also get an extra pop of color in your garden… and you may find other local pollinators paying a visit, too :) !
We love relaxing with a cup of herbal tea after a long day. With this kit, you can go a step further and grow your own tea blends. Fresh herbs make tea even more flavorful, and you can adjust the mix however you like it.
With our herbal tea garden kit, you can enjoy English Lavender, Bergamot, Echinacea, German Chamomile, Hyssop, and Lemon Mint.
You can use the herbs fresh or dry them and make tea later. Either way, it’s delicious.
DIY Zero-Waste Seed Starting Ideas
If you already have seeds or want to DIY your starts, here are a few ways to make pots without any plastic waste.
Egg Cartons. For small plants or sprouts that will be transplanted quickly, you can fill the empty cartons with soil and use each section to start a seed.
Egg Shells. To add an extra calcium-enriched layer, place clean, empty eggshells in the egg carton and use them as “cups” to plant. You can plant these directly in the ground with your spouts. Just be sure to gently crack the shells first so the roots can spread.
Newspaper Pots. With a few quick folds, you can make pots out of newspaper. Just create a smaller version of our “Bin Liner” using this simple DIY video. Avoid colored or glossy pages, since colored ink can be harmful to plants.
Empty Cardboard Tubes. Cut empty paper towel or toilet paper tubes to your desired size. Then fit them into a pan or tray, fill with soil, and plant your seeds. As long as they’re not coated, you can plant these along with your sprouts.
More Tips for Starting a Zero-Waste Garden
As you can see, you don’t need much to begin. For your first garden, we recommend keeping it simple. Choose a few plants you want to grow instead of overwhelming yourself with a huge crop. (It’s easy to do — we love all the plants!)
Here are some other easy ways to make your garden more sustainable:
- Make and use compost — this is beneficial to your plants and the planet!
- Add spent coffee grounds to your beds to boost nitrogen levels & balance soil acidity.
- Cover beds with mulch to improve water retention. (You can source inexpensive mulch from many landfills, or you can use dry pine needles.)
- Arrange seed or seedling swaps with friends.
- Thrift shop for gardening tools or ask around. You’d be amazed how many people have extras lying around.
- Avoid peat or peat mixes, since harvesting it can harm ecosystems and it’s slow to regrow. Instead, look for sustainable alternatives like coconut coir.
- Repurpose bamboo toothbrushes to make plant labels.
- Use, share, or preserve excess produce to reduce food waste.
If your outdoor space is limited, you can still grow your own food. There are lots of ways to garden in small spaces, even indoors.
Try planting container-friendly plants in small raised beds, tubs, or window box containers. Even a simple windowsill garden can help you save money and enjoy fresh produce at home.
Cultivate Your Green Thumb
We hope we’ve inspired you to start your own zero-waste garden — even if you start small, you’re doing something great for the planet and your wallet.
If you want a convenient, sustainable way to jumpstart your growing, check out our zero-waste seed kits and garden collection.
And if you have any more questions about zero-waste gardening, feel free to email us or hop over to our Facebook group.
Happy gardening! :)
Writer, baker, and lover of nature.