Everyone’s talking about “going green.” We’ve got green volunteers, cities and businesses trumpeting loudly, “We’ve gone green!” Even the department store Macy’s has been advertising its “greenness.” But what does it all really mean?

Succulent groundcover

Succulents can be beautiful groundcovers that take little care and water.

Photo Credit: Gerald Burke

Garden seeds

Planting seeds is what gardeners do in the “green” movement.

Photo Credit: National Garden Bureau


Growing flowers in containers is an attractive way to save water.

Photo Credit: Ball Horticultural Co.

Basically the “green movement” can be defined as being concerned and careful with our environment – husbanding our natural resources rather than wasting them, as well as trying to reduce our impact on our environment. For many people, it means using fluorescent light bulbs, walking instead of riding, turning down the heat and air conditioning, reducing air pollution as best as possible and cutting down on the contributions to landfill waste.

Yet amid all the hyperbole and fluff, what does going green mean to gardeners?

The truth of the matter is, gardeners have always been “green” – though some more so than others. By definition, we gardeners have embraced being green since the beginning of time. It’s what we do, and we should keep in mind that we’re actually charter members of the green movement. Those of us who get out into the sunshine (and rain) to get our hands dirty in the good soil to grow are truly “green.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t do more.

Here are some solid suggestions on ways to become even greener:

Get Out and Plant

Yes, plant trees, but take care to select the right tree for your area. Locate it where it will provide shade in summer but let the sun shine through in winter. Keep it trimmed, and compost the trimmings if you can.

Also make sure the ornamental plantings in your garden are adapted to your climate and are water wise, as well as beautiful. That means not planting Joshua trees in Minneapolis or dogwoods in the Sonoran Desert. Desert plants will make it with little water where the climate is right; dogwoods belong where their natural requirements are met. A good gardener doesn’t try to grow bananas in Monument Valley, or mountain laurels in Los Angeles. It’s a waste of water, fertilizer and effort.

Commit to Good Irrigation Practices

Good gardeners look into how they can use a drip system for irrigation in the Southwest and how they can save rainwater in Seattle. Good gardeners minimize a thirsty lawn where water is scarce and spotlight succulents in their gardens. In the Southwest, where I live and garden, I bemoan the sight of huge, spacious, often unused lawns that soak up our fragile water supply – much as I berate the folks whose automatic sprinklers go on when it’s raining or those who continually water the sidewalk instead of their plants.

Pledge to compost and Recycle

Sure, this is something gardeners have been doing since the first hunter-gatherer found it more economical to do the gathering close to home. Those early “gardeners” learned to plant seeds, transplant and amend the soil with organic matter close at hand. They also knew to stockpile it and let it decay before spreading it on the ground. We pretty much do it all the same way today, even though our tools have become more ergonomic and our compost pile more scientific and better looking.

Choosing the right plants to grow in your climate, using precious water properly and carefully, and mulching and composting truly make you prominent, first-class members of the green movement. So say it proudly: You’re a gardener – and you’re green!