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The Flower Show

4 Ways to Garden for the Greater Good

November 11, 2021

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Meadowbrook Farm Gardening

By Melissa O'Brien

‘Gardening for the Greater Good’ is more than a tagline -- it’s a philosophy made up of four guiding principles that home gardeners everywhere can apply to make their gardening practices more environmentally friendly and to build stronger communities through gardening. PHS developed these principles as a positive framework for how we use horticulture to improve the health and well-being of the Greater Philadelphia region.

The work PHS does, the programs we offer, and the education we provide are inspired and informed by these ideas. Nicole Juday Rhoads, Consulting Horticulturist and avid home gardener, helped develop these principles and has been putting them to use in her own garden. She shares: “I do feel these principles have changed my approach to gardening in a subtle way.” 

Although these principles may seem small, they have a big impact when we all work on them together. Nicole says, "Even though what we can accomplish as individuals doesn't always feel consequential, if lots of gardeners are ascribing to the same principles with our gardening practices, we can help make our environment healthier and bring a better sense of well-being to our lives.” 

Are you ready to Garden for the Greater Good? Here are four ways to practice gardening as the environmentally sustainable, economically empowering, celebratory, and community-building activity that it is. 

1. Celebrate Gardening 

A garden is an expression of your own personality, your growing conditions, and your interests. Let your creativity run wild and you will be sure to inspire others along the way. After all, there is no “right way” a garden should look. 

  • Plant what you love — foliage, flowers, or food. 
  • Almost any space can be gardened — from a rooftop, to a windowsill, to a container. Think outside of the (window)box, indoors or out. 
  • Pursue knowledge and information. Gardening is an endlessly fascinating activity.

2. Choose Your Plants with Intention 

Plants are the ingredients of healthy, beautiful gardens that support environmental best practices and local businesses.  

  • Use the power of the purse to buy local and support independent nurseries and growers.  
  • Ask your garden center to carry plants and seeds that have been organically raised.  
  • Choose plants that support wildlife, especially pollinators. See PHS’s Gold Medal Plant list for ideas.  
  • Select plants that are not dependent on chemicals to look their best.  
  • Remove invasive plants in your garden. 

3. See Your Garden as Part of the Ecosystem 

Your garden and what you do in it are part of a larger natural system. We advise that you garden in recognition of the environment all around you.  

  • Expand your gardening space and increase its environmental benefit by reducing your lawn, as well as pavement and other impervious surfaces.  
  • Use all-organic fertilizers, soil amendments, and other treatments for any problems in your garden.  
  • Compost yard waste and food scraps, enriching your soil while decreasing material going to landfills.  
  • Make your garden a habitat by incorporating wildlife-friendly elements like water features and safe places for wildlife to feed, rest, and reproduce.  
  • Mitigate stormwater runoff by installing a rain garden or rain barrels.  
  • Look for manual or electric alternatives to gas-powered machines such as lawnmowers and leaf-blowers. 

4. Embrace a Sharing Mindset 

Share your passion and enthusiasm, your harvest, and your time.  

  • Encourage and mentor beginning gardeners, and lend your expertise to those who are “plant curious.” 
  • Add a vegetable plot and donate extra produce.  
  • Propagate plants to share with your fellow gardeners.  
  • Volunteer to help maintain a garden at a school, hospital, faith-based organization, or anywhere it will benefit others.  
  • Find others who share your gardening interests and learn from one another, whether at a community garden, a plant society, or a garden club. 

Show Us How You Garden for the Greater Good 

Gardening for the Greater Good is a marathon, not a sprint. When you’re ready to share your progress with our team at PHS, use the hashtag #GardeningForTheGreaterGood to inspire others to join you!

Best Plants for Your Garden

The PHS Gold Medal Plant Program is a resource for anyone looking for the perfect tree, shrub, vine, or perennial plant to add to their garden. Gold Medal Plants have been selected for their ease of cultivation, multiple seasons of interest, commercial availability, appropriateness for the Mid-Atlantic region, and value to wildlife.

Explore the PHS Gold Medal Plant database.