With more of us giving thought to the planet and leaving it in good shape for the future, here are some simple ways to be sustainable in the garden. Gardening has always been a popular pastime, with millions of people worldwide enjoying the beauty and tranquility of their own gardens. But with climate change becoming an increasingly urgent issue, many gardeners are looking for ways to make their hobby more sustainable. Sustainable gardening is about creating a garden that is both beautiful and environmentally responsible. In this article, we’ll explore what it means to be a sustainable gardener and provide some tips for making your garden more eco-friendly.
What is sustainable gardening?
Sustainable gardening is a method of gardening that focuses on reducing waste, conserving resources, and minimising environmental impact. It involves using natural, organic methods to maintain a healthy garden ecosystem and promote biodiversity. The goal of sustainable gardening is to create a garden that is self-sustaining and resilient, without relying on synthetic chemicals or other harmful inputs.
Benefits of sustainable gardening
There are many benefits to sustainable gardening. First and foremost, it helps to reduce the environmental impact of gardening. By using natural methods, you can avoid the use of harmful chemicals that can pollute the soil, water, and air. This, in turn, can help to protect local wildlife and biodiversity.
Sustainable gardening can also be a more cost-effective approach. By using compost and other organic materials, you can reduce the need for expensive fertilisers and pesticides. Additionally, sustainable gardening can help to reduce water usage, which can be especially important in areas prone to drought.
Finally, sustainable gardening can be a great way to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of your garden. By creating a garden that is in harmony with the environment, you can create a peaceful and relaxing space that is both beautiful and sustainable.
Tips for sustainable gardening
Start with the soil
The foundation of any sustainable garden is healthy soil. To promote healthy soil, it’s important to avoid synthetic fertilizers and instead use natural methods to nourish the soil. This can include adding compost, mulch, and other organic materials to the soil. Additionally, consider using cover crops, which can help to improve soil health and prevent erosion. Compost - Don’t throw it!
Making or investing in a composter is a great step towards sustainability. Rather than buying bags of plastic wrapped compost, use the garden and kitchen waste. This then saves the plastic waste and the emissions from the lorries used to carry to compost to store as well as those from the council run green collections. Find a sheltered area of your garden away from extremes of temperatures for your composter, perfect for a shady area of the garden where plants struggle to grow. Composters work best on a soil base but if this isn’t possible, add a layer to the bottom of the composter. A 50/50 mix of green (grass, weeds and kitchen waste) to brown (dead leaves, prunings, cardboard and straw) materials is a good mix as the micro-organisms and bacteria that produce compost thrive on this combination.
One thing we have plenty of in the UK is rain! Water conservation is an important aspect of sustainable gardening. Consider harvesting rainwater by collecting it in a water butt with rain diverters from the downpipe. Then use a watering can, to water your pots and flowers which saves on using the mains for watering. Make sure you clean the butts every year to minimise them carrying diseases. Add a water bowl or bird bath to attract wildlife to the garden and let these fill from the sky. Consider using drip irrigation systems or other water-efficient methods to reduce water usage. Additionally, choose drought-tolerant plants that require less water.
Choose native plants
Native plants are better adapted to local growing conditions, which means they require less water and are less likely to succumb to pests and diseases. Additionally, native plants can help to support local wildlife, providing food and habitat for birds, insects, and other creatures. When choosing plants and flowers, think of insects that spread pollen such as bees and butterflies and choose a mixture of plants to support a variable ecosystem. Not only do they look beautiful with their varied flowers, but the pollinators will do their job and help the plants grow by transferring pollen as they dart around the pollen filled foliage. If your back garden is full of hard landscaping, do your bit by adding pots, hanging baskets, window boxes or even a living roof to your shed, summer house or garden office!
Avoid synthetic pesticides
Synthetic pesticides can be harmful to both the environment and human health. Instead, consider using natural pest control methods, such as companion planting, crop rotation, and biological controls like ladybirds (or bushybarnabies if you come from Norfolk!). If you do need to use pesticides, choose natural or organic options that are less harmful to the environment.
Grow your own
No matter how small your garden is, there is always room to grow something which will taste even better knowing the hard work that has gone into it. Whether this is a small herb garden in pots, a fruit bearing tree up to a full vegetable patch or using a greenhouse to grow tomatoes, nothing beats the satisfaction of cooking and eating your own produce. This also has the added bonus of knowing that these have been grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides.
Re-use or buy local
When landscaping your garden look for products that you can up-scale from waste products. If you still need to add certain elements, buy reclaimed or products from the British isles rather than overseas to reduce your carbon footprint. You would be surprised at the number of good quality products available from Ketley bricks for paving slabs, quarry tiles or clay pavers, reclaimed kerbs or Scottish cobbles. Whenever possible, use renewable resources in your garden. This can include using solar-powered lights, composted waste, and using natural materials like wood and stone instead of plastic and other synthetic materials.
Support biodiversity in your garden by creating habitats for wildlife. This can include leaving some areas of your garden wild, providing food and shelter for birds and insects, and planting a variety of native plants to support a range of species.
Sustainable gardening is an important practice for anyone who loves gardening and wants to minimise their impact on the environment. By focusing on healthy soil, native plants, natural pest control, water conservation, renewable resources, waste reduction, and biodiversity, you can create a garden that is both beautiful and sustainable.
In addition to these tips, there are many other resources available for those interested in sustainable gardening. Local gardening clubs, community gardens, and environmental organisations can provide valuable information and support for sustainable gardening practices. Additionally, there are many online resources and books available that provide tips and advice for sustainable gardening.
Overall, sustainable gardening is a rewarding and fulfilling way to connect with nature and create a beautiful and eco-friendly garden. By making small changes and focusing on natural, organic methods, you can create a garden that is not only good for the environment but also good for your health and well-being. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, there are many ways to incorporate sustainable practices into your gardening routine and make a positive impact on the world around you.