As spring slowly creeps in both avid and amateur gardeners begin the process of tidying up their gardens, sowing seeds and preparing for those new garden projects. It’s often easy to get carried away in the excitement of it all and have a lapse in eco principles, especially when shopping and faced with attractive offers. It’s useful to remember that in addition to sustainable purchasing such as FSC certified and organic products, there are always simple and inexpensive ways to be greener in your garden.
Featured below are five ways to be more environmentally friendly, boost efficiency within your garden and quite possibly save some time and money.
Avoid peat based soils
Peat based soils still dominate the market despite the fact that harvesting peat destroys precious wetland habitats and emits greenhouse gasses including carbon, contributing to climate change. The irony is that many famous gardeners (who should be setting the standard) continue to use peat based composts regardless of the availability of alternatives. B&Q is an example of an easily accessible supplier, they sell their own brand of peat free soil and stock miracle grow peat free soil. Peat free soil is just as productive as peat based soil, mixing in manure rather than unnatural fertilisers will also produce brilliant eco friendly results.
Be water smart
Last year our weather cycle was at extremes first there was widespread drought resulting in hose pipe bans and then there were floods. In response to this irrigation systems where being installed, which can be expensive and not always as effective as you might think. Others responded by planting drought resistant plants. One of the best ways to keep your garden efficiently watered is to water it in the morning or at night (to avoid scorching from the sun and maximise your plants water intake). Watering for longer periods, making sure the water reaches deep down in the soil rather than just quickly watering the surface will also encourage plant roots to grow deeper, making your plants more resilient. A hose isn’t necessary, a decent sized watering can will suffice and installing water butts where possible, even slim line butts can provide an easy, cost effective and sustainable means of water collection and storage.
Cooperate and recycle
Most people will be aware of the benefits of recycling but it really can’t be over emphasized. There are lots of objects that are not even remotely related to the garden that can form an ingenious use, from plastic bottles and shoes to bath tubs and wheels. If you see a skip in the street don’t be too proud to ask if you can have a look, they will probably be glad of any extra space and you might find some treasure. Get your friends and family on board with growing vegetables, even if they don’t like gardening they might contribute towards some seeds with the promise of a few home grown vegetables. Sharing garden space, materials and car journeys to buy gardening gear will also cut costs and is good for the environment.
Don’t stick to regimented planting
Although it may be tempting stick to monoculture, planting all the same vegetables together in perfect rows of raised beds it’s not necessarily the most productive method of growing. Why not try something different this year and reap the rewards. Try companion planting, which is the practice of growing plants together that are “friends” and can form a symbiotic relationship which ranges from enhancing flavours to preventing pests. The most common example of companion planting is Tomatoes and Basil, the vegetable and herb naturally collaborate in cooking although you may not have thought to grow these two together. There are many different companion plants and it’s really not as complicated to do as it sounds. Permaculture is another option in which you can include companion planting. Permaculture, in simple terms is the practice of planting many different edible plants together rather than one crop. Permaculture is in essence working in harmony with nature, often mimicking planting patterns found naturally although it is a very flexible system. Overall Permaculture can be extremely productive, beneficial for wildlife and a natural means of discouraging pests.
By encouraging wildlife into your garden not only are you helping to conserve British wildlife species you are also providing yourself with free organic pest control. While bees and butterflies are needed for pollination, birds, hedgehogs and certain insects eat pests. Insects are a particularly useful pest deterrent and easy to attract by simply implementing plants that they are attracted to. Pest eating insects include lady beetles and lady beetle larvae, lacewings and damsel bugs.
Hugo is a Horticulture graduate from Lincolnshire; mad about all things eco and the environment!