In recent decades, we’ve all had a chance to take stock and think about the impact the way we live our lives has on the environment. Sustainable living is an ever-growing theme in the minds of many, and as gardeners we have a chance to make a real impact. Studies have shown that eco friendly gardening practices have a myriad of benefits. They help to slow climate change through reduced energy use, support local wildlife, and reduce needless waste going to landfill.
Whether your garden is big or small, and no matter what you may use it for right now, there’s always a way to help make a big difference. The goal of an eco-friendly garden is to make a space that is self-sustaining, by reducing its reliance on electricity and excessive use of water. Sustainable practices also bring balance to the local ecosystem by creating an environment that is friendly to wildlife and insects, as well as improving air quality.
How to Make Your Garden Eco-Friendly
Making your garden eco-friendly is about working with nature, utilising natural materials and practices to benefit yourself and the world you live in. But this doesn’t mean your garden will need to become a wild, untamed space. In fact, there are many ways for the most carefully curated garden to be – much more environmentally friendly. This is thanks to continued innovation in technology, recycling methods, and more. Read on for our top tips on how to make an eco-friendly garden.
1. Reduce Single-Use Plastics
One of the first things you should do to make your gardening eco-friendlier is to minimise single-use plastics. Many gardening supplies such as plant pots, bags, labels, supports and more are made of plastic due to its low cost. Wherever possible, try to find a plastic-free alternative. There are many natural and biodegradable or recyclable options out there. You could even try making your own if you can, but if you really need to buy something made of plastic, ask yourself if you really need it. You should also try to get the maximum use out of any plastic supplies you already have, and dispose of them carefully at the end of their lifetime.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Plant Pots: Re-use the plastic pots you already have wherever possible, or only buy plants in biodegradable pots from now on.
- Plastic Bags: Many companies are now selling compost in paper bags, or even re-usable plastic ones to limit their carbon footprint.
- Plant Labels: Instead of plastic labels, use biodegradable wooden labels instead.
- Garden Ties: Instead of plastic ties, opt for jute or wool twine. Another benefit of these materials is they won’t dig into the bark as your tree sways in the wind.
- Plant Supports: Recycled plastic supports are available, or you could even find metal plant supports that can be re-used for years.
- Seed Starting Trays: Although plastic has become very common, many eco-friendly gardeners are switching back to using old-fashioned wooden starting trays.
2. Eliminate Chemical Use
Another vital step in making your garden kinder to the environment is getting rid of any harsh chemicals. Whether you’re using pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or chemical fertilisers, finding natural alternatives is a great way to create a much healthier and eco-friendly garden.
Every gardener will have wrangled with a pest infestation at some point. But if you want to make an eco-friendly garden, you’ll need to find more natural ways to tackle the problem. The easiest way is of course to prevent pests from ever becoming an issue in the first place. You can do this by keeping an eye on your plants for any signs of infestation and nip it in the bud. Healthy, strong plants are also much better at resisting pests.
One of your greatest assets in the war against pests will be attracting an army of helpful insects to your garden. The problem with using chemical pesticides is they can harm the good insects along with the bad. Ladybirds and spiders will keep aphids at bay, and ground beetles will deal with pests such as caterpillars and slugs. You can encourage these helpful little friends into your garden by creating a habitat for them such as a bug hotel. Consider attracting toads to your garden as well. They make for excellent bug control.
More direct natural methods of pest control include placing crushed eggshells or physical barriers such as copper rings around plant pots to keep slugs away. Aphids can be knocked off plants with a jet of water, and pests such as caterpillars or lily beetles can be picked off by hand. You could also consider growing strong-smelling perennials such as Lavender and Rosemary, or even Marigolds; as these are known to deter pests.
There are many ways to make your own fertiliser. Common methods include “grasscycling” – where you leave grass trimmings on your lawn after mowing it, which provides an easy natural fertilisation method. Natural leaf mould is another way, where leftover food, pulled-up weeds and other garden waste are brought together to form a healthy supplement to help your garden grow. Soaking weeds in water for a few weeks will also provide a highly nutritious solution you can water your plants with.
There are many ways to keep weeds under control without relying on harsh chemicals. As with pests, the simplest method is just to keep on top of the issue. Regularly removing weeds before they become established, even by hand, is one of the most effective ways to ensure weeds never become a problem. If weeds have become more of an issue, consider smothering them with a layer of compost, shredded bark or even covering them with plastic sheeting to block rain and sunshine.
Making your own compost is one of the most valuable things you can do. Not only will you be saving money by turning garden and household waste into something useful, but compost heaps can also help to attract a huge range of wildlife to your garden. Natural compost can help to improve soil quality by increasing nutrient levels and prevent massive amounts of waste from going to landfill every year.
You can add plenty of things to your compost to create a true stockpile of “gardener’s gold”. Some of the most common items include:
- Lawn and hedge trimmings
- Wood ash (in moderation)
- Fruit & Veg
- Shredded newspaper
Be sure to avoid including cooked food or meat in your compost, and if you buy compost – do not purchase any that contains peat. Peat has been proven to have many harmful effects and shouldn’t be used.
4. Grow Your Own Produce
One of the most rewarding eco-friendly gardening practices is growing your own food. It’s a cheap, delicious way to shrink your carbon footprint by reducing the amount of shop-bought produce you consume. You can grow a huge range of fruits and vegetables here in Britain, from carrots and potatoes to apples and berries. Even if you’ve only got a small garden or you can only dedicate a tiny patch to growing your own food, you can still grow things like strawberries and raspberries. Another item that’s easy to grow at home is garlic. Not only will you enjoy garlic that’s much more flavourful than the sort you buy at the supermarket, but garlic helps to deter pests too!
5. Grow Native Plants
If you want to support the local eco-system, introducing as many native plants as you can into your garden is a fantastic way to do so. Not only are native plants such as wildflowers easy to grow and maintain, they also tend do be much more resistant to pests. Native plants also attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, a vital part of our ecology that is really struggling at the moment. Some native plants you could consider for your garden include spiky teasels, thistles, cranesbills, and valerian.
6. Go Wild
As gardeners, there’s no question that we take immense pride in our work. We want our gardens to look absolutely perfect and as beautiful as possible. However, have you considered letting a portion of your garden go wild? An overgrown section could provide effective visual and stylistic contrast to the rest of your space, as well as being a much more attractive environment for local wildlife. So your eco-friendly garden will be doing its bit to preserve endangered British creatures.
7. Attract Pollinators
Providing a garden sanctuary free from pesticides and other nasty chemicals is a great way to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The most important thing to remember is to have a diverse range of native flowers. Ideally, with enough variety so that flowers are blooming in your garden for as much of the year as possible. Wallflowers and rosemary are excellent spring flowers, along with lavender and thyme during the summer. In the autumn months, ivy in bloom is excellent for attracting bees. You could also consider building a bee hotel; providing them with safe shelter, food and water.
8. Attract Birds
Birds are highly effective at keeping pest levels under control. You can attract birds by erecting nest boxes and bird feeders, with a variety of food for them to eat. Try to do this early on in the season, as it will keep birds coming back for more during the summer months when pests can present more of a problem. Ideas for food to put out include dried fruit for song thrushes, rotten apples for blackbirds and sunflower seeds for chaffinches. The birds will also appreciate it if you provide them with plenty of clean, fresh water.
9. Plant Trees
Introducing a tree into your garden is a sure-fire way to add plenty of natural beauty and character. It’s also been shown that gardens with trees are much more attractive to birds and other wildlife. Trees also have a number of benefits for the home, providing shade and even insulation against both noise and heat when they’re in leaf. Trees are also incredible for purifying the air and acting as sinks for carbon dioxide. This is especially important for homes in urban areas, where air pollution is a greater threat to health.
10. Conserve Water
Water conservation is a key part in making your garden eco-friendly. One of the easiest ways to save water is by installing a water butt to collect and re-use rainwater. This will also help to reduce utility bills by lowering the amount of water from the tap you use while gardening. Although we might complain about it, the ample rain we get in Britain provides plenty of free water for gardeners to use. Being smart about the water you use is another key element. This means watering only the roots of plants instead of wasting water on the leaves, and water early in the day to avoid evaporation and the wind.
11. Add a Water Feature
If you’ve got the room in your garden, a natural water feature is another way to make it more eco-friendly. For example, a pond provides not only a home for creatures such as frogs and newts, but also much-needed drinking water for birds in the summer months. A water garden is another excellent way to add natural beauty and a sense of tranquillity into your space, and flowing water helps to remove pollutants from the air.
As well as being a natural paradise, an eco-friendly garden can also be a space at home where you can relax and spend time with loved ones. Many homeowners enjoy having an area of their garden dedicated to entertaining, with patios and decking forming the foundation of these spaces. If you’re looking for eco-friendly options, you should try to only use recycled materials. Composite Decking for example is an excellent choice, as it is made from a mixture of recycled plastic and wood. This stops great amounts of plastic from ending up in a landfill, as well as providing low-maintenance decking with the appearance of real wood.
13. Go Solar
Reduce the carbon footprint of your garden by minimising its reliance on artificial light and electricity. Consider using solar-powered lighting fixtures instead of wired ones. Not only will you be saving yourself the hassle of wiring outdoors, but you’ll also reduce your energy bills and impact on the environment. Solar technology has improved considerably in recent years, and will provide you with plenty of green, reliable lighting at night time.
14. Green Roofs
Green roofs, also known as eco roofs or living roofs have become increasingly popular over the last few years. They have a number of environmental benefits, including increased biodiversity, insulation and air quality. They also lend and unmistakably natural quality to your home. Depending on their structural integrity, you could even retrofit a green roof onto an existing shed, extension, or garage!
We hope this guide has helped inspire you to make your garden more eco-friendly. We all have to do our part to help preserve the environment, and there are so many ways to do so in our very own gardens. You’ll have a real, positive impact on the world and ecosystem around you. What’s more, many of these methods are cheap and easy to do, with very little upkeep required!
Author Bio: Roofing Megastore is a leading UK online roofing materials retailer.
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