If being a greener gardener is on your New Year’s resolutions list, we’re here to help! Gardening should be an eco-friendly hobby, but there are easy ways to make growing flowers, fruit and vegetables even more sustainable.
Take Christmas for example. Plant out rooted, container-grown Christmas trees into gardens, as long as the soil is not frozen or waterlogged. Cut trees can be dropped off at local authority-run sites during January, where they’ll be shredded and turned into mulch. Check your local council’s website for details.
Peat Free Composts
Going peat-free is a top priority for gardeners. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, the planet’s 10 billion acres of peat bogs store more carbon than the world’s forests combined, helping in the fight against climate change. Switching to peat-free compost alternatives is easy, and quality compost blends such as New Horizon will perform as well as peat. Modern peat-free composts contain more sustainable ingredients such as wood fibre, coir and composted bark. These have been carefully adapted to provide optimum growing conditions. Look out for bags that are clearly labelled peat-free. Westland have a wide range of peat free composts available, for whatever your gardening task.
With climate change leading to frequent droughts, harvesting rainwater to use during prolonged dry spells reduces the demand on mains water supplies. Use simple rainwater diverter kits to connect large-capacity water butts to downpipes on houses. While space-saving, slimline butts are ideal for the side of sheds and greenhouses. Linking multiple water butts together using simple overflow kits will create a fantastic rainwater reserve to keep plants alive. Mulching – applying a layer of well-rotted organic matter to the surface of garden soil over time – helps to lock-in moisture and can reduce the frequency of watering.
Create a Wildflower Area
Wildflowers are a magnet for bees, beneficial insects as well as butterflies – and you don’t need to own a meadow to marvel at their magic. A small patch of soil or a large container is ideal for introducing nectar-rich blooms that will help in the battle against pollinator decline. Depending on your chosen seed mix, you can sow wildflower areas in either spring or autumn. There are blends available to suit different soil types. Transforming a tired area of lawn into a wildflower area will increase your garden’s biodiversity. It is also the ultimate in low-maintenance gardening, too.
There are hundreds of favourite blooms that’ll lure pollinators in their droves. Snowdrops, alliums, foxgloves, hollyhocks, lavender and buddleja are just a handful of bee or butterfly-friendly flowers. Look out for the RHS Plants for Pollinators logo when choosing plants at garden centres. The secret of success when planting bee-friendly pots and borders is to select single flowers (as opposed to fully double blooms), where nectar and pollen can easily be accessed by insects. Ever-popular Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is a classic example of a dahlia that bees adore.
Composting is nature’s very own way of recycling and the cornerstone of eco-friendly gardening. You can do this by transforming garden waste into a home-made soil improver, so expand your composting area if you have space. While you can buy composting bins, bigger heaps work best – consider using old pallets to make a giant composter. Site compost bins in light shade and fill with a mix of brown waste (leaves, hedge trimmings and ripped-up cardboard) and green waste (spent veg plants, annual flowers and grass clippings). Use a home composter like Garotta which will help speed up the process and make better quality compost too.
Don’t let heaps dry out too much and use a garden fork to turn the contents regularly. Don’t be too tidy! That’s the golden rule for creating a healthy ecosystem in your garden.
Find out more about how to home compost here.
Another part of eco-friendly gardening is allowing an area of grass to grow long, especially around garden boundaries. This will provide hideaways for hedgehogs that love to feast on slugs. A simple log pile will attract insects that set up home in decaying wood, providing a natural food source for wild birds. Insect hotels are increasingly popular, luring solitary bees, aphid-devouring lacewings and beneficial insects.
Grow Your Own
Growing your own food is fun, rewarding and can cut food miles to footsteps, which is so much better for the environment. Even in tiny gardens, pots, growing bags, vegetable growing tables and raised beds can yield a bumper harvest. Tomatoes, runner beans, potatoes, carrots and lettuce are easy-to-grow for beginners; they can be cultivated without the use of pesticides; their taste is normally superior to shop-bought produce; and unlike most supermarket veg, don’t come wrapped in single-use plastic.
Cutting down on chemicals is another part of eco-friendly gardening and is key to building up a healthy ecosystem. You can blast sap-sucking insects from plants using a hose pipe – or watch ladybirds devour aphid infestations naturally. Try growing a ‘sacrificial plant’ such as nasturtium, which will lure aphids away from your prized plants. Hand-weeding, or suppressing weed growth using mulch, is a sustainable alternative to weedkillers. Beer traps sunk into the ground and crushed egg shells will help defend against slugs and snails. The introduction of biological controls (natural predators) can be effective against specific greenhouse and garden pests.