Gardeners manage a substantial chunk of the outdoor space in any village, town or city, so this is not just about window dressing. What you do in your garden can really impact on air quality, biodiversity and environmental pollution levels.
Here is our guide to help you make your garden more sustainable:
1. Choose Peat Free Compost
If you buy compost, choose one that is completely peat-free.
Peat is hugely important to our planet. It acts as a carbon store, it is an important habitat for wildlife and reduces flood risk by holding water.
Peat bogs take hundreds of years to form, and can be destroyed in a matter of days by peat mining. The main driver of this industry is the production of garden compost.
With peat-free alternatives readily available there really is no excuse for continuing to use peat-based compost. Although they are more expensive, the cost to the environment of the cheap peat-based composts cannot be ignored.
2. Make Your Own Compost
Creating your own compost heap is a great way to recycle food and garden waste into a rich, healthy fertiliser for your soil. You literally turn your kitchen and garden waste into fertiliser for free!
Making your own compost will also reduce the need to add chemical fertilisers to your soil, and reduce your consumption of single-use plastic bags.
If you have a small or middle-sized garden, making your own compost probably won’t make all you need, but it will certainly help and save you some money.
There are two methods to making compost. You can either use the fast ‘hot’ method and the slow ‘cold’ method.
So what’s the difference?
Cold composting is the easiest method. It’s a good way of disposing of some of your garden waste (avoid composting weeds) and some types of kitchen waste (not meat and fish). It will take at least a year to rot down, so unless you have enough space for several compost bins, you will still need to buy some in.
There’s a good guide to making your own cold compost here.
Hot composting is more tricky, but makes compost more quickly. You’ll need to turn it at specific intervals, check the temperature and balance the ‘green’ and ‘brown’ waste. Check out this helpful video to help you get the balance right.
Because the microbes that produce the compost have ideal living conditions in hot composters you get good, usable compost in a couple of months. You will also be able to compost weeds in a hot system because the heat kills the roots and seeds.
Some hot composting systems such as Hotbin let you compost all your kitchen waste, including meat and fish.
3. Water Less
It may surprise you to know that during the summer months about 30% of your household water usage will be in your garden.
If your water supply is metered, then that will be costing you quite a bit, never mind the negative environmental impact.
There are lots of ways for you to save water to make your garden more sustainable.
Collecting rainwater is the easiest way, so get a water butt. They are available in a wide range of sizes, but the key is to get the biggest one that you can reasonably fit in the space that you have.
Many water butts are sold with ‘diverter kits’ so you can divert rainwater from your roof guttering into them. They are a great option for quickly replenishing your water supply.
Reusing waste household water, known as ‘grey water’, for the garden is also a great idea. Wash up in a bowl and use the water directly on your garden. The phosphates in the detergent will also add nutrients to the soil.
5. Limit The Plastic
Most garden centre plants are sold in black plastic pots. They can be very hard to avoid.
The problem is that they aren’t yet recyclable in most areas, so unless you recycle them they’ll go straight to landfill.
Some garden centres now sell all plants in recyclable pots, although these are still depressingly few and far between. Some garden centres, such as Dobbies, now have a recycling service for plastic pots which is a a step in the right direction..
While we wait for the industry to brush up their eco-credentials, re-use the pots you already have. You shouldn’t need to buy any new pots, and if you do there are lots of recyclable pots available to buy.
Alternatively make your own. Seedling pots are easy to make out of newspaper or cardboard tubes from kitchen and toilet roll.
The take home is that sustainable gardening will help you contribute to a happier, healthier planet.
When you grow in a greener, more sustainable way, you’ll help preserve natural resources, produce less waste, use fewer chemicals, and save money too. What’s not to love?!