By adopting sustainable gardening practises and saying goodbye to harmful chemicals, you'll soon find yourself enjoying more visits from the local wildlife. Jenny Edwards is your guide to green gardening to help you create an eco-friendly haven in your back yard.
Gardens are little pockets of solitude away from the confines of home and the chaos of the outside world.
Although they’re small in comparison to other green spaces, household gardens cover an estimated 10 million acres. This amounts to an area bigger than all of the nature reserves in Britain combined.
So you see, our gardens are small but mighty.
What is green gardening?
The words ‘green’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ have been floating around the gardening community for years now. They all ultimately share the same goal: to cause as little harm to the planet as possible.
Many people are looking for ways to be part of the fight against climate change, and your garden is a brilliant place to start.
As green gardeners, we aim for an equal relationship with nature. That means whenever we take, we must make sure to give back.
You may not think that the plants you nurture from the soil make a difference in this world, but they do.
One nodding sunflower could mean shelter for a ladybug, food for a sparrow, nectar for a bee, or a place for a butterfly to lay its eggs safely.
Though similar to how your garden can have a positive impact, it can do the opposite too.
When I began gardening, I was inadvertently wasteful.
Instead of fluffing up old compost and mixing it with new compost to reuse later, I would throw it away.
I didn’t take care of my plastic seed trays and pots. They inevitably broke, and thus were also thrown away.
I used water excessively and didn’t think twice about what I purchased.
I always considered gardening a naturally green activity. But what I didn’t appreciate was that things I had been doing in the garden could have a negative effect.
This is when I turned to green gardening.
Try mixing your old compost with the new to minimise waste.
Why be a green gardener?
Most people become keen gardeners because they enjoy nature and enjoy seeing it come to life under their care.
But if we don’t begin to change how our lives impact nature, it won’t be here for us to enjoy much longer.
What right do we have to dig up the earth and poison it with chemicals?
What right do we have to kill the insects that are feeding on our plants?
Gardening should make us feel more connected to nature, not above it.
Wildlife populations are already declining, and when one species goes extinct, it affects us all. For example, if we don’t save the bees, our food supply will be in serious trouble.
Each species has a role in the ecosystem, and so they’re all worth fighting for.
Green gardening is a step in the right direction towards a more compassionate future.
Here are some habits to adopt that will lower your garden’s environmental footprint and transform it into a green haven for flourishing flora and fauna.
- Top tips on how to attract more butterflies to your garden
- Beginners guide to growing your own veg
- Peat free compost – the sustainable choice for vegan gardeners
How to become a green gardener
Reuse what you have
You might be surprised at how much household waste you can give a new lease of life in the garden.
For example, plastic bottles can be turned into planters or added to a bug hotel. Wooden ice cream sticks can be used as plant labels.
Build a bug hotel using odds and ends you already have to attract insects to your garden
If you’re fortunate enough to have a green-thumbed neighbour, ask if they’d like to trade items to save both of you purchasing new ones.
Once you get into the mindset of being resourceful, it will soon come easy.
Think beyond household waste and look at what you could reuse in your garden. For example, try harvesting seeds from current flowers to sow the following year.
If you’re looking for more tips on eco-friendly gardening, here are five simple steps you can take to make your garden wildlife-friendly.
Achieving a wildlife-friendly space is when you know you’ve made it as a gardener!
There’s nothing more satisfying to me than spotting an array of creatures nestled away in the safety of plants that I have nurtured to life.
It’s a win-win because the more diverse your garden is, the healthier it is.
Another way to support wildlife is by filling your garden with native plants, as they are most beneficial to native creatures.
You can also provide a water source; whether it’s a birdbath or a small cup of water. (Make sure the water is shallow and it’s easy for animals and insects to climb out of.) You will likely attract all sorts of wildlife.
Although pests nibbling on your plants can be a nuisance, it’s often not a cause for concern.
Even if the population of pests increases, it’s best not to use chemicals, as this will kill beneficial organisms too.
You can take precautions to deter pests before they can spread. For example, a biodiverse garden will attract predators like ladybirds who will sort out the problem for you.
As a last resort, you can remove the pests by hand.
Want to attract more insects to your garden? Learn how to build your own bug hotel here:
Regardless of the climate, saving water is a good habit for any gardener. A water butt is one of the most low-maintenance ways to do so.
If you’d rather not splash your cash on a pre-made one, you can easily convert an old wheelie bin.
Checking the weather before you water your plants can prevent double watering, as the rain may come along and do the hard work for you.
Diligently watering your entire garden only to step inside as the rain begins to pour is not only a waste of water but a waste of time as well!
You can also save water by filling your garden with drought-resistant plants, such as lavender and bergenia.
Planting drought-resistant plants such as lavender helps to save water and provides food for bees
To shop consciously means to look into how products have been manufactured before buying them.
Instead of making impulse purchases on the spot, conscious shoppers tend to look online first or ask others for advice so they can make an informed decision on what to buy.
Start with your most frequent purchases, for example, switching to peat-free compost.
You may also want to look into vegan fertilisers and compost, as conventional types often contain animal products.
Remember, being a green gardener takes time, so don’t expect to learn everything within a few days or weeks.
I’m still making discoveries all of the time, so be open to learning from others and have fun!
Do you love the idea of growing your own food but don’t have a garden?
Here’s how to grow your own food, even if you don’t have a garden!