Having started her career in floristry over 25 years ago, Angela Waxler’s love for gardening has flourished ever since. She shares her best gardening advice on the Cultiv8ed blog.
Running a garden is a superb way to protect nature and the environment, and in light of the current climate crisis that is overshadowing the world, this is more important than ever. With a little work, you can make some very simple changes to your garden that will help the ecosystem, slow global warming, and reduce your carbon footprint.
An impressive 67% of people in the UK consider themselves environmentally conscious when they garden[i]. While you will need to make a few changes to create a greener garden space, the benefits for the environment and for you will be well worth it.
You might be asking what an environmentally friendly, or ‘eco-garden’, actually is. To put it simply, an eco-garden is a garden where everything is done in a sustainable way without harming the earth. Everything is done with the environment in mind, thinking about how the different elements of the garden interact and how you can use this to promote the living elements in your garden for a healthy ecosystem. To run an organic garden, you need to think about the environment in every decision you want to make, including what to plant, how to treat those plants, how to use chemicals, how to obtain compost, and how the products you use on your plants will affect the soil.
How does gardening help the environment?
Creating a green garden is a great way to help the environment, and it’s so simple to get started. Additionally, the benefits it has for our ecosystem are essential to stop climate change for good. Gardening, and organic gardening helps the environment in the following ways:
- Creating wildlife habitats – Many natural habitats have been built or destroyed, making it difficult for species to find safe nesting spots and places to reproduce. By planting fragrant hedges, shrubs, trees, and flowers, you can provide these vital animals with a safe spot in which they can thrive.
- Protects soil – Soil keeps water clean, regulates the earth’s climate and is essential to maintaining constant food supplies around the world. The roots of plants help to maintain soil quality, so the more plants you have, the better.
- Reduces pollution – Using your garden to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables helps reduce the number of kilometres you have to travel to bring food from production to the table. it means there is less air pollution when you are getting your food.
- Improves air quality – One of the most vital functions of plants is taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing oxygen when photosynthesising. Removing carbon dioxide, a toxic greenhouse gas, from the air helps reduce global warming, and converting it to oxygen allows us to breathe better.
- Landfill reduction – Disposal of natural waste in landfills creates methane emissions, an extremely harmful greenhouse gas. Most natural waste can be disposed of in the garden healthily through composting, mulching and recycling.
- Lessening the impact of global warming – Global warming is the main culprit of climate change. The release of too many heat-storing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is collectively referred to as global warming. Plants reduce carbon in the air which helps to lessen its impact, and becoming self-sustaining by producing your own food means you will be taking less trips to the shops, further reducing your carbon footpring.
How to run an eco-garden
We’ve discussed the importance of running an environmentally sound garden, so here are our top tips for getting started.
Use Sustainable Materials
Using environmentally friendly materials which have been sourced and manufactured locally, is vital to a green garden as they don’t contribute to air miles like materials sourced from other countries do. When shopping for materials like timber for your garden, look for the Forest Stewardship Council or Forest Certification logos – as these assure the materials have been produced sustainably.
Nurture Your Soil
Healthy soil, which is rich in nutrients, is vital for growing healthy plants, and the best way to keep it nutrient-rich is with plenty of compost or fertiliser. This creates a healthy soil full of micro-organisms, prevents plants from succumbing to pests or diseases, holds and drains water well, and allows roots to spread. You can either dig fertiliser into your soil as you plant or use it to generously cover flower beds each spring to prevent light soils from being washed away by rain.
Choose Beneficial Plants
To promote a green space, you should grow plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife. Planting hedges in place of walls, creepers, nectar-rich flowers, and berry-producing plants and trees attract a variety of life in your garden. Plants like lavender, English ivy, wildflowers, birch, holly and hawthorn are perfect for providing food, habitat and hunting grounds for a wide variety of wildlife, and they will undoubtedly liven up your garden. If possible, choose regional plant species. Exotic plants and cuttings disrupt the natural order and do not help the animal world. While they may look pretty, many native plants look just as good and have evolved to support and promote local ecosystems.
Compost has a host of benefits, from promoting healthy plant growth to recycling organic matter that would otherwise rot in a landfill. Making your own compost is the best eco-friendly option as it will reduce waste from your household and provide a natural fertiliser. Adding waste like wood ash, hedge clippings, vegetable scraps, tea bags, eggshells, leaves, newspapers, and cardboard, and the contents of the vacuum cleaner to a base layer of twigs, will give you the best compost to help your garden. However, if you prefer to buy compost, make yourself sure you are not buying a peat-based variety. The degradation of moors damages sensitive ecosystems and habitats, promotes the extinction of wild animals and contradicts the ecological way of thinking.
Use Fewer Chemicals
Harsh chemicals are dangerous to the environment and using them in your garden will cause harm in the long run, but it’s easy to replace chemical solutions with natural alternatives to reduce damaging pests and to and fertilise plants. Changing to organic products is simple.
Making your own fertiliser is incredibly easy and can help you reduce waste, which is another great benefit for the environment. Many different materials will work wonders in your garden. Things like clippings, compost, banana peels, leaves, cooking scraps, manure, eggshells, and old coffee grounds can be great fertilizer and don’t cost the world. Pesticides can also be easily swapped for an alternative. For example, using a soap and vegetable oil spray is a perfect insecticide.
Reuse and Recycle
An ecological garden doesn’t have to lack beautiful features and architecture; if you want paths, walls, terraces or other structures, an eco-garden definitely can. You just have to be attentive to every step of the process, including sourcing the materials you will be using and how they will affect the environment. Choose recycled materials whenever possible; these should be easy to find in charity shops, at tips and around your own home. Get creative and think outside the box here – you can use items for entirely different purposes, such as using plastic bottles as watering cans or transforming an old bathtub into a makeshift pond.
Taking steps to conserve water can help the environment by using less from our rivers and estuaries, leading to less pollution and helping to conserve wildlife and their habitats. Since gardens need a lot of water, this may seem like a setback, but there are many ways to save water while nourishing your garden:
- Avoid using sprinklers
- Place rain barrels outside to catch rain that you can reuse in the garden
- Water plant roots instead of leaves
- Plant flowers in larger pots so that they do not dry too quickly
- Do not mow your lawn hot weather
- Use old ‘grey’ water from washing dishes or bathing to water your garden
Learn To Live with Nature
When you are designing a green garden, try to develop a space that can act as a fully functional ecosystem, whilst producing as little waste as possible. Once you’ve created a diverse space, birds, butterflies, bees, and the rest of the UK’s diverse wildlife will flock to it. With every decision you make, you are helping to protect the environment.