As climate change becomes an increasingly urgent issue, we can all help to protect our natural world by making sustainable choices in our gardens (they’ll save you money too!).
Here’s our top tips for creating an eco-friendly garden:
1. Cut out pesticides
The overuse of pesticides has contributed to a catastrophic decline in insect populations. This affects the animals which feed on them and has terrible consequences for our ecosystems, which ultimately supply us with clean air, food and water.
Instead try companion planting, a natural method of pest control which involves growing mutually beneficial crops together. For example, french marigolds emit a strong odour which discourages greenfly and blackfly, making them the perfect companion for tomatoes, beans and sweetcorn.
You could also try ‘soft’ chemical pesticides such as soap or salt, and plant rhubarbs which are a natural pest deterrent. If you encourage ladybirds and birds in your garden, they will decimate any unwanted insect infestations pretty quickly.
Repellents containing metaldehyde can cause significant harm to wildlife and pollute rivers. Use wool based mats and copper tapes instead to stop slugs spoiling your plants and flowers.
2. Grow your own food
Growing your own organic fruit and vegetables is far better for the environment than buying them plastic-wrapped in the supermarket. It tastes better too.
3. Plant trees
Planting trees (if you have the space) helps to store carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. Trees can also cool your home in summer and let in the sun in winter.
4. Buy peat-free compost
Choose compost that is completely peat-free. Peatlands play a crucial role in fighting climate change because they store carbon. They take hundreds of years to form and are destroyed in a matter of days for our domestic use. Alternatives to peat include coir (coconut fibre), wood fibre and other organic matter.
5. Create a compost heap
Creating your own compost heap is a great way to recycle food and other organic waste into a rich and healthy fertiliser for your soil. Rather than buying a brand-new compost bin, repurpose something you already have or find one second-hand.
6. Minimise use of power tools
Mowers, blowers and strimmers can make life easier, but think about their environmental impact. Buy an energy-efficient mower, mow less often and keep the grass height to about 4 to 5 centimetres – it’s better for your sustainable lawn as well.
7. Get creative
Reuse old household products in your garden. Try turning cardboard tubes from kitchen roll and pieces of newspaper into biodegradable seedling pots. Simply cut to size and fold over at the bottom, planting them directly into soil.
8. Buy sustainable furniture
Invest in more sustainable, long-lasting garden furniture. All-weather rattan furniture (made from recycled polyethylene) is a good choice.
9. Don’t waste water
Water your plants the correct amount, get a rainwater butt and consider investing in an eco-friendly watering system as opposed to a traditional hosepipe. You can also buy large pots for plants so they don’t dry out as quickly.
Choose plants that can cope with our increasingly hot summers. Try floodplain species that are adapted for periodic flooding and drought (sanguisorba, briza grasses and meadowsweet), or those with varying root depth, including trees, shrubs and fleshy-rooted perennials (such as Crambe maritima).
10. Switch to solar power
Try solar-powered lanterns, rope-handled, fairy lights and fixed wall lights. It’s better for the environment and will look magical – plus you’ll save on your energy bill.