sustainability series: gardening

How to develop more environmentally friendly gardening methods.

It is the beginning of gardening season now and so we decided to round off our Sustainability Series by talking all about sustainable gardening. The importance of growing your own food has really come to a lot of people’s attention over this past year, and whilst it is better to grow your own food, many people don’t realise the impacts that their gardening habits might have on the environment.

I’m extremely lucky to have a garden to plant a lot of my own foods, along with a family knowledgeable about gardening and doing so sustainably. Passing down what we know from generation to generation, and it’s truly magical. My mum has taught me everything I know about gardening, just as her dad taught her. And now I feel as though it’s my turn. In this case, I will be passing down my knowledge of sustainable gardening, rather than the skills of gardening themselves.

Sustainably gardening practices are just as important as all the other topics we have covered in our Sustainability Series, particularly since more and more people are beginning to grow their own food. Today, we are going to be covering some basics, things that I do everyday and don’t even think about, to ensure my fingers, footprint, and garden are as green as they can be.

In this blog post I’m going to give you some basic tips and hopefully raise your awareness of the importance of these simple swaps, and hopefully what to watch out for. The areas I’m going to be covering today should be applicable to everyone, no matter where you may live. I live in the English countryside, where the winters tend to linger even after the flowers have bloomed. The resources and method available to me here might not be the same for you, but I’m hoping that this article will help the majority of you!

Let’s start by talking about compost.

Did you know that approximately half of the food waste that ends up in landfill can actually be composted? You can do your bit to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill by composting your food scraps. It’s as simple as that! If you don’t have a compost bin, I recommend getting one (they’re very easy to get ahold of). Composting saves you money, resources, improves your garden soil, and reduces your impact on the environment. Reducing the amount of food waste that gets sent to landfill even a little bit will help to reduce the amount of emissions.

Learn more about food waste and how it damages the environment by reading our Sustainability Series: Food article.

This leads nicely onto the topic of growing organically.

By this I mean not using chemical fertilisers or pesticides on the crops you grow in your garden (as well as the compost and soil you may need to buy). Manmade chemical fertilisers and pesticides are harmful not only to the food you’re growing, but also to the soil and insects that cause and help your food to grow. On top of all that, the production of these substances releases a lot of harmful emissions into the atmosphere, contributing on a major scale to air pollution.

Organic gardening and farming practises enhance the life of the soil, its natural fertility, and its water quality. By growing organically, you’re helping your garden’s soil to stay healthy and nutrient rich (meaning you’ll reap better crops), you’re helping the bees and insects (vital pollinators) to thrive and continue pollinating our food. On top of all that, you’re also reducing the number of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. Seriously, it’s such an easy step to take!

Another easy step to take is conserving your water.

We take water for granted. Water is essential for life, but only 1% of the Earth’s water is usable for us. Out of this 1%, only half of it is freshwater. Already, water supplies are being outweighed by demand, and if this continues, we could be suffering from water deficiency by 2050.

To conserve your water consumption, you can:

  • Hand water your garden instead of using a sprinkler or automatic watering system.
  • Use a water butt to collect rain water to use in the garden.
  • Grow crops in compatible soil, so you don’t need to water them as often.
  • Don’t water your garden with drinking water (grey water will do fine).
  • Grow native plants (see below for more).
  • Don’t water your lawn… there’s literally no need (environment over aesthetics).

Speaking of lawns…

I have more than one tip when it comes to your lawn. First of all, keep your weeds! Weeds (or just non-grass plants) shield the soil, insects, and microorganisms from the sun. Weed roots also stabilise the soil and provide sustenance for insects. Weeds that flower are really good for bees e.g., clover and dandelions. All of this and so many other reasons! A lawn of wildflowers, moss, and so-called weeds can be far more valuable to your garden than a pristine grass one.

Another pet-hate of mine is the obsession with freshly mown lawns. You do NOT need to cut your grass as much as you are. Cutting your grass too often leaves nothing for bees and insects to feed on. Weeds and wildflowers grow in your lawn, as I’ve explained, and the critters responsible for keeping your garden healthy need these! Not only this, but lawn mowers also release harmful emissions, or need fuel to power them, which also releases harmful gases and contributes to air pollution.

Another way to reduce emissions is to buy peat-free!

Peat is a natural substance made of partially composted mosses and plants in waterlogged, acidic bogs. Peat takes a really long time to form (thousands of years). Peat bogs (in the UK) can be seen as the equivalent of rainforests. They absorb and store so much carbon (THIS IS GOOD) and provide important habitats for plants, insects, and wildlife. Using peated soil, peated compost, or peat plant pots, drains these bogs and releases the stored carbon into the atmosphere. This contributes to global warming. You’re also destroying the home of vital insects and plants. The simple solution? Go peat-free. Fiercely avoid any and every peated products.

But which plant pots can I use instead of peat ones?

Biodegradable ones of course! Biodegradable plant pots produce no waste, and the pots themselves are made using renewable and sustainable raw materials. You can also use things such as empty egg boxes (this is what I’m currently growing my tomatoes in). Roots are distributed naturally and you don’t have to remove delicate plants from their pots before planting out.

If you’ve already got plant pots, made of plastic for example, simply reuse them! We’ve got plant pots in the greenhouse that’ve seen many springs and summers. They last for a long time, and as long as they’re not damaged, they’re good enough to use (I wouldn’t make a habit of buying them over biodegradable ones though, as the production and usage of plastic is still bad for the environment).

Now let’s talk about the plants themselves.

Something that has come to my attention recently is the importance of native plants in my garden. For ages I wanted to grow flowers that weren’t native to my country, but what I didn’t know is that butterflies, moths, and bees are dependent on native plants. They provide nectar for pollinators and the native nuts, seeds, and fruits produced by native plants offer essential foods. Other benefits of native plants include water conservation, reduced emissions via transportation (as they are locally sourced), and reduced risk of disease. Choosing native plants in a variety of shapes and colours encourages bees and diversity.

As well as native plants, grow bee-friendly ones!

Without bees we will have no food, no plants, no air. One of the easiest ways to help bees in your garden is to plant the flowers that they love. Bees favour a wide range of plants including foxgloves, lavender, heather, clover, and many more (these flowers are UK specific, mind). Planting native wildflowers (in the UK this includes poppies, cornflowers, and bluebells to name a few) will also provide the bees with food.

And that concludes today’s article, and our Sustainability Series!

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to learn more about sustainable gardening and how you can change your methods to create a healthier garden. I hope that this article was useful for you and provided you with valuable information to consider.

Before we end, let’s remind ourselves of how we can garden more sustainably:

  • Compost your food scraps
  • Grow organically
  • Conserve your water
  • Keep your weeds
  • Cut your grass less
  • Go peat free
  • Use biodegradable plant pots
  • Reuse your plastic pots
  • Buy native plants
  • Buy bee-friendly plants

I hope that you take these simple tips into consideration the next time you venture out into the garden. Thank you for joining us on our final Sustainability Series article and we look forward to seeing you again soon! Let us know whether you would want another series like this (how about one on seasonal eating/living?) Don’t hesitate to contact us!

If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, leave a like, comment, and share with a friend! To keep up with us and see more of what we’re up to, follow us on Instagram for the latest content, tips, and more! Until next time,

Katherine x

READ THE REST OF OUR SUSTAINABILITY SERIES:

Sustainability Series: Food

Sustainability Series: Shopping Habits

Sustainability Series: Green Energy

Sustainability Series: Laundry

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