A garden is an excellent opportunity to help protect the natural world and look after the environment. And with the ongoing climate crisis casting a shadow across the globe, this is more important now than ever before. Though the news is disheartening, you might be glad to know that there are simple changes you can make that will help the environment. Our gardens can help to combat global warming by catching more carbon that they release and ultimately slow down global warming.
Although you might think that your garden is already environmentally friendly (it’s outside, after all), what you use on and in your garden can make a more significant difference than you realise. Although you’ll need to make quite a few changes to start an environmentally friendly garden, the benefits to the environment and yourself will make it all feel worth it. After all, 67% of people in the U.K. consider themselves to be eco-conscious when gardening[i], and if they can do it, so can you!
What Is An Eco-Garden?
An eco-garden is simply a garden where everything is done sustainably, with no impact on the Earth. It’s all about considering how different elements of the garden interact and how you can use this to encourage the living elements into your garden for a healthy ecosystem. To run an eco-garden, you must think about the environment in every choice you make, including what you plant, how you treat those plants, the use of chemicals, how you source compost, and how you treat and help the soil.
How Does Gardening Help The Environment?
Beginning an eco-garden is a brilliant way to help the environment because it’s so easy. Plus, the benefits it has on our ecosystem are essential to helping put a stop to climate change. Gardening, and particularly eco-friendly gardening, helps the environment by:
- Producing Food and Habitats for Wildlife – Many natural habitats have been built upon or flattened, making it difficult for species to find safe places to nest or breed. By planting hedges, shrubs, trees and fragrant flowers, you can provide safe havens for these vital animals where they can feed and reside safely.
- Improves The Air – Plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to produce oxygen when they photosynthesise. Taking carbon dioxide, a toxic greenhouse gas, out of the air helps reduce global warming and converting it to oxygen helps us breathe better.
- Lessens Pollution – Using your garden to grow fruit, vegetables or herbs contributes to fewer road miles taken to bring food from production to the table. This means less air pollution is produced in obtaining your food.
- Protects The Soil – Soil helps regulate the climate, preserves clean water and is essential to a steady supply of food worldwide. Plant roots help bind the soil together, protecting it in heavy rains and allowing it to stay strong. The more plant roots you have in the garden, the more soil you will help conserve during heavy rains and floods.
- Reduces Landfills – Disposing of natural waste on a landfill will lead to methane emissions, an extremely harmful greenhouse gas. Most natural waste can be healthily disposed of in the garden through composting, mulching and recycling.
- Diminishes Global Warming – The main culprit of climate change, the release of too many greenhouses gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, is collectively known as global warming. Global warming is the cause of serious natural disasters like rising sea levels and wildfires. Since plants reduce carbon dioxide in the air and growing your own food lessens trips to the shops, gardening helps play a part in the diminishing of global warming.
How To Run An Environmentally Friendly Garden
Now you see how important it is to start an environmentally friendly garden, here are the best ways for you to go about doing so:
Use Sustainable Materials
Using green materials that have been sourced and made locally is vital for an eco-garden. Since they contribute fewer air miles and use very little cement, which contributes 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions[ii], it significantly reduces your carbon footprint. Also, using environmentally friendly materials creates a connection to the local surroundings and sets the right atmosphere, which is excellent for countryside gardens. If you are planning to buy wood, ensure that you look for the Forest Stewardship Council or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification logos, as this guarantees environmentally friendly production.
Plant Eco-Friendly Seeds
To encourage an environmentally friendly space, the best plants to grow will provide food and shelter for wildlife. Planting hedges in place of walls, climbing plants, nectar-rich flowers and berry-producing plants and trees will encourage a range of wildlife into your garden because they will provide shelter, food and safe places to breed. Lavender, English Ivy, wildflowers, birch trees, holly bushes and hawthorn trees are all perfect for providing food, habitats and hunting grounds for a variety of wildlife and will undoubtedly liven up your garden.
Also, choose regional plant species where possible. Exotic plants and cuttings interfere with the natural order and give no assistance to wildlife. Although they might look pretty, plenty of native plants look just as good and have evolved to support and benefit the local ecological systems.
Take Care of Your Soil
Nurturing nutrient-rich soil is vital for healthy plants, and the best way to keep your soil in ‘good heart’ is with plenty of compost or manure. This will create a healthy soil full of micro-organisms, doesn’t allow plants to succumb to pests or diseases, retains and drains water well, and allows roots to spread. You can dig this in when planting or use it to cover flowerbeds liberally each spring, which will help stop light soils from being washed away in the rain.
Make Your Own Compost
The benefits of compost in a garden are endless, ranging from encouraging healthy growth in plants to recycling resources that would otherwise rot on a landfill. Making your own compost is the best eco-friendly option because it reduces waste, provides a natural fertiliser and will save you money. Adding things like lawn clippings, wood ash, hedge trimmings, veg peelings, tea bags, egg boxes, leaves, newspaper and cardboard, and vacuum cleaner contents to a base layer of twigs will give you the best natural compost to help your garden flourish. If you would prefer to buy compost, ensure that you don’t get a peat-based variety. Mining bogs for the peat damages fragile ecosystems and habitats, encouraging wildlife extinction and going against the environmentally friendly mindset.
Use Fewer Chemicals
Chemicals are hazardous to the environment and wildlife, and using them in your garden will do more harm than good in the long run. However, replacing chemical solutions with natural methods to reduce pests and fertilise plants is simple. There are so many readily available options that swapping out chemicals will be a simple switch.
Making your own fertiliser is incredibly straightforward and can help you reduce waste, which is another win for the environment. Many different materials will work wonders in your garden. Things like grass clippings, compost, kitchen waste, fallen leaves, manure, eggshells, coffee grounds and banana peels can all make for excellent fertiliser – and don’t have to cost you a penny!
Pesticides are also easily solved. For example, using a spray of vegetable oil and soap is a perfect insecticide, as is encouraging natural predators, jet sprays of water, plant oils, companion planting and natural barriers. Removing infestations with your bare hands can be a good idea too to ensure that every last one is gone.
Reuse and Recycle
An environmentally friendly garden doesn’t have to be lacking in focal points and architecture. If you want pathways, walls, patios or other structures, this is definitely possible in an eco-friendly garden. You just have to be aware of each step in the process of creating the materials that you will use and how these affect the environment. Where possible, opt for recycled materials – these should be easy to find in scrap yards and second-hand shops. You might be surprised what you can find in the house that would be helpful, so have a look at home too. Think outside the box here – you can reuse things for entirely different uses, like plastic bottles as watering cans or bathtubs as makeshift ponds.
Saving water helps keep the environment healthy because it takes less water from our rivers and estuaries, produces less pollution, and helps conserve wildlife and their habitats. Since gardens need plenty of water, this might seem like a setback, but there are plenty of ways to save water while still nurturing your garden:
- Don’t use sprinklers
- Place rain butts outside to collect rain that you can reuse in the garden
- Water the roots of plants instead of the leaves
- Plant flowers in larger pots so they don’t dry out too quickly
- Don’t mow the lawn too low in hot weather
By encouraging wildlife into the garden, you can help conserve endangered species of garden wildlife, including bees, butterflies and birds. Unfortunately, 41% of U.K. species have declined since the 1970s[iii], and making your garden wildlife-friendly is the best way to reverse this alarming percentage. Not only is wildlife natural pest control, but different species make for a much more entertaining garden. Install nest boxes and insect houses to give them a home, plant the right flowers and trees to help them feed and shelter, and leave feeders out to bring your garden to life.
Living Alongside Nature
When designing an environmentally friendly garden, try and create a space that will act like a fully functioning ecosystem with as little waste as possible. Birds, butterflies, bees and the rest of Britain’s varied wildlife will be grateful, as will your plants, and you’ll be helping to save the environment with every choice you make – what more could you want for your garden?!
Do you have any tips for an eco-friendly garden? Let us know in the comments below.
Angela Waxler is an ex florist, a professional gardener and has been working in the industry for well over 25 years. Angela has worked with brands all over the world during her career.