Gardens are special places where, as gardeners, we’re privileged to get up close to the natural world. But gardening with nature also makes you realise how precious it is. Our impact on the planet is well documented and it’s up to us to adopt more environmentally conscious ways of living. Growing your own food’s a great start, but how you grow it makes a big difference.
In this video and article we’ll share eight great ideas to help you garden more sustainably, in step with nature.
1. Use Human Power
Let’s start by replacing electric or gasoline-powered equipment such as lawnmowers, tillers and leaf-blowers with more sustainable human-powered alternatives whenever we can. It’ll save natural resources, and by breaking big jobs down into regular smaller blocks, it’s a great way to stay active and keep fit.
2. Work with Nature
Artificial fertilisers and pesticides are energy intensive to manufacture and carry many undesirable side effects, from polluting rivers to harming beneficial insects and soil life.
A natural approach – adding organic materials to the soil to build long-term soil fertility, and planting flowers to attract pest predators – avoids these negative impacts while creating a livelier, healthier garden.
3. Plant Trees
Trees lock up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the effects of our changing climate. Let’s plant more of them! Trees range from tiny to massive to suit every space, and can be planted into otherwise wasted or underused parts of the garden. Most are easy to grow and many trees are productive too – just think of a handsome apple tree, for example.
Trees offer birds somewhere to nest, feed and shelter. In return they will keep many plant pests in check while contributing their melodious song.
4. The Best Plant Food
Much of our waste can be composted. Composting is a natural process and a far more environmentally friendly alternative to burying it in landfill. Garden-made compost is often richer in valuable nutrients than bought-in sources of compost.
Make your own and enjoy a free source of natural fertiliser to feed your soil and the plants growing in it. Setting up a simple compost bin or heap doesn’t take long. It’s easy to add to and, don’t worry, it won’t smell!
5. Reconsider Your Lawn
Lawns demand a lot of effort and watering to stay green, especially in hotter climates. How much lawn do you really need? Can any of it be repurposed? For example, a native wildflower meadow only needs mowing once or twice a year.
Make the lawn that remains more sustainable by simply leaving the grass to grow a little longer between cuts. Then leave the clippings where they fall at least once a month to return their nutrients to the soil.
6. Reuse and Recycle
Don’t be in a haste to throw away old pots and seed containers. Reuse them as often as you can by washing them after each season so they’re ready and clean for the next. Look after your tools by storing them somewhere dry so they last longer. Keep moving parts oiled, and sharpen blades regularly so they work like new.
Opt for lower energy, natural materials in the garden – from biodegradable pots made of coir, cardboard or even old newspaper, to a greenhouse built from sustainable wood in place of aluminium.
Many gardeners are only too happy to repurpose old items into new ones for the garden. And there’s all sorts of fun to be had in getting creative!
7. Free Resources, Naturally
Nature gives us lots for free. Set up barrels to collect rainfall and cut your consumption of treated water – and your water bill! Rake up fallen leaves to make leaf mold – the perfect material for improving soil structure or creating your own, packaging-free potting mix.
Create more spaces for wildlife. Flowers rich in nectar feed pollinators, as well as drawing in other insects to feed on the bugs you don’t want. Include a pond for frogs and toads – the ultimate slug controllers!
Extra room for wildlife doesn’t mean sacrificing valuable ground space. For example, install a green roof on your shed or put together a simple bug hotel. Projects like this are great fun for adults and kids alike. Many projects are easily completed in a weekend to bring benefits lasting long into the future.
8. Grow What Thrives
Growing plants that naturally thrive in your location means you’ll enjoy more success and less heartache. Pick the right plant for the right place: for example, vegetables like tomatoes and beans for sunny areas or leafy salads in the shade.
Not sure? Then use the fully searchable Garden Plans Gallery on this website to see what others are growing in your area and seek some inspiration. Or step in and explore our Garden Planner for yourself. It’s easy to narrow down the selection of plants to, for example, those that will happily grow in partial shade or are frost tolerant. And because the software knows your location, you can even filter the list to show only those plants suitable for sowing, planting or harvesting during a specific month in your location. Simple!
Don’t be in too much of a hurry at the start of the growing season. Work back from the last frost date so tender crops like squashes aren’t sown too early and are ready to plant when the time’s right. This will also minimise the need for costly heating. Our Garden Planner includes a handy Plant List to help with this too!
Of course, growing any fruits, vegetables or herbs is a big step towards a more Earth-friendly lifestyle, so grow as much as you can: plan ahead, re-sow throughout the growing season and set aside some of your homegrown bounty for the leaner times of the year. You’ll be doing yourself and the planet a world of good.