How can I garden to save the planet?

Reduce reuse recycle has never been as critical as now. Our entire existence as humans relies on our planet surviving not just scraping along but flourishing. We must ensure future generations have a functional planet to live on. Sound dramatic? Well unfortunately it is time to stop procrastinating and implement action.

Sacrifice a bit of convenience for forward planning and reduce the drain on natural resources. It just requires a change of mind set. So how can we help save the planet?

Reduce

There are many wasteful practises in the gardening industry. Change is slowly happening but we can all help by reducing our own waste.

  • Stop buying single use plastic.
  • Grow your own fruit and veg.
  • Look for biodegradable alternatives to plastic pots such as coir (coconut husk) rice husk, bamboo or cardboard.
  • Make your own newspaper pots.
    Make paper pots from newspaper with a wooden paper potter
    Image: Debi Holland
  • Use terracotta or glazed pots. If they break use the chards as crocks in the base of pots.
  • Grow drought tolerant plants to reduce water usage.
  • Propagate your own plants and swap with friends.
  • Make your own compost.

Reuse

Plastic is highly contentious but in particular single use plastic poses the greatest problem so rather than condemning your waste to landfill think of ways it could be used again.

  • Reuse compost, bark and grit plastic bags to make your own leaf mould or store homemade compost.
  • Use local manure suppliers and return the bags to be refilled.
  • Do not throw away your plastic plant pots and seed trays but reuse them. They will serve you well for years!
  • Plastic pots can be reused to make gifts. Plant up with bulbs for Christmas, birthdays, Mother and Father’s Day.
  • Discarded plastic pots can be used as ‘crocks’ in the base of large pots to improve drainage and fill space so less soil required making the pot lighter.
  • Reuse pruned branches and smaller woody stems. They will make a superb wildlife habitat piled up in a quiet corner of the garden. Or use them to support young plants as they establish and grow.
  • Check locally for nurseries that sell seed, beans and bulbs loose. Purchase using your own containers or bags.
Think of ways to re-use containers
Image: Debi Holland

Think before you throw things away… could this be used for another purpose? Landfill should be a last resort.

Recycle

In ‘normal circumstances ‘ many nurseries will recycle your used plastic pots; when possible check locally to find out where you can take yours. Donate pots to your local allotment association, club or school or try recycling products at home.

  • Plastic milk cartons make ideal, lightweight watering cans.
  • Cut a milk carton in half for a handy compost scoop.
    A milk carton makes a handy compost scoop
    Image: Debi Holland
  • Make your own homemade comfrey or nettle tea in the large chicken manure or wool pellet tubs.
  • Used tins, paint cans and colanders make quirky plant pots or try tyres, milk cartons and old sinks!
  • Create a mini pond from recycling styrofoam packaging.
  • Use toilet roll inner tubes as eco pots or to protect seedlings from slugs and snails.
Add a pond, however small to your plot and watch the wildlife move in
Image: Debi Holland

Plant a tree

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen so provide the perfect symbiotic relationship with us humans. They naturally help combat climate change by catching carbon.

Choose low maintenance disease resistant trees which are fast growing, have large leaves and a long life expectancy. London plane, horse chestnut, oak and pine suit large gardens whereas rowan, amelanchier, fruit trees and acers are ideal for smaller gardens.

Get your community growing
Image: Debi Holland

Trees are also tremendously important in improving soil structure and reducing erosion so can reduce potential flooding as well as providing a habitat for wildlife, shade and a calm green space to lift spirits and wellbeing.

Collect rainwater

Spells of prolonged drought make it imperative to collect every drop of water available to us. Set up a water butt to store the run off from your roof or tap into your down pipe.

Whether or not you are on a meter being as economical as possible with water is important for the environment to reduce strain on local resources.

Make your own compost

While councils have reduced or stopped collecting green waste, don’t let yours go to waste. You can recycle it by composting it into soil conditioner, to save yourself some money and reduce plastic bag waste by making your own.

Buy a purpose built compost bin or construct one from wood. Check out these other ways to recycle here. Locate in a discreet area in the garden out of view but easy to access.

Ideal composting material comprises of healthy garden waste, lawn clippings, coffee grounds and uncooked food waste. Avoid woody material unless shredded, cooked food which can attract rats and perennial weeds as the roots will not decompose.

Compost garden waste into a valuable soil conditioner
Image: Debi Holland

Go Peat-Free

Buy peat-free compost. Peat bogs provide rare habitat for many plants but resources are rapidly diminishing so try alternatives such as coir (coconut fibre), green compost, wood fibre and composted bark mixed with course materials such are sharp sand and grit to provide air spaces.

Plant a wildflower meadow

Not everyone has the space to plant a wildflower meadow but if you do or can action a community project then the soil beneath your blooms will hold enough carbon to rival a woodland canopy! Who’d have thought? Never mind the fact that you would be creating a biodiverse pollinator paradise, a nesting area for birds, insects and small mammals!

Leave a section of your lawn to grow a little longer and allow the lawn ‘weeds’ to flower. You might be surprised by what grows and flowers there.

With 97% of wildflower meadows wiped out since WWII, the planet needs your help.

 

 

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