Growing A More Sustainable Back Garden

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The last few years have seen huge growth in the UK’s interest in sustainability and environmental issues. The amount of household waste that is recycled, for example, has increased by an average 36% in the past 15 years and throughout the country we are seeing interest grow in organic foods and a resurgence in the “grow your own” culture. However, contrary to the assumption that our gardens are havens of sustainability, there is an awful lot more Brits could be doing in our own back yards to be more responsible about the environment.

Being more mindful of your energy use:

Outdoor heaters, lighting, lawn mowers and water features all use significant amounts of energy. Adapting your garden behaviour to reduce the number of electric or gas powered appliances or tools you use, or simply reducing the number of times you use these items will significantly reduce your overall energy output.

Using a manual lawn mower rather than a petrol or electric powered mower, not only reduces emissions, but gives you a bit of a work out at the same time! Outdoor gas patio heaters became such a hot topic that in 2008, the European Parliament considered passing a ban on them! Although gas heaters aren’t the environmental disaster that has become anecdotal in the past few years, it is true that if you are determined to install outdoor heating, electric heaters produce a fraction of the emissions of their louder and smellier gas cousins. If you insist on using them, then consider powering your heaters with a sustainable energy source, such as solar panels. Solar panels can be expensive to install, but over the course of their lifetime they should actually pay off the initial investment through the money they save in energy bills.

We at Floral & Hardy, however, prefer to enjoy our gardens in the evening with a warming glass of wine and a jumper on!

Use water wisely:

Water your plants at dusk. Not only do you ensure that less of the water evaporates from the soil in warm sunlight this way, it’s also healthier for your plants, as they don’t take water into their leaves in the hottest part of the day, risking scorching. Adding mulch around the base of your plants absorbs the water and keeps it close to the base of the plant, ensuring no water runs off and is wasted.

Although the weather across the UK this spring has been relatively fine, it’s still the best time of the year to invest in a water butt to stock up on rainwater during any April (or May!) showers. It seems wasteful to use water from the tap, when you can store free rainwater from your gutters in a water butt. Installing one now will ensure you have a ready supply as watering becomes more frequent.

Using chemicals responsibly:

The majority of gardeners are guilty of using convenient and effective pesticides to manage their garden bugs and weeds, but some chemicals can have a negative impact on your environment and can also harm the good bugs like butterflies, bees and spiders, which all contribute positively to your garden’s ecosystem.

To control insects in your garden and protect your plants from aphids and other pesky insects you can actually make a natural pesticide using mixing chopped or crushed garlic and mineral oil. Spray it over your plants as you would normal insecticide.

Companion planting is also an increasingly popular way of deterring insects, for example marigolds and garlic have a reputation for repelling aphids. Applying strong vinegar to any unwanted weeds in your beds will burn through leaves and roots, killing them just as effectively as chemicals.

Plant diseases often spread in a garden because of a lack of vigilance and because they’re allowed to! Often working hard to contain disease is just as effective as treating your whole garden with pesticides. Remove diseased materials like leaves and branches as soon as you spot them. Don’t compost them, this is a common mistake, throw them out or burn them instead. After disposing of infected plants, wash all of the tools, clothes and footwear you were wearing to do the job in. It seems excessive, but simple and thorough garden hygiene is often overlooked. Intercropping, by planting different species next to each other can also be effective at combating diseases and prevents diseases jumping onto healthy plants.

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