How to create an eco-friendly garden
Everything is becoming more eco-friendly. From our cars and transport to our homes and our clothing, eco-friendly products help the planet (and our consciousness).
You could be forgiven for thinking that your garden is already eco-friendly. Indeed, many are – for example, if you’re attracting wildlife and not using chemicals, there’s a good chance it is already on its way to being green space. And by green in this context, we mean sustainable and environmentally friendly, rather than focusing on foliage.
But there is so much more to be done. From carefully selecting the materials you use to not wasting a single item, there’s no limit to what you can do to help the planet.
Any outdoor space can be made eco-friendly. Small gardens, balconies, alleyways and huge country gardens can all have their part to play.
What is an eco-friendly garden?
An eco-friendly garden reuses materials and tries to minimise the impact on the environment. So, this could be not using plastic materials such as pots. If these materials exist, they will be reused, recycled, or repurposed.
Eco-friendly materials will be chosen, such as wooden labels rather than plastic, or cardboard seed trays. Chemicals will be completely eradicated, using planet-friendly alternatives. And the ‘waste’ from the garden will be conserved as much as possible: water can be captured, old green waste made into compost, and flowers cut for display.
A sustainable garden will go one step further. The idea here is to give back more than it takes, so we are talking about being clever with watering, supporting the local wildlife with nectar-rich plants, and controlling the chemical balance and quality of the soil.
You also need to be careful when choosing your garden plants. If making a wildlife garden, you want to attract local wildlife native to your area, as well as keeping pests at bay in natural ways. Think native plants, encouraging hedgehogs who feed on slugs, and ensuring everything from the soil to the water collection points are wildlife friendly.
Why is eco-friendly so important?
Eco-friendly gardens do a few things:
You’re minimising buying new things, so you’re reducing the demand on the earth’s resources.
You’re using what you already have to hand, repurposing items to reduce waste.
You’re encouraging the natural world, supporting all the wildlife which helps us out too!
You’re not damaging any natural resources – no chemicals in soil or water supplies, and no wasting water or materials.
Just planting foliage and nectar-rich flowers can help, but even the smallest of details can be given an eco-friendly twist.
How to make an eco-friendly garden
Tip1: Add some variation
The grass is good, but adding flowers, shrubs and small trees is even better. If you need to remove some sections of grass to create a border, use a turf cutter. You will then need to ensure the soil is in good condition, so hiring a rotavator could help to get the soil as fine as it needs to be for suitable water drainage, root growth and aeration.
You will also find the soil easier to work with, removing any required to replace with topsoil. It’s also a good time to look for any signs your soil may not be ideal to grow in, such as if it is too clay-like.
When landscaping and gardening, it is really important to wear the correct PPE for the job. You need to wear gloves to protect your hands from the soil, pollen and any sharp branches and brambles. Also, wear eye protection when using power tools, and ensure your feet and legs are suitable covered and protected too. Don’t DIY in flip-flops, even if the weather is lush.
Tip 2: Grow your own produce
Building a raised bed and thinking about what you commonly eat throughout the year, and what you can grow based on your gardening expertise, is a great start. Why? Well, growing fruits and vegetables in your garden which you can eat results in eating fresher food which hasn’t had to travel halfway around the world.
A lot of these crops can support local wildlife such as bees, butterflies and ladybirds. To get started, you just need:
Timber sleepers, cut to size
Screws to attach it all together
Then, fill with compost and you’re good to go. If you’re starting out, pick things which are easy to grow, such as peas and lettuce leaves.
Tip 3: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The good old 3 Rs are the solid foundations of anything sustainability. You should look to reduce what you buy for your eco garden, repurpose what you already have and recycle whatever is finished with.
When buying new furniture or accessories for your outdoor space, think about longevity. Wooden furniture will last longer and can be maintained easier than plastic. You may also be able to reuse the wood when it eventually is past its best or replace sections. Terracotta pots will also last longer than plastic and can be painted if you decide you want to add colour to your garden, rather than buying new.
You don’t just have to plant items in plant pots, either. Do you have an old cookery pot? Old tyres? Storage containers and caddies? As long as a plant has soil, feed, and water, it can grow no matter what it is in.
As starter pots, why not use yoghurt containers or tin cans? Getting one extra use out of them before they go into your recycling bin is better than buying new dedicated starter pots.
But eventually, items can get to the end of their life. When they do, recycle them. You may be able to add some materials to your compost bin, but you may need to throw some away. In this case, ensure you’ve bought materials which can be recycled, such as cardboard starter pots over flimsy plastic.
Tip 4: Choose eco-friendly items
Now, there are plenty of recycled goods out there, from composite decking made from recycled material to paving made from recycled stone. Instead of picking up the first items you see, have a little shop around to see what small businesses are doing to help the planet.
If you can’t see anything which particularly says it is eco-friendly, choose to go local. Source timber or materials such as the wood for building new fences from local yards and nearby businesses, reducing the carbon footprint of your end garden.
Tip 5: Avoid plastic grass
It is easier to cut, yes. But plastic grass, aka AstroTurf, has absolutely no benefit to nature. Bugs don’t like it and can’t live in it, it is a crazy amount of plastic which cannot be recycled, the plastic can pollute the soil for centuries even after it is removed, and the manufacturing/transporting/installation carbon footprint is huge.
Looking after ordinary grass isn’t as difficult as you may expect. Hiring a lawn scarifier once per year, after winter, will remove any moss, thatch and weeds from the grass. This will help improve the look, feel and quality of your grass.
Just sprinkle over some seeds and soil on any bare patches before summer, and mow with a lawnmower to keep it tidy in the nicer weather.
SPEEDY TOP TIP! Wildlife likes slightly longer grass, so keep your lawnmower raised up enough to only cut it to an acceptable length. Also, check nothing is living in the grass before you cut it.
Tip 6: Opt for natural pest control
Avoid using chemicals, sprays, and other risky non-natural products in the garden to control pests and diseases. They can keep the bad things away, but also keep the good bugs away and can damage plants.
Some natural pest control ideas include:
Enticing bug-eating animals, such as hedgehogs and birds, who will eat caterpillars and slugs
Knocking off greenflies and similar pests with a strong jet of water, or wiping them away with damp cloths.
Buying native ladybirds if you have greenfly issues – release them onto plants and build bughouses to keep them in your garden.
Covering plants with garden fleece or netting if you want to keep birds and caterpillars away.
Take a look into companion planting. Some herbs and wildflowers such as tansy can naturally keep away greenflies, ants, and carrot fly.
Tip 7: Retain your rainwater
Have a water butt in your garden to conserve any rainwater over winter. You won’t need to use your tap water, saving money on bills. And, if you buy a dedicated water butt with a tap, you can also attach a hosepipe to it.
But going back to the 3 Rs, you can also reuse any old tubs to save water, too. From paint tins to buckets and old storage tubs, just wash it out before leaving outside. During winter, if they get full, you can use the water inside to give houseplants a drink when required.
SPEEDY TOP TIP! Your water tubs need to be kept open to catch the rainwater, but cover with some sort of strong frame or mesh which will prevent any wildlife from falling in.
Tip 8: Add some hedgerows
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a hedge, but any tall foliage is a great idea. Birds can use it as a nesting area, and also get material from it when nesting elsewhere. Depending on the type of hedge, it can also support other wildlife like butterflies and beetles.
Hedges are a great alternative to fencing, but if you need security to stop the dog from running off, using them alongside your fence is ideal. You can hire hedge trimmers and long-reach saws once or twice a year to keep them tidy and cut back branches.
Tip 9: Make your compost
Before you begin, Gardener’s World has a really good guide on how to make your own compost heap at home. Use vegetable scraps, woody stems, cardboard such as loo rolls or egg boxes, eggshells, old pet bedding and teabags.
So much of this would normally go into your ordinary waste bin, but the great thing about making compost at home is that this waste is repurposed, and you save money too!
If you don’t have the space for a compost bin, avoid buying compost with peat in it. Most shops are now phasing it out. Using peat causes irreparable damage to natural habitats, and as peat takes so long to form, it is highly unsustainable.
The most crucial factor of compost is that it is nutrient rich, which will help your garden to thrive and minimise the work you have to put in.
READY FOR MORE DIY TIPS?
Thank you for reading our Speedy Services blog. We hope you can follow some of the above tips to make an eco-friendly garden which works for you.
When it comes to growing your own produce and creating a home for bugs and wildlife, you may be interested in variety and planting flowers and shrubs. Read our guide on how to build a raised garden bed which is kept separate from your lawn.
Please visit our Skills and Projects page if you want to continue transforming your home and garden.
You’ll find all the power tools and hire equipment you need right here. Why not start planning your next DIY project today and open a Speedy account online or in-store for all your tool hire needs.
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