Eco-friendly gardening encompasses a wide range of radically forward-thinking methods that anyone can adopt in the garden in response to the ever-increasing threat posed by climate change.
These innovative outdoor pursuits centre around decreasing harmful greenhouse emissions which occur as a result of day-to-day gardening techniques. Eco-friendly gardening also encourages the intake of carbon dioxide by soils and plants.
At Trees Direct, we are passionate about the environment, which is why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to allow keen gardeners to rethink the way they go about their outdoor chores while explaining how these methods can impact local, national and global ecologies.
Eco-Friendly Gardening: The Basics
According to conservation.org, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere in 2018 was the highest it’s been in 3 million years.
This shocking figure just outlines the global importance of doing everything we can do to reduce our household carbon footprint. In recent years, a wide selection of environmentally conscious advancements, such as solar panels, biomass heating and electric cars, have brought environmental concerns into the mainstream. However, although significant progress has been, the fact remains that many facets of modern life are having a negative impact on the planet.
For example, many methods and tools used in the garden actually harm the environment rather than contribute to it. This includes synthetic fertilisers which contaminate natural soil stores and ineffective watering systems which use up unnecessary energy.
Fortunately, eco-friendly gardening offers an alternative which reduces toxic emissions and encourages wildlife by preserving their habitat.
Organic gardening takes on the leading causes of climate change; depleting water supplies, habitat destruction, chemically tainted produce and declining wildlife species and attempts to find a solution.
By overhauling your current gardening procedures with careful plant care, such as making your own compost and water preservation methods, such as installing rainwater butts, it’s possible to safeguard your local ecosystem; it’s residents, plant life and wildlife from further harm.
How Can I Make a Difference?
By gardening in a sustainable, natural way, you are not only impacting your local area but also the general wellbeing of the planet too – if more people were to take up eco-friendly gardening, it would be much easier to maintain delicate ecosystems for years into the future.
Although eco-gardening may require a complete equipment overhaul, the rewards and change of mindset will be more than worth it. Each plant, crop or tree will all exist to serve a purpose, from home-grown fruits and vegetables which offer a tasty and sustainable way to feed your family, to trees which are able to absorb excess carbon from the air.
Unlike many modern gardens that offer style over substance, an eco-garden can be a long-term and practical way to maintain ecosystems for species of all kinds for the long-term.
It really doesn’t matter whether you have sprawling acres or a small patch of back garden to play with, you can enjoy the benefits of the eco-lifestyle whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned veteran. You may wish to put together a maintenance-free outdoor space or, if you’ve got plenty of time to invest, perhaps you’d like to create the extravagant garden of your dreams.
How Does Eco-Friendly Gardening Reduce CO2?
For years people took it for granted that any garden is by definition an eco-friendly one, given that plants and trees produce oxygen.
However, we know now that this isn’t the case and if gardeners are serious about reducing their personal impact on the environment, they must first be aware of what harm they could be doing and how to rectify it.
Some of the most common issues are:
Although artificial fertilisers containing nitrogen may speed up plant growth, they will have been produced using the Haber Bosch method; a system that converts methane from natural gas into hydrogen. Carbon dioxide production is one of the side effects of this process, which is why synthetic fertiliser is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite the complex science behind this issue, the solution is actually a straightforward one: make your own compost. Not only does this keep costs down, but it also gives you somewhere to recycle food and garden waste, while also ensuring you’re using a 100% organic fertiliser that isn’t having a detrimental impact on the environment.
Naturally occurring wetland or peat bogs, absorb a vast amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, by purchasing peat-based compost, you’re inadvertently depleting these resources and damaging the Earth’s ability to process greenhouse gases.
This article by the Independent was released in 2010, it highlights just how long this has been on the agenda, and still almost half of the compost sold in the UK contains peat – you should only buy compost that is stamped with a ‘no peat’ certification.
The good news is that there are many alternatives available from any good gardening store. The most effective is coir-based compost, which utilises waste produce generated by processing coconut fibre. Coir compost is used all over the world due to the low levels of carbon dioxide production sent into the atmosphere during transportation.
If you frequently heat up your greenhouse over winter, you’re using additional resources and money which you don’t need to be. This is because run-of-the-mill greenhouses aren’t fitted with double glazing and are well ventilated to aid plant growth. This releases most of the heat that you pump into them anyway.
The solution is to cultivate your seedlings inside your home under spectrum lighting and leave the greenhouse empty over the colder months. By doing this, you can heat your home and keep your family and seedlings warm at the same time.
What Trees Are Best for Reducing CO2?
We all know that plants absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen, but what you may not know is that carbon on our planet is a constant, and it’s able to move and change form quite easily.
Burning fossil fuels, such as oil, which have been submerged under the Earth’s surface for thousands of years, converts the carbon into harmful emissions. Once these emissions enter the atmosphere, they ingest and re-emit infrared radiation, which contributes to the warming of the ozone layer.
Scientists believe that the long-term solution to this issue is carbon sequestration. This process involves planting trees that can absorb excess levels of carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, which will be stored within the tree for the remainder of its life.
Although all living plant matter absorbs carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, trees can take on significantly more than other plant species due to more abundant biomass, root structures and life span.
If you’re looking to plant trees to reduce carbon emissions, you should, generally speaking, adhere to the following guidelines:
- Plant trees with broad leaves and crowns to maximise photosynthesis.
- Choose trees with a fast growth rate – these will be able to store larger amounts of carbon in their first few years of development.
- Select trees with a considerable life expectancy since these will store carbon within their trunks for years without releasing it.
- Plant native trees that are attuned to your region and climate, since these will thrive and support the plants and animals in that area.
- Select tree types that are most resistant to disease, since these will be able to repel the effects of any contamination.
Above all else, the one golden rule to remember is to ensure that plants and trees you select require minimal maintenance. Otherwise, once you’re no longer able to care for the tree, it will either die or require the intervention of expensive tree surgeons.
There are dozens of choices of species to choose from, so as long as you plant a tree that can thrive in the right location, climate and soil you will be contributing positively to the environment.
What About Fruits & Vegetables?
One of the most exciting eco-friendly gardening practices that you can take up is growing your own food. Not only will you and your family benefit from living self-sufficiently, but you can also save up to two pounds of carbon dioxide for every pound of fruit and veg that you grow.
This is because many commercial farmers utilise large agricultural vehicles, petroleum-based fertilisers and destructive pesticides to meet demand. Adopting organic crop growth in your garden reduces your carbon footprint and the cost of your food bills.
Assuming all goes well, your initial investment will yield at least ten times the amount in seasonal crops, that haven’t been tampered with and will taste all the better for it.
Choosing Your Plot
No matter the size of your outdoor space, there will undoubtedly be room for different types of fruits and vegetables. As we’ve mentioned you could be lucky enough to have acres to play with, or you might only have a few hanging baskets or indoor pot plants, but so long as your plants have plenty of sunlight, you can reap the benefits of homegrown produce.
You will, however, need to ensure you take the required safeguards to protect your seedlings from changeable weather conditions such as wind, frost and snow. Of course, if you plan to grow your produce indoors, then this isn’t something you need to worry about.
Otherwise, it’d be a wise idea to invest in cloches, row tunnels and hoop tunnels to sit over your crops to protect them. Always check that they are manufactured with organic gardening standards in mind before you buy them, though.
Alternatively, you could always make your own cloches by cutting old plastic bottles in half and punching holes in the bottom half for drainage. Not only with this neat improvisation protect your seedlings from the weather, but also from destructive insects, slugs and snails.
Fruit & Veg Beds
There’s a considerable selection of diseases and soil-borne pests that may prevent your produce from reaching its maximum potential. Therefore, if you plan to grow a variety of fruits and veg, it would be advisable to plant similar food in the same garden bed to prevent cross-contamination from these potentially fatal diseases and dangerous pests.
By doing this, you can rotate your garden beds every year to ensure a full, healthy yield.
Also, there are individual plants, that, when grown in conjunction with others, will complement each other and encourage growth and continued health. This could be as simple as a tall plant providing shelter for smaller ones or planting certain species which deter certain kinds of pests, more specifically:
Tomatoes & Chives
The sweet onion scent produced by chives deters green flies and other predators when grown near each other.
Roses & Garlic
Rose plants and garlic have long been close companions, and this is because garlic is an effective guard against pests and fungal disease, and the flowers of the garlic perfectly compliment a rose in bloom.
Carrots & Spring Onions
The scent of onion plants is known to prevent carrot root fly attacks. Conversely, the smell of the carrot plant will also prevent various winged insect species from attacking the onions.
Dill, Radishes & Cucumbers
If you plant dill near cucumbers you will be attracting predatory wasps, hoverflies and other beneficial predators that prey on the types of soil and flying insects which would otherwise attack your crop. If you were also to plant radishes near cucumber, you’d also be reducing your chances of attracting cucumber beetles.
The likes of mango and avocado trees are better suited to tropical climates. That said, certain fruit trees such as apple, cherries, pears, quince, mulberries and plums are well at home in the milder British weather and can do very, very well. The same can be said for hazel, chestnut and walnut trees.
If space is at a premium though, it’s a good idea to train espalier fruit trees, since this will still provide you with tasty fruit, but it will take up much less space.
Reduce Waste – Reuse & Recycle
According to The Guardian, when demand is at its the peak, gardening consumes up to 70% of the UK water supply, which forces suppliers to tap into under and above ground reserves contributing to environmental damage and soaring energy costs.
This massive demand has led many organic gardeners to devise their own solutions to preserve such a precious commodity with a range of re-use, reduction and recycling techniques.
Many of these ideas don’t break the bank and are easy to implement.
Roughly 24,000 litres of rain falls each year in the UK – even in the driest parts. An eco-friendly plastic or terracotta rainwater butt will hold upwards of 160 litres of fallen rainwater. By stockpiling excess water over the autumn and winter periods, you can conserve vital water supplies for potential hosepipe bans and save money in the process.
Even though it may not look the nicest, reusing grey water collected from your sink, showers and baths are safe to water your plants with, so long as the water doesn’t contain chemical cleaning products such as bleach or disinfectant.
Even experienced gardeners, when caught out by the weather, can mistakenly over or under-water their plants, which can both overuse resources and hinder the growth of your crops.
To avoid this mistake, push the blade of a spade down into the soil around the plant, and if it’s still damp, there’s no need to water it.
As a general rule of thumb, most plants require about 24 litres of water every ten days or so. Sandy soils require more water than heavy soils, and clay-based soils will also need frequent watering, but in larger volumes.
It’s also best to water during the evenings, especially during higher temperatures. This is to ensure that your plants can retain more oxygen and essential nutrients and the leaves won’t sear in the heat.
Natural Compost & Fertiliser
In addition to household and garden water, there are also other products you can recycle for the garden.
Small plastic containers such as yoghurt pots can be used to plant seeds, and if you live near the sea, you can even use old shells as a replacement for gravel, decorative features or as mulch for your beds.
Ultimately, so long as the products within the containers don’t contain chemicals, pesticides or disinfectants that could harm your plants and wildlife, they can be used for various purposes in the garden.
It doesn’t matter what kind of earth you have in your garden; compost will help fortify the soil structure; helping to retain water and store the vital nutrients the roots need to breathe, which in turn, attracts worms and other insects which can enrich the compost, which is returned to the plant.
Although many gardeners are aware of the benefits of compost, many still rely on the synthetic stuff, which can’t retain nutrients and can actually pollute plant life.
It’s for this reason that organic gardeners make their own rich compost made from 100% organic matter. Making compost is entirely free, requires very little investment and is a great way to recycle food waste.
How Can I Make My Own Compost?
Compost is really very easy to make and doesn’t require much in the way of resources. In fact, a list of the following is all you need to get started:
- Leaves, stripped branches, foliage and other natural litter
- Grass and untreated wood chips
- Plants and shrubbery
- Food such as fruit and veg peel, eggshells, slightly off veg, tea bags and coffee grounds
- Old newspapers, cardboard and other paper items such as shredder leavings
When making compost, you should only ever use natural, organic materials. Never use substances which could affect the balance of the soil, such as diseased plants and sprouting weeds, or food which could attract rats such as meat, dairy products or oil.
Once you have brought together your selection of organic materials, break them down into smaller pieces, then layer them up in a pile or onto a compost container.
There’s a wide selection of eco-friendly compost bins available, or you can even choose to put together your own using a metal bin, plastic bin bags or any kind of large plastic container.
Regardless of what kind of container you choose to use, after collecting all of your compostable materials and putting them together, all you’ll need to do in the meantime is water and turn your heap at regular intervals to keep it moist and aerated.
How to Use Your Fertiliser
Once your concoction has turned dark brown or black in colour and is crumbly, it’s ready to be used as fertiliser. There are numerous different ways you can utilise your brown gold.
There are three primary nutrients that plants require to thrive:
• Nitrogen – Promotes dark green stems and encourages leaf growth
• Phosphorus – Supports rapid plant and seedling development, as well as robust stems, roots and flowers.
• Potassium – Develops overall vigour and bolsters drought and disease resistance.
Although these three amigos are essential for healthy plant development, they aren’t found in every soil type, which is why more and more gardeners are opting to take matters into their own hands.
To Support Growth in the Early Stages
If you spread some of your fertiliser around every time you dig a new hole and mix it around with the existing soil, you can provide your new plants, trees, flowers, fruit and vegetables with the best possible start to life.
: Adding organic matter to the soil is probably the most crucial thing any gardener can do to keep the soil as healthy as possible. Mulching with fertiliser can prevent the land from compacting and drying out due to excess temperatures, which can sap the ground of available nutrients. Doing this will increase the presence of earthworms and other microbial organisms, which promote healthy plant growth and suppress moisture stealing weeds.
Boost Dying Plants
If you begin to see plants with discoloured leaves that aren’t blossoming as you’d expect, they may be lacking one of the three ingredients we previously discussed. Scatter an inch or so of the fertiliser around roots of the plant to give them a timely boost.
In this blog, we’ve covered everything from recycling to mulching, but if you have any questions about organic practices in the garden and your carbon footprint, then don’t hesitate to contact us here at Trees Direct.
Our business began due to a shared passion for nature and wonders of the outdoors, which is why we’re dedicated to doing everything we can as a business to contribute to the reversal of climate change.
If you have any questions about eco-friendly gardening or any of the products we’ve featured here today, then contact over the phone on 01584 380 001 or drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.