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Top tips for gardening more sustainably in Aldbury
ACG Sustainability Top Tips: Text
ACG Sustainability Top Tips: Pro Gallery
Gardening is, on balance, kind to the planet, particularly if you garden with wildlife in mind. Have you read the article yet on the topic here? The two topics have a lot of synergy. Homegrown vegetables and flowers reduce airmiles, transport and packaging costs, even if you can only grow a few. But thoughtless gardening can also do a lot of damage with indiscriminate use of plastics and chemicals. So, here are a few tips to help us all become more aware of what we can all do better to be kinder to the earth.
Plant more trees
Trees draw down carbon from the atmosphere and reduce climate change. If our 30 million UK gardeners planted a medium-sized tree and nurtured it to maturity they would store enough CO2 to drive you 11 million times around the planet. Have hedges instead of fences; hedges offer biodiversity habitats and counter air pollution.
Rains not mains
Collect the water which drips (and sometimes gushes) from your roof into a butt. Sprinkler systems are generally wasteful, although there are some ‘micro-dosing’ ones around which look more sensible (albeit made of plastic). Best to stick with a watering can so you can talk to your plants on the way round. Reuse paddling pool water on your plants in the summer. There are even systems available for saving your bathwater before it disappears into mains drainage.
Bogs not bags
Peatlands are the world’s largest carbon store on land, more than all the forest combined. They provide valuable ecosystems and act like sponges, reducing the risk of flooding. There are plenty of peat-free alternatives available which work just as well – listen to the experts - so we can keep peat in bogs not bags. Or….
…you could save an average of 5kg of CO2 per year and save money to buy incredible plants! It is easier than you think and your veggies will thank you and you can reduce or stop use of artificial fertilisers.
Plants not paving
Are there spots in your garden where you could plant drought resistant cover plants like thyme rather than have concrete slabs? The bees would love you for it. There’s lots of advice about which plants are pollinator-friendly in the Gardening for Wildlife section. We can reverse the declines in bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies by growing a wide variety of plants including a mixture of native, near-native and exotic plants to support pollinator diversity but do check they are not on the invasive list. e.g. Japanese knotweed. Hard standing, where rain runs off rather than soaking into the ground, can cause both droughts locally and floods where the run-off gathers so keep it to a minimum.
Gift home grown
Imported flowers have up to 10 x the carbon footprint of UK-grown bouquets. Home grown is best. And every host I know loves a home-made jam or pickle instead of a box of chocolates!
f you have a choice of petrol power tools or mower, choose electric (and switch to 100% renewable electricity providers if possible).
Quit pesticide use
There is normally a natural product which works just as well as the nasties. If you have to get rid of pesticides and weedkillers don’t pour them down drains.
Swap and share
Gluts of home-grown seasonal fruit and vegetables can be shared/swapped with your neighbours (where do those marrows end up each year!). Even courgettes can make good chutney and any excess preserves can be donated to foodbanks. Perhaps we need a gardeners’ WhatsApp support group?!
There are some tried and tested ways of improving yields and reducing pests. Try planting French marigolds near tomatoes or beans (greenfly hate them). Onions and leeks repel carrot fly, whilst carrots apparently also repel leek moth – a match made in heaven! Don’t forget that pea family (sweet peas, lupins, peas, beans) draw nitrogen to their roots which supports fruit yields if canes, bushes or trees are planted nearby. As our summer temperatures are likely to increase with climate change, plant more drought-resistant plants such as hebes, lavenders, buddleias and rosemary.
Try to use clay/terracotta pots where you can and don’t buy new plastic ones. Where you buy plants that come in plastic pots, save and reuse them until they fall apart. Other members of AGC might be able to reuse any clean plastic pots or seeds trays you have no use for, so don’t throw them away; just get in touch with the AGC committee by email. If you must buy anything made of plastic, make sure it is robust enough to last for many years rather than flimsy plastic which ends u being trown away after one season.
You can also make use of plastic packing that food is sold in. Until plastic veg and fruit boxes disappear from supermarkets we can use them to grow seeds in.
Buy concentrated solutions of any liquid feed etc rather than diluted to save transport costs.
If you are buying an all-weather rattan garden furniture sets check they are made using recycled polyethylene.
We can also help by using biodegradable wooden or bamboo plant labels (get kids to save lolly sticks) and wool or jute twine ties rather than plastic. Or, if you do use plastic labels, write on them in pencil and then clean the writing off each year so they can be reused.
Put those you no longer use on eBay or freecycle or give them away on Everything Aldbury.
All your excess healthy seedlings and seeds can be brought to the Aldbury Garden Club plant sales and swaps, or given to neighbours. Spread the love when it comes to strong plants!
Let it go!
Let your lawn grow a little long in Spring and Autumn. Let it go a little brown in summer. Insects will love it but you’ll also save electricity, petrol and time so that you can relax, and enjoy a nice glass of (biodynamic, organic, sustainable, carbon-neutral) wine!
Figures come from RHS.org.uk
Lucy Carmody, 26th March 2022
ACG Sustainability Top Tips: Text
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