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Five tips for an eco-friendly garden

31st March 2021

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Each and every one of our gardens is a little piece of nature, so it’s important that we do our bit to make a positive impact, to encourage natural biodiversity and to maintain a healthy ecosystem. These simple tips are a great place to start.

Encourage pollinators
Britain’s bee population is under threat. Bees and other pollinators are absolutely crucial to our ecosystem because of their role in fertilising new plant growth. However, since 1900 we have lost 13 species of bee here in the UK - with a further 35 currently under threat of extinction.

Bees are also “crucial to the economy” according to Friends of the Earth. Their figures suggest it would cost £1.8bn to pollinate British crops without bees.

In order to encourage pollinators, it’s important to have flowering plants in your garden and look out for varieties that are particularly attractive to pollinators. This is commonly listed on packaging now. Examples include borage, dahlias, daisies and dandelions.

Use peat-free compost
Here in the UK, we are ranked in the top ten countries for peatland area. “Area for area, peatlands store more carbon than rainforests,” according to the RHS. So, peat bogs are a crucial part of our ecosystem but at least 80% of them are known to be damaged.

While the plight of rainforests has been discussed for years, the damage done to peatlands is comparatively under-appreciated.

How can you help? Firstly, it’s important to buy peat-free compost. Many composts still contain peat, but you may have noticed that - as far as possible - we always try to recommend peat-free composts in Grow Your Own magazine. It’s a small but important contribution to our environment. The RHS recommends you check the packaging carefully, as some composts listed as ‘environmentally friendly’ are, in fact, not peat-free. 

Recycle in the garden
There are thousands of ways to make do and mend in the garden. It’s the perfect place to repurpose and recycle old or unwanted items and - if you think outside the box - you could find some amazing new uses for things. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Firstly, use toilet roll tubes or newspapers as pots for seedlings: We discuss this tip semi regularly because it’s such a good one! Once your seedling has grown on healthily, you can plant it out without removing the card or paper, because that will rot down in the soil.

Secondly, repurpose old fruit punnets and takeaway containers as seed trays. There’s no need to buy lots of plastic seed trays if you already have plastic that you’re about to recycle or throw away. Fruit punnets are good because they already have drainage holes - be sure to cut/drill some if you use an old takeaway container as a seed tray. Equally, large yoghurt pots can be washed out and used for individual seedlings too.

Welcome wildlife
Perhaps the most rewarding item on this list - encouraging wildlife into your garden is not only environmentally responsible, it’s also really fun. What could be better than seeing birds, beasts and bugs out on your plot? Maybe you’ll spot a hedgehog in the evening, play host to a hare, or spot some songbirds. It’s wonderful to see nature doing its thing on your little piece of the world.

So, how can you get started? Bird baths and bird boxes are always a good start. You can also make ponds to welcome frogs and other creatures, or leave areas of your garden wild. This is more likely to encourage wildlife than a neatly trimmed lawn and can give them spots to search for food, or even sleep. Bug hotels are another fantastic option and for more details on all of these suggestions, take a look at the RSPB website.

Enjoy your own fruit and veg
It’s simple and - of course - it’s what we’re all here for, but growing and eating your own fruit and veg is a fantastically environmentally friendly thing to do. Think of all the transportation and delivery that you are cutting out of the process - when you compare your own fruit and vegetables to those you might buy in a supermarket. It also means you’ll be eating fruit and veg in season - rather than eating out of season crops which have to be flown or shipped in for far flung countries with different climates.

Words by George Storr

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