Habits for Sustainable Gardening
The meaning behind sustainable gardening
Apart from being a place of tranquillity and natural beauty, gardens are a sanctuary for all types of flora and fauna. Gardens absorb CO2, help to maintain lower local air temperatures via evaporation and reduce rainwater run-off through absorption. These are just a few of the things that make gardening so beneficial for our environment.
Like most things in nature, however, an equilibrium is involved. For our gardens to provide a net positive, the benefits they offer the environment must not be negated elsewhere. It's a fine balancing act and often we have to look further afield to fully understand the detrimental effects of gardening as a pursuit.
And so to garden sustainably, we are conserving our garden's ecological balance without over-depleting natural resources in the process.
Practical steps to achieve sustainable gardening
One in two people in the UK consider themselves to be a gardener, meaning that around 30 million people choose to undertake a form of stewardship for a small part of our planet. Collectively our actions play a huge part in how we approach some of the biggest ecological challenges that we face.
Avoid single use plastics
The Horticultural Trades Association, or HTA, suggests that the UK horticulture industry uses 30,000 tonnes of plastic each year. Much of this plastic is single or short-term use, such as packaging, pots, container packs, labels, bottles and netting, just to name a few. Can you imagine what 30,000 tonnes of plastic would look like? It's almost incomprehensible.
Most of this plastic is not recycled because it's an incompatible colour for the recycling process and so ends up in landfill. These plastics do not break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming micro-plastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.
Recently, UK manufacturers have been offering environmentally friendly alternatives. Frankton's stock a range of these and the price differential is minimal. These taupe pots are made from 100% recycled plastic and can be recycled locally. These Vipot pots are created from natural materials and last for around 5 years before they can be crumbled up into your composter. This lifespan compares favourably with plastic pots, which during the same period can become brittle and crack.
It's not just plant pots that can be made from recycled materials. Frankton's stock a range of other products that are made from recycled plastic, from hand tools to water butts. Shop our recycled range here to see if your next purchase can help to keep plastics out of our oceans and landfills.
Plant native species
A species is considered native if it occurred naturally in the UK without human introduction. Being an island, there are many species that either originate only from the UK or indeed exist scarcely elsewhere. Most UK native plants arrived after the last ice age, almost 10,000 years ago. It was the melting of this ice that left Britain an island, and thus prevented migration of species that developed here.
Native plants are important because the ecosystem that has developed in the mean time depends on them. Unique native wildflowers, for instance, have become perfectly matched to UK pollinators.
While the media often cites concerns about non-native species, we should be aware that there are detrimental effects of a decline in native ones too. Choosing special mixes of wildflowers is a great way to help native pollinators to thrive.
Invest in quality tools
Buy cheap pay twice, a saying that applies to the environment as well as the wallet. With our dreams to fill the garden with beautiful plants, the price premium that a quality tool presents can lead us to choose cheaper alternatives.
When we plant a tree, we stand back and imagine what it will look like in years to come. The excitement that gardening brings stems from thinking long-term. If we take a long-term view about garden tools too, it becomes apparent that investing in quality, long lasting tools is not only better for the pocket but also for the environment.
When buying hand tools, Frankton's recommends looking at the guarantee. Those with long guarantees, such as these, offer the buyer confidence about longevity. Our Burgon & Ball and GARDENA tools are made with FSC timber or from recycled plastic. Some even come with lifetime guarantees.
Conserve WaterAlthough considered abundant in the UK, we have become accustomed to the threat of water shortages during the summer, just when plants need water the most. Plants also need watering whenever there is a prolonged period of wind, which dehydrates leaves and soil quickly.
The HOTBIN composter is designed to use these ingredients to produce mulch in just 30 days and rich, organic compost in 90 days.
Gardeners are usually aware that overwatering is just as detrimental to plants as under watering. Most plant roots are not adapted to sit in water and drown because oxygen is excluded. The most important step a gardener can take to minimise water use is to first check if plants really need watering. Take a trowel and look below the surface to see how far down the dry soil extends. Charles Dowding, an expert in No Dig, explains the art of watering in this YouTube video. Remember that when plants do not have quite enough water, they respond by making deeper root growth thus resulting in a more resilient plant.
Each year the average home could catch enough water to fill a water butt hundreds of times over. Not only would drinking water be conserved, but our plants and vegetables would receive the type of water they need - rainwater, which has lower Ph levels.
Frankton's have a large range of water butts available in all different shapes and styles to suit your needs. Some, such as this rainwater barrel are made to look like a cask, while this one is made to look like a large terracotta urn. We also have a great range made from recycled plastic at very affordable prices. Locate the water butt in a suitable place near a convenient down pipe. We stock a variety of downpipes kits depending on the shape and colour of pipe, all at very reasonable prices. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries, we'd love to answer your questions.
The GARDENA Manual Tap Timer is a battery-free water timer that you can connect to a tap to control water use. It can also be attached to a water butt (provided it has a minimum 0.5 bar pressure) to ensure you wisely meter your carefully stored water. The duration of irrigation can be varied between 5 and 120 minutes. This is a perfect accompaniment to the GARDENA Ecoline Sprinkler, a product made with more than 65% recycled plastic that comes with a 5 year guarantee and has a reach of up to 220 square meters.
If you have ever watered a very dry plant pot, you may have noticed that water passes straight through the bottom. If this happens, a good solution is to sit pots inside a drip tray. Any run-off is caught and retained, allowing reabsorption by the compost and roots in contact with it.
Plant a dry garden
Planting drought resistant plants is a great way of conserving water and ensuring that you have a garden full of plants able to survive the summer and still look great.
The RHS has this advice on drought resistant plants and Gardens Illustrated have this article, describing how English inspired planting can work even in the Spanish climate.
Go peat-freeThe plants and trees in our gardens are a wonderful way of taking CO2 out of the air and fixing it in to the soil, but it is nowhere near as effective at doing so as our peatlands. The planet's 10 billion acres of peat hold more CO2 than all of the world's forests combined. By going peat-free, we avoid undoing the good work of our garden and help keep the CO2 in the peat lands, where it belongs.
When choosing your compost, always ensure that it's labelled as peat-free.
More advice here from the RHS.
Feed Your Garden OrganicallyProduction of synthetic fertilisers is very bad for the environment, expensive to buy and merely provides a flash-in-the-pan effect on plant growth. Quick results are often encouraging, however, they are not a substitute for natural nourishment and should be avoided. The drawbacks of quick growth can be seen in the levels of resilience displayed by the plants that receive them. They lack drought tolerance and are more affected by pests. The soil, which is the medium for the synthetic fertiliser, cannot retain it, so it's quickly depleted by spells of rainfall.
Gardening organically means thinking about the soil first. Mulching or topping up your borders and vegetable plots with compost each two years will provide all of the nutrients and structure that your plants need. Natural fertilisers are retained for long periods in the soil, thus do not wash away. Good mulch retains moisture and of course new mulch means the opportunity for fresh, white, fluffy fungi to grow - a sure sign of healthy soil. More on that in future articles.
Organic leachate, a natural liquid run-off from the process of bokashi and hot composting is also a wonderful natural fertiliser. This leachate can be diluted to become a liquid fertiliser. Please read the HOTBIN composting article about it, which covers this in more detail.