Eco anxiety is a new pressure people are feeling, particularly our younger members of the community. Research by Bath University shows that 60% of children and young people describe themselves as very or extremely worried by climate change…and who can blame them? The terrifying pictures we see of deforestation, wildfires, flooding, and other extreme weather events can be overwhelming.
We are told if we all work together, we can help reduce climate change. So, what, as gardeners, can we do to help? Firstly, we need to understand the term Sustainability and what it means. I searched online for a definition and was surprised by the differing opinions but the University of Gävle have put it most succinctly: Ecological sustainability means the following:
· Conserve the productivity of the waters, the soil and the ecosystems on a long-term basis
· Reduce our impact on the natural environment and people’s health to a level that the natural environment and humanity can handle
· To take long-term sustainability as our starting point in matters regarding products, production, resources and climate and environmental impact
We need to take a longer-term view that our gardens and natural spaces are not just for the here and now but to be enjoyed by future generations. It is practically impossible to live modern life in a completely sustainable way but here are some top tips for a more sustainable garden:
· Water harvesting by installing water butts – the larger the better
· Drip irrigation system
· Don’t water your lawn and leave the grass longer in summer
· Mulch your borders with homemade leaf mould and compost to aid water retention
· Use permeable paving for paths, and other hardscaped areas to help prevent flooding
· Go wild – do you have an area of lawn where you can plant wildflowers?
· Plant flowers that are good for pollinators
· Create a wildlife pond – if you have a small garden, even just a small bucket dug into the ground will attract wildlife into your garden –it really works, we found a newt in Bailey’s outdoor water bowl, he was very confused!
· Hedges offer wildlife habitats and help to counter air pollution. Cotoneaster franchetii is a ‘super plant’ to help boost the environment and improve human health because of its special ability to fight pollution by trapping harmful airborne particles.
· Create bug hotels, bird and bat boxes in the garden, as well as twigs and leaves in piles at the backs of borders
Trees & Plants
· Grow your own plants from seed or propagating cuttings
· Choose drought tolerant varieties
· Trees are excellent carbon sinks and there are trees to suit all garden sizes, even if you have a courtyard garden or balcony
· Many nurseries are now using recyclable or coir pots. Re-use plastic pots
· Try to avoid other single use plastics… buy compost in re-usable bags or bulbs in paper or compostable bags
Pest & Disease
· Choose disease resistant plant and tree varieties
· Ensure you follow recommendations for watering and feeding, as the healthier the plant, the better it can defend against disease.
· Right plant, right place
· Use environmentally friendly pest controls – slugs hate eggshells and coffee grounds, pick caterpillars and other larger pests off plants, encourage ladybirds and hoverflies as they will eat your aphids.
Materials & Waste
· Make your own compost and leaf mould
· When buying commercial compost, choose peat-free
· Use biodegradable wooden plant labels
· Use twine ties not plastic
· Use metal plant supports or make your own - birch twigs are perfect for this
· When buying new garden materials, look for FSC certification and check origins
· Re-use or recycle larger items such as tools and furniture
· Green roofs and wall insulation
· Solar/wind/water energy
· Composting toilets