Need to know what to do in your garden but don't know where to start? We've looked at 4 key areas for gardening and provided 5 top tips for each to help you make a start on your garden. Our 4 key areas of focus are:
- Seasonal Gardening - we've covered tips for the whole year, not just the current season, but if you want to know more in detail about month-by-month gardening head over to Shedstore's blog
- Eco-Friendly Gardening - eco-friendly gardening is a huge part of making sure that you are doing your bit to help the environment while you enjoy your garden! Find out more about eco-friendly gardening here
- Growing Your Own - growing your own food is becoming more and more important, and popular! We look at some great ways to get started here but for more information check out our grow your own posts
- Wildlife Gardening - we all love wildlife, so it's time to make sure they are safe and happy in our gardens! You can also find out more about wildlife and wildlife gardening on our blog
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Reduce your carbon footprint, grow food without insecticides, reuse and recycle your own waste – there are many reasons for wanting to approach gardening in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. For every kilogram of fruit and vegetables that you grow and eat, you’ll use less energy and save two kilograms of carbon emissions.
Eco-friendly gardening is focused on using fewer pesticides, helping garden wildlife, reducing the amount of waste you create, minimising your use of tap water and using products that are sourced as locally as possible. Growing food organically is the start – with eco-friendly gardening methods and practices you will create a sustainable and environmentally responsible garden. But how? Check out our ultimate guide to eco-friendly gardening.
Planning an eco-friendly garden
An eco-friendly garden has several characteristics that sets it apart from other gardens. It uses as much rainwater as possible – so you need a water butt to catch your rainwater. It uses natural compost rather than manufactured fertiliser – which means growing your own compost heap. Plants are native and local. Plant diseases and pests are controlled via natural methods rather than with synthetic pesticides. Garden tools are ideally man-powered or are highly energy-efficient.
Of course, the bar need not be set that high – at least not to start with. It can be a wrench to stop using the convenience of an insecticide spray if you have an aphid invasion and reducing your usage of water and products can prove challenging in hot, dry summers. In which case, a quick spray and judicious use of the garden hose is entirely justified if it means saving months of hard work. The key is to think twice and find an organic alternative. Build up to it. Start with what you are comfortable with and learn from experience.
Some things take time, but are rewarding once you build them into your gardening and household routine. Find a space for a compost heap or bin and try to figure out where the best place for a water butt is. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be in a great position to take the next step.
Chemicals and eco-friendly gardening
Chemicals are convenient for gardeners who feel like they are fighting a never-ending war against pests and weeds. British gardeners use about 5,250 tonnes of pesticides a year and much of that is used to maintain a perfect lawn by eliminating moss. Artificial fertiliser is also popular – a concentrated dose of food for your flower beds.
But there are alternatives and much of it comes down to good practice. Rotating your plants and creating good drainage conditions will keep your plants healthy. And when it comes to pests, there are natural alternatives such as salt spray, eucalyptus oil, mineral oil and chilli powder solution
You can also use biological weapons: friendly worms such as nematodes can attack pests and you can use many other types of insects and invertebrates that will combat infestations.
After using natural methods for some time, your garden will start to breathe again and you’ll get more of the wildlife visitors you like, rather than ones you don’t.
Making the most of water
In the hottest and driest times of year, gardening can use up to 70 percent of Britain’s water supply. The demand places a strain on water resources that can end up lowering the water table in affected areas. Yet there are many ways of reducing water consumption without sacrificing your garden.
First is to reduce your demand – use plants that require less water like lavender and palms which are able to withstand droughts. Mulch your flower beds to retain water in them. And check to see how moist your garden really is – the top layer of soil is not always a reliable indicator. If there is water at a spade’s depth then you have no need to add any more moisture. And of course it’s best to water your plants in the evening when less will be lost to evaporation.
When you do have to use water, try to make sure it’s naturally sourced. That water butt is a vital piece of equipment but there are other sources – you can re-use your washing-up water or bathwater (as long as you haven’t used bleach). Consider also creating a pond – it will make the air clearer and your plants will need less water as a result.
Planting the right plants
Larger trees are a great way of mixing up your garden, and they create much needed shade for your more delicate plants during the summer when they need some protection from strong sunlight to avoid wilting. Beeches, conifers and magnolias are all good choices.
There are many natural alternatives to pesticides and companion planting is top of the list. If you have flowers or fruit and vegetables that attract aphids or other pests, you can distract them with something even tastier, such as nasturtiums. By planting bright, colourful plants such as sunflowers or candytuft you’ll also attract ladybirds, which love to eat aphids. Of course, the ladybirds will also attract garden birds who will also find your slugs to be an appealing meal.
Other plants produce natural pesticides, like marigolds – an essential addition to any garden. By not using artificial pesticides, you’ll also see bees making a return to your garden.
- Equip your garden with a water butt and a compost bin
- Try to reduce your water use by not overwatering and picking plants that are not thirsty
- Don’t be afraid to use bathwater or washing up water.
- Use companion planting techniques to create natural pest control
- Find a source of biological pest controls such as nematodes
- Avoid using pesticides or water, but don’t be afraid of getting out the spray gun or hose in an emergency
The act of gardening engages people with nature in a healthy and constructive manner. However, there are some ways of maintaining a garden that can affect the environment in a harmful way. These harmful effects can be the result of the pollution from petrol-fuelled lawn mowers that enter the atmosphere, chemical fertilisers, and even water wastage from keeping plants watered. Fortunately, there is a common concern most gardeners have that has created the demand for gardening tools, products, and gardening methods that make the gardening process more eco-friendly. The following information includes tips for becoming a more eco-friendly gardener, by using eco-friendly gardening methods.
Planting indigenous plant species is one way to lessen the negative effects of gardening upon the environment. Typically, indigenous flowers and plants are suited to the environment, atmosphere, and soil so they require less maintenance than non-indigenous plants. This means there will be less water waste and a lesser need for chemicals than is required to keep up the artificial conditions for unfamiliar plants. Indigenous plants, therefore, thrive in the garden while minimising waste and the negative spread of unnatural or harmful materials to the environment; they are more eco-friendly. An example of going native with plants is getting rid of the lawn at home, whether located in a dry, arid climate or one that experiences all four seasons. It may be appropriate to plant cactus gardens in one location and to plant bottlebrush grasses in another. Instead of having to maintain a lawn that is not natural, install plants that are adapted to the local conditions. They will be easier to maintain and typically require less fertiliser and water.
Harvesting rainwater with a water butt or water barrel will add to the eco-friendly aspect of the garden. It is generally inexpensive and practically effortless to capture water that is mineral free and chlorine free for watering gardens and doing other activities like washing cars and rinsing windows. Harnessing rainwater from downspouts or off the roof of a shed or greenhouse not only reduces water costs but will help the environment by reducing water runoff as well as preventing erosion and even flooding. The use of collected rainwater also reduces water waste that comes from using a hose, which consumes a large volume of water, to water gardens. Drip watering systems can even be set up that are attached to water butts, providing water to plants on a schedule or gradually over time. When using a water barrel to collect rainwater, place a screen atop the barrel to prevent insects, debris, and bird droppings from getting in the water. Also, use the water supply frequently to keep it aerated, moving, and fresh with new rainwater.
Growing food for consumption is another way to make a more eco-friendly garden. Growing fruits and vegetables at home is not only highly enjoyable, but it is another way to move away from manicuring a lawn with water, fertilisers, and pesticides and moving toward using gardens as food sources. This does not even require a great deal of space so people with limited outdoor space can still counter the harmful gardening methods. Simply grow a small amount of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, or herbs in small containers or vertical planters. Herbs, in particular, are vital to attracting certain wildlife like bees to the garden. This can help to deal with harmful garden pests instead of using chemical means. Furthermore, growing food at home cuts back on general food consumption and it saves money. Since growing food for consumption is the most enjoyable part of making a greener garden, here is a mini-guide to getting started straight away on growing a couple of spring vegetables.
Cool season spring crops are those that can be planted either directly in the soil with no cover, in pots/trays in a sunny window or on a porch, or directly in the soil, but beneath a low tunnel or row cover. The benefit of planting in pots and trays is they can be moved outdoors into the sun on warm days and returned to the safety of the indoors at night or when frost is threatening. Planting under a low tunnel or row cover will help the soil warm more quickly and will protect seed lines from mild frosts. Two vegetables that are ideal for early spring plantings include spinach and lettuce:
Spinach grows particularly well when planted under row covers and is generally quite frost-resistant. Grow the spring greens close together and harvest the leaves when they are still small. This can be as few as three weeks from planting.
While lettuce can be grown into a head, like the familiar supermarket head of lettuce, growing baby greens is easier, quicker, and will provide an almost constant supply of salad greens from the spring and deep into the summer. Use mixed lettuce seed and sow the seeds very close together in each row. This will yield solid rows of lettuce leaves that are very easy to harvest and can be cut repeatedly throughout the season. Since baby greens can be harvested in a couple of weeks after planting, the seeds should be planted in successions of every week or two, thus providing a constant supply of greens.
Many people do not know that there is an art to composting. Though it is relatively easy to do, there are specific steps to getting the process right. Making good compost is a pleasure while a poorly maintained heap of compost can be a really bad experience.
When it comes to creating compost for the garden there is a great deal of information available. Some of the information may even seem to contradict what another source says. However, there is an abundance of consensus on what items are good and not good for use in home compost.
Most people also agree that composting is the first true step towards green gardening. In fact, home-made compost is a personal on-site and biological recycling system. Compost is the real beginning of healthy soil because the compost recycles nutrients and builds the structure of the soil. This improves water retention and/or drainage as needed by the garden. In addition to the benefits composting provides the garden, when done correctly the process of garden recycling is good for the environment. When items such as garden waste are sent to a landfill they end up getting buried in such a way that air (oxygen) cannot reach them. Since air cannot reach the items, they produce methane gas as they break down. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that damages the Earth's atmosphere.
It is pretty easy to get started composting at home. Composting is an inexpensive and natural process, producing nutrient-rich food that is valuable to the home garden.
Seven Easy Steps to Composting at Home
- Choosing the correct site for the compost is very important. It must be a location that is reasonably sunny and preferably on bare soil. Patio slabs, tarmac, and concrete are not the ideal base for a compost bin, but if one of these is the only option then make sure to place a layer of twigs and paper or a bit of existing compost on the bottom. This will allow the colonisation of worms and other creatures. The site should also be easily accessible for adding ingredients and for retrieving completed compost.
- It is vital that the right ingredients are added to make good compost. (See the subtitled section below for more information about the items to compost and the items not to compost.) A good tip for composting at home is to have a container that is readily available such as a kitchen caddy for collecting the items that will be transferred to the compost bin from throughout the house.
- Fill the compost bin up by emptying the items from the kitchen caddy and adding any appropriate garden waste.
- All that is required now is to wait for a while. It may take between nine and twelve months for the composting process to complete and for the compost to be ready for use. Remember to keep adding ingredients to the top of the compost throughout this waiting period.
- The compost is now ready for use. The compost will resemble the consistency of thick, moist soil; it will be a crumbly, dark material. Another indication the compost is ready to use is it will have an earthy, fresh aroma.
- Depending upon the type of compost bin that was used, the compost can be removed by lifting the bin slightly off the ground or by opening a hatch at the bottom and then scooping out the nutrient-rich compost.
- Finally, use the compost on the garden or even to feed the lawn. Further enhance the garden with new plants, updated fencing and furniture.
Making Good Compost Relies Upon Using the Correct Ingredients
Getting the right mix is what makes for good compost. The key to this is balancing the greens and browns that are used in the compost. Greens are things like fruit waste, tea bags, vegetable peelings, plant pruning’s, and grass cuttings. Browns include items like small twigs, scrunched up paper, and cardboard egg boxes. The differences between greens and browns have to do with the amount of time it takes for the items to rot and what the two contribute to the compost.
Greens provide important moisture and nitrogen while browns provide fibre and carbon. Browns also permit air pockets to form in the mixture, which is very important to the composting process to ensure that the items can fully break down in an environmentally friendly manner.
Items that should never be placed in the compost are meat, dairy products, cooked vegetables, plants that may be diseased, cat litter, dog excrement, and baby nappies. Weeds with seed heads and perennial weeds like dandelions and thistles should be avoided as well. Remember there is a difference between recycling and composting, although composting is a sort of garden recycling. Recycling in and of itself has to do with plastics, glass, and certain metals that are not fit for composting.
Items to Compost and What they Provide
Banana peels, clover, coffee grounds (and filters), dog food, feathers, flowers, fruit peels, green grass clippings, hair, hay, leather (leather waste), and vegetable peels and scraps all provide Nitrogen to the compost heap.
Cardboard, cocoa hulls, corncobs, dryer lint, dried grass clippings, hedge clippings, hops, leaves, newspaper, nut shells, oak leaves, sawdust and wood shavings, paper, peanut shells, peat moss, pine needles and cones, tea leaves, and weeds all provide Carbon to the compost heap.
Items to Avoid Composting
Cat litter (used) and cat/dog droppings may contain disease organisms and should never be composted. Coloured paper, non-biodegradable materials, and toxic materials should not be composted. Meats, fat, grease, oils, and bones can attract pests, coat materials as a sort of preservative and prevent them from breaking down so they should never end up in a compost bin. Finally, avoid placing lime peels or any part of a lime in a compost heap because the high alkaline pH is likely to kill the composting action.
There will always come a point when items need to be replaced with something newer and more effective. Rather than throwing away your old garden tools, kitchen utensils and storage containers, why not try upcycling them into something new that could either be a decorative piece or a practical item for use elsewhere.
Checking out upcycle ideas is a great starting position that allows you to browse a number of well-established ideas and see what upcycling is all about and to get a taste of where you can go with this concept. Some of the best ideas are listed below:
- Using an old, possibly unstable ladder to hold flowerpots and trestles. This will make the most of any space you have in your garden; a vertical arrangement is practical if you have a small space and it is very forward-looking too.
- A number of household objects can be used as mini greenhouses and various ideas are showcased across these websites; light bulbs, plastic bottles, washed out cans and many more, depending on the size of the plants you want to grow. This is a convenient alternative to a full-sized greenhouse, as it will take up a lot less room in your garden.
- If you want a full sized greenhouse, it is possible to make your own from windows. This would be an advanced project but it has been done before numerous times and the result can be stunning.
- Turning larger tools, such as spades and rakes into bits and parts for furniture can give a quirky and unique look to any room. There are examples of chairs and tables made solely of these items, or you can swap one in as a leg or two.
- Some people have been able to craft their old garden tools into interesting sculptures. A lot of these items have very interesting and distinctive shapes, which make them great mediums for some outside landscaping.
- Making wire planters to hang off walls and fences is a cheap and easy method to utilise whatever space you have and display your beautiful plants to their fullest potential.
- Pretty much anything can be recycled into a planter when you know how. Old, disused fabric bags are easy to hang up and a ladle will fit nicely onto the edge of a wall. Get creative when looking for new homes for your plants around the garden.
- Shoes and wellies can be made into really out-there planters if you are looking for a garden like no other!
- When growing small plants, even something as small as a cork can be utilised. This can be perfect for herbs if you want to start growing and they can be stored in many different ways, both indoors and outdoors.
- Cinderblocks are often unsightly and can ruin the aesthetics of your garden. If you have some lying around as a reminder of past building work, pile them up into an artistic array and plant some flowers in them or slip potted plants into them. The contrast of the bright, vibrant colours with the grey concrete makes for a very interesting look.
- If you have broken ceramics around the house, even something as simple as a cracked plate, they could be used to make a diverse garden path that will set your backyard apart from the rest. Inlaying a path with mismatched items can add some real interest to your outdoors scene.
- If you have any plant pots that have chipped or you just don’t use them anymore, they could be made into a terracotta birdbath. Try painting them with different designs to give your creation a real edge.
- Wind chimes can be a great addition to your outdoor space and can be made with almost anything from around your garden and your house. Upcycle some broken kitchen utensils or smaller garden tools into a dainty but eye-catching decoration.
- The numerous different pots, cans and jars that can be used for outside plants can also be reused to create an indoor herb garden or otherwise.
- Finally, wooden pallets make great DIY display cases for all the wonderful items you have grown in your garden.
If you are on a budget and also have lots of old materials lying around, upcycling could be just the thing for you. This trend is getting bigger and bigger and people are continuing to document their efforts so it’s never been easier to find ways to rework your old garden tools.
We all love our gardens or would love to have one. There's nothing better than being sat in your summer house and admiring our work.
There is, however, a growing movement towards grow food from a very urban setting in the UK. From growing carrots to courgettes, tomatoes or even squashes, the function of our gardens is changing.
There are many benefits from growing your own food. For one it will reduce your weekly shopping bill, but will also cut your carbon footprint. No to mention the health benefits from all the outdoor exercise you'll get.
Last week, the Metro reported on a community scheme in the small town of Todmorden in West Yorkshire. The scheme has involved using public land to grow food, which is freely available to the public. Volunteers tend to the many trees and vegetable patches throughout the town.
You won't need a whole town to get started, you don't even need a large garden. You can grow food in a mini greenhouse, planter or window box on your balcony, patio or window sill. Plus there are a whole host of how-to sites and books that will help you if you've never grown anything in your life.
If you have space, you can easily put up low fence panels or a garden trellis to divide your entertaining space from your vegetable patch.
- Use grey water where possible (Don't worry household detergents don’t damage plants but do avoid bleach)
- Collect water in a water butt, you could add guttering to your garden shed, greenhouse or collect directly from your roof.
- Water roots and around the stem, early morning or in the evening, so as t reduce evaporation.
Resources for home vegetable & fruit growing:
- Soil Association - How to grow organic fruit and vegetables
- Wiki How - How to Grow Your Own Food
- BBC – Dig in
- Channel 4 - Growing your own food
- BBC – Gardening Guides