Eco-friendly gardening can encompass a huge range of forward-thinking techniques that anyone can adopt in their garden in answer to the escalating danger posed by climate change.
These outdoor activities centre around lowering the harmful emissions as a result of everyday gardening activity.
Thinking in a more eco-friendly way when it comes to your garden, means you can not only lower greenhouse gasses but also increase the absorption of carbon dioxide too.
What is Eco-Friendly Gardening?
As per an article by conservation.org, the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere in 2018 was the highest it has been in over 3 million years.
This figure shows us that the importance of reducing our individual carbon footprint is a priority for the long-term success of the planet.
Many methods and tools used during day-to-day activities in the garden are actually harmful to the environment, such as the use of synthetic fertilisers, which contaminate natural soil stores, and inefficient watering systems which use excess water and energy.
Eco-friendly gardening seeks to tackle the leading causes of climate change such as depleting natural water sources, habitat destruction, chemically produced products and wildlife decline.
How Can Eco-Friendly Gardening Reduce CO2 Emissions?
For many, it is taken for granted that any garden by definition is an eco-friendly one, since plants and trees produce oxygen, and reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
However, we know far more about the damaging effect of climate change, so if a gardener is serious about reducing their individual input on the environment, they must first understand what things could be harmful and how they might avoid them.
The most common problems are:
While it is the case that artificial fertiliser uses nitrogen to speed up plant development, the fertiliser itself will have been made using the Harber Bosch method, which converts methane from natural gas into hydrogen. Carbon dioxide emissions increase as a result of this process, which explains why synthetic fertilisers contribute significantly to annual carbon emissions.
Despite the complicated method used to create synthetic fertiliser, the solution is actually a straightforward one: make your own compost.
Not only does this save you money, but it also gives you somewhere to recycle home and garden waste, which will reduce your impact on the environment.
Natural wetlands, or peat bogs, absorb a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, and most of the compost you see in garden centres and supermarkets is actually directly responsible for depleting these naturally occurring resources.
This article was written by the Independent’s Martin Hickman in 2010, which just goes to show how long this issue has been on the agenda, and yet even a decade on, nearly 50% of the compost sold in the UK contains peat.
The positive news though, is that there are many alternative options which don’t contain any peat. The most popular of these choices is coir-based compost, which uses waste produced when processing coconut fibre. Coir is a fantastic option due to the low levels of carbon dioxide produced when transporting the product across the globe.
If you’re heating up your greenhouses in the winter, you’re actually wasting a good deal of energy and money. This is because your standard greenhouse isn’t fitted with double-glazing and are designed to allow air filtration to help plants as they develop.
This is basically the same as trying to fill up a bucket with a hole in the bottom. At the very point the hot air is released, it will begin to exit through the filtration points.
To solve this problem, bring all of your seedlings indoors, place them under spectrum lighting and leave the greenhouse empty over winter. By doing this, you’re keeping both your seedlings and home warm simultaneously.
We all know that plants pull in carbon dioxide which is then converted into oxygen, but what you might know is that carbon is a constant on our planet and has the ability to move and change form with ease.
Burning fossil fuels converts that carbon into harmful emissions. When these emissions reach the earth’s atmosphere, they are ingested and re-emitted as infrared radiation, which in turn warms the ozone layer.
It is thought that carbon sequestration is the long-term solution to this problem. This means planting trees which are able to absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis which it will hold on to for the remainder of its days.
If you’re looking to plant trees in your garden, you should adhere to the following advice:
- Plant trees with broad leaves and crowns as this maximises the effect of photosynthesis.
- Choose trees that grow quickly, since these will be able to store considerable amounts of carbon as they develop.
- Trees with long life spans can store carbon for hundreds of years without releasing it. For example, Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire is thought to be over a thousand years old.
- Be sure to plant trees that are adapted to your region and climate, as these will be the most effective in helping to support the plants and animals in that area.
- Select hardy varieties that are most resistant to disease.
Some of the best tree species for this purpose include chestnut, mulberry, oak, poplar, maple and dogwood.
One of the most rewarding and exciting eco-friendly practices is being able to grow your own crops. Not only will you benefit from living on your own produce, but it’s also possible to save two pounds of carbon dioxide for every pound of produce you plant.
This is down to the fact that many commercially grown produce requires agricultural vehicles, petrol-based fertiliser and harmful pesticides. Organic crop growth at home reduces your carbon footprint and saves you money too.
How to Arrange Your Crop Beds
One of the pitfalls of growing your own vegetables is the plethora of pests and diseases that you’ll need to tackle to ensure healthy growth. This means it’s a good idea to plan your growth strategies quite carefully, to prevent cross-contamination of disease and pests.
There are some plants, that, when grown together, can complement and promote growth and vitality. This could mean planting a taller plant to provide shelter for smaller ones, or planting species which prevent pests and disease, for example:
Chives & Tomatoes
The sweet onion aroma produced by chives deters tomato threatening green flies and other predators if grown next to each other.
Rose & Garlic
Rose plants and garlic are perfect bedfellows, and this is because garlic is an effective safeguard from pests and fungal disease.
Spring Onions & Carrots
The aroma from onions is effective in preventing carrot root fly attacks. The carrot scent, conversely, prevents winged insects from making a meal of your onions.
Radish, Dill & Cucumber
By planting dill next to cucumbers, you can attract wasps, hoverflies and other beneficial predators that eat the insects that can destroy your crop. Radishes are also effective at reducing the chance of attracting cucumber beetles.
Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
When demand is at its peak, gardening activity can consume 70% of the UK water supply. This forces suppliers to tap into water reserves, thereby causing environmental damage and increased energy costs.
Due to such considerable demand, organic gardeners must devise their own solutions with a range of reduce, reuse and recycling methods, such as:
About 24,000 litres of rain falls annually in the UK, and by utilising a water butt, you can collect up to 160 litres of fallen rainwater at any one time. By stockpiling this water during the wetter parts of the year, you can play your part in protecting water supplies.
Although it may not look particularly appealing, water collected from sinks, showers and baths is perfectly fine to water your plants with although the water mustn’t contain any chemical products such as disinfectant or bleach.
Even veteran gardeners, when faced with challenging weather conditions, can over or under-water plants, which overuses resources and can impair plant growth.
To ensure you’re not making this error, push a trowel or spade blade into the soil around the plants; if it’s damp, there’s no need to water again.
Generally, plants need about 24 litres of water every ten days. Sandy soils will need more water than heavy soils, and clay-based soil will require frequent high-volume watering.
Good compost has the ability to revitalise and fortify soil structure, which in turn helps to retain water and keep hold of crucial nutrients needed to help plant roots. This will then attract worms and other beneficial insects which will further enrich the compost.
Although many gardeners understand the benefits of compost, many still rely on the synthetic products that we’ve already covered. This stuff doesn’t help nutrient retention and can actually contaminate plants.
This is why organic gardeners make their own compost made from organic matter, since it is free, requires very little investment and is a great way to recycle food waste.