Welcome to a revolutionary (not so new) way of gardening.
Almost everyone I know wants to do their bit to protect our beautiful planet and we frequently hear words such as ‘biodiverse’, ‘ecosystem’ and ‘sustainability’, which go hand in hand with ‘urban’ and ‘greening’. Towns as well as cities are becoming over populated, polluted and provide little green space per capita and we are being encouraged to make our gardening practices more sustainable.
But what does it all mean to us coastal town dwellers, what is sustainable gardening and why do we need to do it ?
In a nutshell sustainable gardening means we need to do what we can to meet our needs without compromising the needs of our future generations. We can strengthen this through organic gardening, use of native plants and utilising our natural resources, thus creating a sustainable environment in which to enjoy our gardens and green spaces for now and for the future.
The vast list of benefits include; reduction in town and city air pollution, conservation of resources, reduction in landfill waste, healthier gardens, healthier minds and bodies, better crops, the ability to self sustain and preservation of natural resources. All this comes with little negative impact on the planet.
Sounds great. How do we do our bit?
We can adopt new methods such as using natural pesticides, reusing rain water through water butts, creating a sneaky space to create some juicy compost from garden and kitchen waste, saving seeds to grow herbs and vegetables and tapping into our unique little microclimate. This is all achievable with canny design and planning, just one change in one garden can encourage biodiversity in plants, bees, butterflies and birds that will spread to the next and the next and the next. The beauty of this is that it can be achieved from a windowsill or a garden.
We can involve children at home and at school. Get them to make and fill in a wildlife spotting chart, measure the growth of their own plants grown from seeds, make a competition to find new ways to capture water. No space is too small. By teaching our children the benefits and values of sustainability we can maybe rewind the ‘disposable, replaceable’ culture we now find ourselves in.
We can change our mindset. One very English aspect hindering the perfect sustainable green space is the lawn. Traditionally gardens have lawns, but a perfect lawn is not achievable without a lot of water (something lacking in our South Eastern shores) and we work hard to keep ants, moles, trees, weeds etc away through the use of chemicals; not very biodiverse, not to mention the irony of using of petrol powered lawn mowers.
Many people have made a move to artificial lawns. They are sustainable in that they exist without the need for watering, but they are made from inorganic materials and they certainly do not support biodiversity for worms, bees, plants etc. Consider instead introducing a new type of planting to replace the lawn, one that has needs better suited to our drier climate, such as an area of natural grasses and flowers.
Last year a retired couple enlisted our help to re-design their ‘needy’ front garden. For them, the garden was too labour intensive and the need for year round watering, due to the hard clay soil, meant the garden never looked its best. We took a sustainable approach to the re-design and year after completion the garden won the title of ‘Best Sustainable Garden 2017’ in a competition run by Chelmsford City Council. The improved soil now allows water to penetrate and keeps it free draining, a gravel barrier keeps the soil temperature consistent, prevents moisture loss and enables weeds to be easily removed. The carefully selected drought tolerant plants do not require any watering, they have visual appeal and they attract bees, birds and other wildlife thus providing biodiversity and year round interest.
We all have a shared responsibility to protect the environment and sustainability is a lifestyle that everyone can adopt. To put it simply, we have the knowledge and power to mimic the natural process and reap the bounty of benefits from creating a sustainable green space. Knowing we are doing our bit to protect the planet and ultimately, by sharing our practices, resources and ecosystems, we will benefit from an enhanced community togetherness.
Imagine the fun of a street compost club or a seed sharing section in the library!
Sarah Croud is founder and designer at The Garden Revamp Company
This article was originally published in Winter 2018 edition of The Trawler