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Greener ways to garden

After the long winter, now is the time to get back into the garden and start planting for the year ahead. There are many things you can do to be a greener gardener, from getting a water butt to growing your own fruit and vegetables.

1. Ditch the peat

Using peat leads to the destruction of many natural habitats (living spaces for plants and animals) and also increases carbon emissions. Fortunately, there are alternatives to peat that work just as well or even better:

  • peat-free composts made from wood bark, green and wood waste, wood fibre and coir
  • old mushroom compost 
  • home-made compost from uncooked food, vegetable peelings and egg shells - it’s easy to make, and great for your plants

For more information on peat-free gardening, read the article on choosing peat-free soils and fertilisers, or visit the ACT ON CO2 website.

2. Grow your own fruit and vegetables

Growing your own food can be good exercise and could save you money. It can also provide you with a healthy supply of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables. It's easy to get started and there are lots of places you can grow your own and be creative, even if you don't have a garden:

  • grow herbs indoors or salad leaves outside in a pot or windowledge box
  • you can grow tomatoes and strawberries in hanging baskets
  • ask a neighbour or friend with a large garden if you could cultivate a patch of ground, and maybe offer some of your produce in return

If you're looking for more room to grow fruit and vegetables, check the Landshare website. Landshare matches spare land with people who want to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

The National Trust 'ledge veg' website has bags of information on growing crops in window boxes.

You can read more about growing your own in 'Grow your own fruit and vegetables'. 

3. Welcome wildlife into your garden

Creating the right habitat in your garden can encourage birds, bees and butterflies to visit and can help sustain them through the year. You can attract more wildlife by:

  • making shelters for bees, beetles and hedgehogs
  • keeping birds safe from cats by fitting a bell to your cat's collar
  • creating a pond from an old sink or bath
  • only using pesticides as a last resort

To find out more about how to attract wildlife to your garden, read 'Encouraging wildlife in your garden', or visit the Big Wildlife Garden website.

4. Use water wisely outdoors

It is possible to have a beautiful and productive garden using less water. Saving water in the garden can help reduce your water bills, cut the risk of drought orders and water restrictions, and help protect wildlife.  Here are some easy things you can do to save water:

  • install a water butt – it's easy and cheap to do and your plants will love rainwater
  • if you do use a hose, use a trigger to control the flow 
  • choose plants that need less water, so your garden becomes more drought-resistant
  • put mulch or home-made compost round your plants to retain moisture and stop them from drying out

Find more tips for saving water in 'Water: using less in the garden' and from the ACT ON CO2 website.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has good advice on less thirsty plants for your garden.

5. Be plant wise

Planting native plants is one of the best ways to work with nature. By matching plant species to your particular area, you will have plants that take less care and energy and will be healthier than exotic species. Native birds, insects and other wildlife will benefit from the habitat these plants provide. To be plant wise:

  • choose wildlife-friendly plants like lavender for bees, and red valerian and honeysuckle for moths
  • be careful when choosing plants for your pond, as some invasive plants will take over your pond and damage the environment
  • dispose of non-native ponds plants by composting or using a green waste bin

Find out about how to control non-native pond plants by clicking on the 'Be plant wise' link.

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