Everyone with a space for gardening, be it a garden, a balcony, a roof terrace, an allotment, or even window boxes, can all create environments that will benefit local wildlife and the natural world.
We can all think carefully and be considerate of the complex environment around us and we can all contribute in meaningful ways, no matter the scale of our contribution!
A great way to contribute is to learn about the plants we have in our garden spaces, and the various species that live with us.
How to Encourage Wildlife in Your Garden
We can create environments that will quickly respond in terms of attracting insects and life.
If everyone with a garden space gardened with the natural world in mind, our combined contributions would have an enormously beneficial effect on the populations of wildlife around us.
If we can slightly change our perceived notion of beauty in our back gardens, this will go a long way to helping.
Instead of an outdated idea of order and control over our lawns and flower beds, we can embrace a more natural look to our gardens which will provide plenty of nutrients and shelter for the wildlife that surrounds us.
There are easy things to do to build a sustainable garden, like setting up a compost area for all your green waste.
This will work best if we don’t put any woody stems in, (unless you have a chipper!).
Compost is one of the very best materials we can use in our gardens.
What is Compost?
It is the natural process plants are designed to get their nutrients from.
The natural world has evolved to have leaf litter fall from plants onto the ground. It then decomposes (with the help of a multitude of friendly creatures) and goes on to feed the plants around it.
It keeps the soil from drying out in hot weather by protecting the soil layer from direct sun. The beneficial creatures wriggle around in it, creating tunnels that open the soil up to then let in air. And that's not the end of the benefits!
Benefits of Compost:
Free if you make it yourself
It saves money on green waste disposal costs
Compost areas create a habitat in your garden that benefits a huge number of friendly creatures.
Spread evenly on soil to a depth of 20-50cm, it gives nutrients back to the plants, helping them grow healthily which reduces pests and diseases.
It retains moisture on the planting beds which reduces the need to water, thereby reducing water costs and usage.
It reduces the opportunity for weed seeds to germinate as it covers bare soil, meaning time spent weeding flower beds is greatly reduced.
It looks neat and tidy when spread on flower beds.
What Materials to Use, and What to Avoid
Avoid all use of Peat based products.
There are now a good selection of composts and topsoils from garden centres that do not use peat.
Peatlands are an extremely precious natural habitat that take hundreds of years to evolve.
They absorb rainwater that then mitigates flooding of nearby rivers.
They are the product of enormous carbon capture, so digging them up releases the carbon into the atmosphere.
Because it takes so long to create a peatland, it is not possible to regenerate at the speed of destruction.
Once they are gone, that’s it!
Use Recycled Materials
A great method of sustainable gardening is to use recycled materials.
Looking to build a bird box, then instead of buying a brand new one, why not try and build one from wood that you were about to throw away.
Whether organic waste, or waste from your home, there is often a use for everything in your garden, so before you chuck anything in the bin, pause a second and see if it can be put to good use.
An old wooden pallet can create sustainable garden furniture. And twigs and branches can be used to build habitats for wildlife.
The possibilities are endless, and everything that is reused is having a positive effect on the natural world around us.
How to start a sustainable garden
Don't Clean up as Much
We can slow down our need to constantly tidy up our gardens.
Leaves that fall from nearby trees can lay on our flower beds and be left to slowly rot down.
Move Away From Petrol
We can move to cordless battery powered garden machinery. There are now some excellent battery powered mowers, strimmers, blowers etc that work just as well as the old petrol machines.
They don’t pollute, they create far less noise in use, they are cleaner to use; no oil or petrol, and in the long run are cheaper.
Go Wild with Your Lawn
We can let areas of grass lawn grow long if we have the space.
This provides habitats for so many insects. We can also replace lawn with areas for wildflowers, which is truly magical.
Build a Pond
We can build ponds.
Even small ones are wonderous things for attracting beneficial creatures. Like Frogs.
Frogs eat slugs.
Create an Ecosystem
We can learn about plant communities so that we plant a groundcover layer of small plants, a shrub layer and then if possible, a tree layer.
This will help to create an ecosystem that starts to take care of itself.
If you have a small tree, birds will come.
If birds are in your garden, they will eat caterpillars and grubs that would otherwise feed on your lovely flowering plants!
If you can devote some small areas to have piles of leaves and sticks under and behind shrubs, you will create habitats for small mammals like hedgehogs.
If you can attract hedgehogs to your garden, they will also help to control slug and snail populations.
You can create small openings in the base of your fence (10x10cm) to create a hedgehog highway between the gardens in your neighbourhood. Hedgehogs can roam about a mile in a night, so if you and your neighbours can commit to all working together, you can make a huge difference.
Stay Clear of Chemicals
Cut out use of Chemicals.
Insecticides are horrendous things. Their use is the biggest contributor to the huge loss in insect populations globally and we have to stop using them in our gardens completely.
Herbicides are useful in very limited and specific ways. If you have invasive weeds in between paving stones, a herbicide is the best way to get rid of them.
Having said that, there are a great deal of different products out there and it’s worth reading up on them to make an informed decision.
Great care should always be taken to not accidentally spray nearby plants.
Use Biological Pest Controls.
There are insects that feed on the insects we perceive as a pest in our gardens.
They can be bought online and released to help control populations of pests that are out of hand. These can be particularly useful in greenhouses where beneficial insects can be contained.
One method we use regularly is nematodes. These are microscopic worms that feed on slug eggs in the soil. They are watered into the soil where they will help to control the slug population of your garden.
Use Your Garden Wisely
We need to think about how we use gardens.
If we have small children, they need areas to play, but if not, or if your children have grown up and left the house, those areas can be re-purposed to planting or wildflower meadows.
7 Sustainable garden design ideas.
If you want to make your garden more sustainable, then here are some handy design ideas that you can get using today!
Reduce the size of your grass lawn. If you don’t use it for children playing, then re-purpose it by leaving it to grow long or replace it with a wildflower meadow.
Build or buy a compost bin
Create a pond - you can go the whole hog or just repurpose a recycled barrel or container.
Create small piles of branches, twigs and leaf litter behind shrubs or in secluded corners to make habitats for creatures.
Install bee and bug hotels - An easy way of doing this is to drill holes in old tree stumps or logs if you have any on your property.
Install bird boxes
Create hedgehog access holes in fences.
Wild Thomas Gardens Sustainability
We have a passion for creating beautiful, sustainable gardens.
If you want to know more, or would like a quote for your garden, then get in touch today.
Happy sustainable gardening!
Jake and Karen.