Put the green back in your green thumb…
It may seem as though having a garden is a great way to get back to nature and practice being more ‘green’. However, there are a few simple things we can do to step up our sustainability practices to make our gardens more eco-friendly.
So whether you’re an experienced horticulturist, a hobby gardener or you just want to know how to take care of your backyard a little bit better, these five simple tips are just some stepping stones for you to jumpstart your sustainable gardening journey. Just remember, a little bit of effort goes a long way when it comes to making a positive impact on the environment around you, so get out there and have a go!
1. Start Composting
The term composting is probably the first thing many people think of when they hear sustainable gardening. Essentially what this practice entails is piling together organic matter that decays and breaks down to create a nutrient-rich fertiliser for your garden. This organic matter can be made up of anything ranging from dry leaves, plant trimmings, sawdust and straw to household food waste such as vegetable scraps and peels, coffee grounds, eggshells and more.
Plus, composting really is a win-win situation for you and your garden: you reduce food waste that would otherwise go into landfill by turning it into a chemical-free fertiliser that helps improve your soil’s nutrients and moisture retention. You can buy a composting bin at your local gardening or hardware store or, if you’re feeling like a new do-it-yourself project, try making one yourself! It can seem a bit intimidating at first but there are plenty of great resources out there to help get you started on your composting journey.
2. Use Water Wisely
Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth; so when it comes to water usage, we need to be wise about how we use it – especially when it comes to our gardens. One way to reduce water usage in our gardens is by recycling household greywater that comes from washing machines, laundry tubs, hand basins, showers and baths. According to the NSW Department of Water and Energy, the average Sydney household uses 339 litres of greywater per day and this excess water is great to use on your garden when it is properly treated. Consider a professionally installed greywater treatment and irrigation system and make sure to research the greywater regulations for your state or territory.
Otherwise, a less complicated alternative to greywater is using rainwater. Invest in a rainwater tank so you can make the most of the precious resource that literally falls from the sky! Some other watering tips include checking your soil before watering (if it’s damp and sticks to your hand, skip watering that day), water your plants early in the morning so they can soak it up before it gets too hot and, more importantly, directing the water to where it’s needed – the roots. All of these tips will make your garden happy and yourself happy, especially when you see a dip in that water bill!
3. Plant Australian Native Flora
Having Australian native flora incorporated into your garden will not only make your backyard look gorgeous, it will also help you create a more sustainable garden with minimal effort. The fact is, native Australian plants have endured and adapted to our sometimes-harsh environmental conditions which means a lot of them are used to surviving on little rainfall. What this means for you is, is that you won’t have to use nearly as much water to keep these plants looking fresh and fabulous all year round. It is always a good idea when planning your garden to group plants together that have similar water and environmental requirements. This guide by the Australian Native Plants Society provides a list of plants that have shown tolerance to prolonged drought periods and is a great place to start if you aren’t familiar with native species.
4. Don’t forget the Mulch
It may seem too simple to be true but adding mulch to your garden is a crucial step when it comes to making your garden more sustainable and ensuring it thrives. Mulch is a material that is laid over the surface of your soil and can be made up of things such as newspaper, straw, sawdust, wood chips, leaves and grass clippings. The main purpose of mulch is to aid moisture retention within the soil which, means you use less water on your plants. Mulch acts as an insulator between the sun’s rays and the soil which reduces water evaporation as well as protecting your plant’s roots from rapid temperature changes. Having mulch in your garden also helps with run-off during rainfall and while you’re watering so it also reduces the amount of water needed to give your thirsty plants a well-deserved drink.
5. Attract Wildlife
Put down the harsh chemical pesticides and opt for a more natural pest management strategy – wildlife! Creating an ecosystem within your garden that attracts insects, birds and other small animals will help maintain the health of your plants and create a nurturing environment for these critters to visit. The best way to entice your smaller neighbours into your garden is by including lots of layered foliage in your yard such as groundcovers, small bushes, larger plants and trees. This is also another reason to include native plants in your garden as they are more likely to attract local animals and insects than exotics. Inviting more wildlife into your backyard will help get rid of any nasty caterpillars, mites and bugs that snack on your plants while also making your outdoor space a haven for wildlife that you and your family can enjoy.
Looking at making the inside just as sustainable as the outside? We’ve got the perfect recipe on how to be more sustainable in the kitchen. Or, if you’re wardrobe is needing a bit of a makeover, these five tips will certainly help!
Featured Image: Photographed by Irene Davila. Image via Unsplash