6 ways to reduce your garden's impact on the environment

How do you make your garden more sustainable? How can your garden help you lead a low carbon lifestyle? Is my garden as environmentally friendly as it could be? I've been trying to find out...

If you want to have a beautiful garden, the chances are you want to help the environment rather than harm it. But gardening is big business these days and like any other industry, has the potential to use vast amounts of energy and deplete the world's natural resources rather than sustain them, if we're not careful. 

What's your number one tip for sustainable gardening? What's your best recycling idea? Let me know in the comments box or post them on my Facebook page - I love to share bright ideas for recycling and sustainability.

I recently visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in North Wales, which is an environmental education centre that explains eco-friendly ideas to visitors and is dedicated to researching our impact on the environment and finding ways to reduce it. They test and develop new ideas for buildings, energy generation and recycling, all with the aim of making everything we do carbon neutral and sustainable. 

I was particularly interested in what they recommend for gardeners. Here are the best 6 tips from my visit:

Grow and eat more veg, especially peas

A diet containing more vegetables and less meat is more sustainable because it requires less space to grow them than is needed for herds of animals that are mostly fed from plants, requiring more space again. 

Growing more of your own reduces the amount of transportation needed to get your food to your plate, so means less energy use and less carbon emissions.  

Vegetable patch or allotment Green Fingered Blog
A veg patch can reduce your carbon footprint
Peas are really easy to grow as well as being tasty to eat fresh from the plot. One reason they are easy to grow is they don't need much fertiliser and indeed fix nitrogen in the soil for subsequent crops to use. 

This is something you can plan for when you plan your allotment or veg patch. Many fertilisers are made using industrial processes that consume  more energy and emit more greenhouse gases, so the less you use the more sustainable your patch becomes. 

You can find out how to make your own organic fertiliser on the fabulous Grow Like Grandad blog. Even if you only have room for a few containers of veg, it all helps to reduce the impact on the environment.

Never heat your conservatory

Heating a room covered in glass will just leak energy into the sky. 

It's a waste of money and fuel. 

The advice from the Centre for Alternative Technology is to use it as a buffer between the outside and the rest of the house. It will effectively insulate the other rooms but there's no point trying to heat the conservatory itself. Use it to over winter tender plants, or to grow a grape vine by training it through a small gap low down in the wall.

Conservatory grapevine sustainable gardening Centre for Alternative Technology Green Fingered Blog
Conservatory grapevine

Green roof

A green roof will provide insulation to the building below and add an extra area of greenery. It  increases the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere and the amount of oxygen produced. It will also reduce the amount of rainwater run off by increasing the amount captured within the soil. By the way, the giant slug is optional!
Green Roof Centre for Alternative Technology Green Fingered Blog
A Green Roof captures water and carbon


Gardening provides loads of opportunities to re-use things no longer needed, particularly as containers. The people at the C.A.T. have numerous examples but my favourites were this display of herbs growing in tin cans on top of logs and in toilet bowls!

Recycled tin cans as plant containers Centre for Alternative Technology Green Fingered Blog
Recycled tin cans make excellent plant containers...

Sustainable gardening recycled toilets as planters Centre for Alternative Technology Green Fingered Blog
...and so do toilets!

Recycled toilet cistern plant container Green Fingered Blog
A toilet cistern can also be a plant pot!
Anything you can recycle is being kept out of landfill. 

Remember, even the recycling done at your local processing centre uses lots of energy and water, so re-purposing things yourself without any processing is even better. 

It also reduces the amount of new stuff you need to buy, all of which have also used energy and generated carbon emissions during the manufacturing process. I've managed to re-use this old toilet cistern as a container in my front garden, and on the allotment I've recycled a snooker table, a bed and a fireplace!

GREEN FINGERS TIP! If it can hold soil you can grow things in it, but  don't forget to make a hole in the bottom so excess water can drain away. 


Make your own compost

By making your own compost you will reduce the amount of waste from your kitchen and your garden, and the amount of compost you buy from the garden centre. 

A significant constituent of many bought composts is peat, so you will also help reduce the destruction of peat bogs which take thousands of years to develop. 

All the waste you put out for collection by the local authority will be transported by lorry and processed mechanically. All the compost you buy has been manufactured, processed and transported, using fuel and creating carbon emissions.

Wire compost bin Centre for Alternative Technology Green Fingered Blog
Making your own compost will reduce your carbon footprint
Even something as simple as some lengths of chicken wire wrapped into a cylinder to hold leaves, prunings and grass cuttings will therefore be reducing your carbon footprint and making your garden more sustainable. 

Use less chemicals

Any chemicals you use to control pests in the garden have consumed energy and caused carbon emissions in their manufacture and transportation. 

You can make your own liquid fertilizer from nettles or comfrey, and you can  get help to control the pests in your garden. Ladybirds and hoverfly larvae will eat aphids, birds will eat various insects, snails and caterpillars, and hedgehogs, frogs and toads will all eat slugs. 

From a few hollow stems in the gaps in a stone wall to a bird box or a log pile, there are lots of ways to encourage wildlife in your garden.

Hollow stems offer hiding places for insects
Please comment below and share your own ideas for recycling or sustainable gardening. And if you get a chance, take the opportunity to visit the C.A.T., it's a fascinating place with loads more ideas for making all aspects of our lives more sustainable.



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