The Future of Sustainable Gardens

The Future of Sustainable Gardens

As scientists and environmentalists continue to warn us about the problems that our emissions are having on our planet, we look to make more eco-friendly and sustainable choices to try and combat this for our future.

What better way to start giving back to mother nature, than by making our gardens less reliant on the man-made and artificial?

Here are some of the most effective ways to start making a difference, even if you don’t have the greenest of fingers or the most flexible of budgets!

Water feature using natural boulders to create a water fall surrounded by gravel.

Use Permeable Surfaces for Sustainable Gardens

Modern garden magazines like to point out how important it is to have sustainable gardens. Yet they show us low maintenance designs for our outdoor spaces, that are based all around concrete and paving! But as urbanisation increases so does the risk of flooding. Unfortunately we often rely on our drains to cope with the rain.

To avoid this, we should focus on using more permeable surfaces. These will allow water to drain and filter down into the soil beneath.

Gravel is the obvious alternative to solid paving as it is a fairly cost-effective yet sustainable choice. Gravel offers a SuDs compliant solution that’s completely natural and can even be crushed down and re-used as hardcore in the future.

Costwold gravel interspersed with grey paving slabs.
Cotswold Gravel

Are you concerned that gravel and chippings are usually quarried or mined? We have to consider how this natural source compares to the impact that the manufacture of cement and concrete has, which accounts for almost 10% of the worldwide industrial use of water. Naturally water-worn materials like our Scottish Pebbles and Cobbles are also a great alternative if these man-made and quarried options aren’t for you.

Although they come from a quarry, Slate Chippings are actually a bi-product from roof tiles. Therefore they are perfect for sustainable gardens as are classed as a recycled material. As our Slate comes from Wales it doesn’t have to travel too far to most of it’s destinations.

If you have limited resources or don’t want to transform your space completely then Slate Mulch is a fantastic material for topping plant beds or pots. This product also helps to retain moisture and keep those pesky weeds at bay.

Slate Chippings and Slate Mulch are both produced as a manufacturing by-product. Therefore are considered to be an ideal Eco Aggregate.

There are lots of other materials available to complete your sustainable garden though. From porous asphalt and block paving, to grass reinforced with recycled plastic grids. Our Gravel Grid is a great option, we especially recommend it for sloping gravel driveways.

Avoid Using Chemicals in Sustainable Gardens

Another obvious way to maintain sustainable gardens are to use more natural solutions to the issues that we sometimes face in our gardens.

Instead of using harsh chemicals we should look to use cleaning products that have a minimal impact on our waterways and ecosystems.

You may think the easiest way to clean your gravel is to use a pressure washer. However this method actually wastes a lot of water and energy.

Soda crystals and bicarbonate of soda containers used to clean sustainable gardens
Soda Crystals and Bicarbonate of Soda are great natural cleaning products.

An eco-friendly way of cleaning your gravel is to treat the area using soda crystals or bicarbonate of soda. This also happens to be a more pet/animal friendly approach. You can use a watering can with warm water to dissolve the crystals and to cover the stones. Then leave this to work its magic for a couple of days. Finally use a brush to go over the chippings and remove any stubborn residue or algae.

In order to keep healthy plants, you need to keep your soil healthy too. Using peat-free top soil or compost in sustainable gardens is a great place to start. However making your own compost is fairly simple and helps to re-purpose food that would otherwise go to waste. Compost tumblers have recently become all the rage as they’re so easy to use.

Add a Water Feature

If you have lots of garden space to play with, then adding a natural water feature like a pond can make a huge difference to wildlife. Ponds provide a home for many insects and amphibians. Provided that you build your pond using fish-friendly materials like our ever-popular Cambrian Boulders, you could even keep your own school of fish! These boulders are offered in a range of different sizes to suit all scales. No pun intended!

Wildlife pond surrounded by pebbles, cobbles and boulders.
Pond created using a range of natural boulders, pebbles and cobbles

Ponds also act as a source of drinking and bathing water for birds and mammals. If you struggle for space, a bird bath can be just as good as a pond. Especially if you have any trees and bushes around. If your budget is low or if you want to make an instant difference, place a shallow dish of water on the ground. This will be appreciated by wildlife. Try to keep this in the shade to keep the water cool.

Accommodate Animals

As our need for privacy continues to grow, our gardens are also becoming increasingly enclosed with walls and tall fences that block out our neighbours and passers-by.

However, what we don’t often consider is when we go back into our homes at night, ground-dwelling creatures like hedgehogs appear and find it really difficult to get around because of this. Hedgehogs only require a small gap to get in and out of our gardens, similar to the size of a cat flap. So to give this struggling species a hand, you may wish to cut this into the bottom of your fence.

Rainwater can also be captured in bird baths which birds will particularly appreciate during the (hopefully) sunnier summer months. The increasing need to save the bees has also made bee houses and even bee baths much more popular. What is a bee bath I hear you ask? Well quite simply put it’s a drinking fountain for bees. You can place some pebbles in a dish of water for them to use as a resting spot as they rehydrate.

Sustainable planting within sustainable gardens. Lots of greenery and grasses
‘Go wild’ doesn’t have to mean scruffy and unkempt!

Let your grass grow out and ‘go wild’! Even if this only covers a small area it will be sure to attract bees and insects. Your other flowers and plants will then also be able to appreciate the extra help from these visiting pollinators.

To further encourage these pollinators into your garden we suggest growing a wide variety of plants. These should include a mixture of native, near-native and exotic plants to support pollinator diversity. The RHS have a great list of plants that pollinators will appreciate!

Plant Some Trees!

As trees store carbon, the more you plant, the better it is for the environment as a whole! The RHS comment that if all 30 million UK gardeners planted a medium-sized tree in their community, school, workplace or garden and nurtured it to maturity, they would store enough carbon equivalent to drive you more than 11 million times around our planet. That’s a lot of carbon!

The majority of trees like open, sunny spots along with fertile soil. The soil shouldn’t’ be too dry or too wet. Ensure the trees have plenty of room for roots and branches to spread.

Trees in a RHS Flower Show Garden

Use a Water Butt

As water resources are under pressure from climate change, it is important to use mains water as sparingly as possible. A water butt isn’t expensive and will stop you from using as much hose pipe water.

The natural rain water collected by a water butt is actually better for your garden anyway as it has lower PH levels. Plus it has the added bonus of lowering your carbon emissions. This is because it uses a considerable amount of energy to treat the water in our homes.

water butt against a red brick wall to be used in sustainable gardens
Water Butt used to store rain water

Go local

The last but by no means least way to create more sustainable gardens is to grow your own fruit and veg. Many can be grown perfectly in pots so you don’t even need a lot of space. However if this isn’t possible then try to buy local as often as possible.

The benefits of growing your own (as well as cost savings) is that you can be sure there are no pesticides. These pesticides are also often harmful to the environment so the fewer there are the better!

There are so many ways in which you can support the future of sustainable gardens. Even if only one or two from this list are possible in your outside space, it is a great feeling to know we are doing our bit for the planet.

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