9 tips to get started on your sustainable garden

From growing vegetables to making your own compost, there are lots of ways to help the planet from your backyard plot.

Updated

shovel and lettuce in the vegetable garden

Switching to more sustainable gardening habits will ensure your green thumbs will be doing no harm to our planet and its inhabitants. These ideas will help you get started.

1. Go native

Nature has done the hard work for you and figured out what grows well where. Just check which plants thrive in your microclimate (a good garden centre will come in handy here) so you’re not wasting time and resources – trying to nurture less suitable plants uses more water and soil additives. Bonus: planting native plants will support native bees and butterflies.

2. Be perennial

Plant perennials (those are the ones that come back every year) rather than annuals (the ones that don’t last longer than a season). Go for younger plants as they are cheaper than buying larger, mature ones (plus you get the satisfaction of watching them grow).

3. Recycle materials

Aim to have as much of a recycled garden as possible. Used blankets and tarp can be used to create a tent for protecting beds during the winter. Prop them up with old window frames and tie together with twine, clothes pegs or even an old pair of tight. Scrap wood can be given a second life as fencing and trellising. Find more great upcycling ideas for your garden here.

4. Make compost

Composting is cheap and easy – and fundamental for sustainable gardening. It will produce healthier plants and improve yields, all without the use of petrochemicals. Because compost is made from food scraps and waste, you also save on rubbish going to the landfill. Read on to discover how to make your own compost at home.

5. Grow your own vegetables

Growing your own food is cost-effective and, as you are using produce that comes straight from the ground, good for your health and that of the planet. Think about what vegetables you use regularly and check to see whether they are suitable to grow in the region where you live. If you only have a small space, try vertical planting, which uses vining plants and hanging baskets.

cloth and paper bags with fruits and vegetables

6. Make mulch

You need mulch almost as much as you need compost. Made from garden debris such as dead leaves, grass clippings, cones and bark, it is deposited around the base of plants (both bedded and in pots), usually in late spring. Here it allows the soil to retain water but also prevents soil compaction when there’s a downpour. It suppresses weeds (so less weeding!) and encourages important micro-organisms to thrive in the dirt.

7. Plant flowers

It’s important to have flowers around even if you had just planned on growing vegetables. As well as obviously adding to the aesthetics of your garden they are beneficial to insects, support biodiversity and attract pollinators and butterflies.

8. Conserve water

Water conservation is key to maintaining a sustainable garden. Use barrels to collect rainwater so you draw on municipal supplies as little as possible. One trick to make sure that water isn’t wasted is to make trenches around your plants, which will funnel water straight to the roots.

9. Use a manual mower

Ditch the petrol mower – though they only have small engines they can be extremely inefficient and emit air pollutants. An electric one is a slightly greener option, but for true sustainable gardening use a manual mower. Free outdoor exercise – it beats going to the gym. Feeling inspired? Explore our green and gorgeous upcycling ideas for your garden next.

Originally published