By Ant Langston |
Ecological awareness is a badge of honour in this day and age; no longer the prerequisite of a certain “type” but a normal and acceptable way to lead a life. We’re all recycling and saving energy daily and a lot of the time we’re doing it without even noticing. Energy saving light bulbs and solar powered garden lights are just the tip of the iceberg and because education is improving, more and more of us are doing our bit in the garden as well as in the home.
Becoming more ecologically aware in your gardening habits is far simpler than you might imagine and it can be a lot cheaper than conventional gardening too. There are so many ways to save energy and improve the environment that it’s hard to list them all…but for those who want to make a difference now, here are the top 5 methods!
Get a water butt or rain barrel
Water saving is an important part of conservation and a water butt is a brilliant way to help in the fight for a cleaner and less wasteful world. It’s also a real money saver!
If you intend to use the water from your water butt (or rain barrel) for watering your plants, then get one with a tap at the base. Some water butts come without a tap and they cost less but you will have to scoop water from the surface if that’s what you choose. Water butts also make a great car-washing supply; again choose one with a tap and then you can fit a hose to it and wash your car with fabulously “soft” water! Ensure that your water butt has a lid in place at all times to prevent curious animals from falling into its depths!
Plant a wild meadow
If you have enough space, then planting a “meadow” in your garden is quite literally a life saver for many species of insects in the UK. Our honey bees and some butterflies are seriously endangered and wild meadow plants which feed and house these insects have been diminished through the years of building and developments that have damaged the country over the years and destroyed natural habitats. Choose an area as large as you can spare and one which sees plenty of sunshine throughout the day.
Many people choose a patch of lawn…but before you plant your wildflowers you should spend a few months mowing the lawn very short on a regular basis and also removing all grass clippings. This helps to deprive the lawn of nutrients which will create a very infertile environment… which wildflowers love! Autumn is the best time to plant your wildflowers and they do best if you plant them as “plugs” which are small plants.
Purchase wildflower plugs online at very reasonable prices; choose colours which appeal to you and then plant away! Drop a little compost into each hole before you add the plug and then surround the young plant with leaf mulch to protect it from other plants which may try to invade. In the spring you will see the flowers begin to grow and for around 8 weeks of the summer you will have a gloriously thriving meadow which is full of colour and full of wildlife!
Create a wild corner
This is an area which is dedicated to small mammals. It can be nothing but a wood pile with a few old leaves for good measure but what it means to certain creatures is a safe place to call home. Hedgehogs in particular will love to live in a quiet corner of your garden and most especially if you don’t own a cat! A sheet of corrugated iron laid flat on the ground provides an excellent home for slow worms. These amazing but shy creatures relish the long “tubes” provided by corrugated iron and will make their home under any handy corrugated iron which they find.
Make your own compost heap
Compost heaps are like gold to gardeners and they provide not only a constant source of nutrition for your plants but also a great way of shifting your waste! Grass clippings, vegetable peelings and some cardboard and paper are all good for compost heaps… but never add meat to a heap! Meat attracts rats and other scavengers and it can also cause a nasty odour, so stick to green and brown waste…that’s anything which was once growing in the earth. You can use a container or simply make a pile but all compost heaps need a lid…if yours isn’t in a container then a sheet of plastic will protect it.
Grow your own vegetables
What greener or more eco friendly activity could you possibly indulge in than growing your own food? It’s a great hobby and can become seriously addictive! Start simple with tomatoes in pots or potatoes in grow bags before you dig up a portion to use for your patch. Consider growing lettuce, garlic, cabbages and potatoes which are all good staple foods and which also make great “swaps” with other gardeners for cuttings and soft fruits when in season. Eco friendly gardening is very satisfying and when you do begin to see the wildlife in your garden or when you harvest your own food you will be reaping the benefits of the research and efforts that you have put in!