How to make a garden eco-friendly and more sustainable

How to make a garden eco-friendly and more sustainable

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Are you looking for expert advice and assistance on how to create an eco-friendly & sustainable garden?

Giving back to nature rather than taking from the environment will have benefits for the garden, wildlife and your local community. 

The benefits of having a sustainable garden is not only beautiful but more economical as it involves using recycled materials, reducing the use of natural resources and requires less maintenance too. Anyone who has a garden or outdoor space has the ability to transform their space into a sustainable haven for wildlife, pollinators and insects all contributing to a natural and healthy sustainable environment.

So if you're looking for some practical and creative  ideas to transform your garden here are some simple ways to make a garden that is both sustainable and buzzing with life.

Plant a tree.

There are many benefits to planting trees in your garden and local area.  Trees benefit the environment and improve the quality of the air and are a cost effective solution to combating the adverse effects of climate change such as extreme heat, drought and floods. 

Trees take in carbon dioxide helping to capture and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by converting and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere and absorbing harmful chemicals giving us cleaner air to breathe. Planting a tree in your garden or outdoor space not only provides a peaceful and relaxing environment but also provides cool shade in your garden, home or office during hotter times of the year reducing energy costs.  

With the addition of climate change we are experiencing unusual heavy rain falls and flooding. Trees can help reduce flooding by catching the raindrops that land on the leaves evaporating straight into the air. Leaves also filter rainfall and slow the rate that water flows to the ground reducing the risk of flooding. 

The roots of a tree are also important. They create little passages in the soil as they grow, so when it rains water flows into those and filters into the earth below. The roots also act as a net to hold the soil in place preventing soil erosion. 

Trees are not only beautiful and calming to be around, they greatly benefit wildlife by providing food, shelter and nesting sites for birds, small mammals and insects.

Rainwater collecting, storing and re- using.

Collecting and storing rainwater in a butt used to water plants during dry periods and reduce flooding in wet periods will save on money and resources. In prolonged hot, dry and windy weather conditions plants may need water especially if they have been recently planted. Newly planted shrubs, trees and herbaceous perennials annuals and vegetables will require regular watering until their roots become established. Using a watering can saves water by directing the water directly to the roots where it's needed.  Once plants are established adding mulches such as bark chippings and home made compost to soil will help improve the structure and reduce the need for watering. Plants stand a better chance of surviving if planted in their preferred environment. Planting a plant in the right place is the best thing you can do to keep them growing happy and strong. 

Due to climate change and population growth water resources are under increased pressure so it's important to be aware and use mains water as a last result if you can. Rain water can be collected from the roof of any building or structure where there is guttering and a downpipe.

Rainwater will help your plants to grow much healthier than tap water and doesn't contain chemicals. 

Go peat free

Going peat free is good for the environment and does three important things for us and so keeping peat where it belongs and in the ground is the best thing we can do. 

  1. Peat Stores Carbon Peat bogs cover only about 5% of our planet and the largest natural carbon store than any other vegetation or forest. When peat is removed for compost vast amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. 
  2. Peatlands Reduce Flooding Due to climate change flooding is becoming an increasing problem in many areas of the UK.  By destroying our peatlands we are exacerbating the problem because peat soaks up large amounts of rainwater slowing down  the water flow and reducing the risk to towns and villages.
  3. Peatlands Protect Wildlife Peatlands are home to many British birds, insects and plants. By using peat we are destroying their habitats and putting our wildlife at risk of extinction.

Alternatives to peat compost

Peat free composts are better for the environment as they are made from sustainable organic materials such as wood fibre, composted bark, coir and, composted garden waste.

Composts bought from a garden centre are made for different tasks such as sowing seeds, raising young plants and for use in containers. Some composts are completely peat free while others contain some peat so it's good to read the labels to know exactly what you are buying. The good news is the government plan to stop all peat from sale by 2024. 

Home made compost

Home made compost is easy to make and has a low carbon footprint. These composts can be used to improve the condition of the soil, applied as a mulch and used as a growing medium. To make compost you need 50 - 50 of dry and wet ingredients. 


  • Grass clippings
  • Annual weeds
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Nettles
  • Tea bags
  • Cardboard
  • Garden trimmings
  • Newspaper (scrunched up)
  • Straw
  • Paper
  • Natural fibres (cotton or wool)
  • Egg shells 

Don't add:

  • Diseased plants
  • Cooked food
  • Raw meat
  • Dairy products
  • Gloss or coloured print paper
  • Cat or dog poo

Autumn leaves can take longer to mulch and are best to be composted separately to make leaf mold.

Plant for pollinators

Planting pollinator friendly plants helps maintain insect population that are in decline.  

Due to habitats loss, climate change intense farming, pesticides and disease, our bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and other insects have suffered over the years. Planting for pollinators benefits the garden, crops and wildflowers by pollinating 1 in 3 essential foods, vegetables, fruit and nuts. Watching the birds, bees and butterflies fluttering around can be calming and good for the spirit. 

Pollinators are part of the eco system helping to recycle flora and fauna, control pests, and are food for small mammals like birds, lizards, bats, frogs and toads.

How to grow pollen and nectar rich plants.

By growing a good mix of flowering plants in your garden or outdoor space, you are contributing to a sustainable wildlife friendly environment.  

When choosing pollinator plants trumpet shaped blooms or single flowers are easy for insects to crawl into and land on. If you look for the Royal Horticultural Society symbol on plants you can rest assured that you are buying the best plants for the job of looking after the wildlife in your garden.

Plants for wildlife and pollinators:

To attract bees the best flower colour  is purple as they can see this colour clearly. Plants like lavender, buddleia, catmint and alliums work well.

Also tubular shaped flowers such as penstemons, fox glove, honey suckle and snap dragon are important for long tongued garden bees. 

Winter flowers need to be thought about as some bees might forage during mild winters. Mahonia, willow,  winter clematis, winter honeysuckle, hellebore and snow drops are good plants for providing nectar and pollen during these times. 

Spring flowers for bees, pulmonaria, fritillaria,  grape hyacinth, bluebells, forget-me-not,  rosemary, rhodedendron, fruit tree blossom, apple, plum, pear and cherry. 

Summer flowers for bees,  alliums,  poppy, catmint, lavender, bee balm, zinnia, black eyed Susan, goldenrod.

Autumn of flowers for bees, asters,  single flowered dahlias, salvias, sedum, Japanese anemone.

Wildlife friendly habitats

One of the best ways to encourage wildlife into your garden is cut your lawn less often and let the grass grow. Depending on your soil type over time you will notice wildflowers naturally appearing such as daisies, buttercups, speedwell, self heal, cowslip, scabious and clover. Attracting bees, butterflies, moths and other benefitial insects and wildlife.

Wildlife and Bug homes and hotel

Wildlife and insects are always looking for safe places to hibernate.

Leave wood piles, twigs and rocks in your garden to create shelter for all sorts of important insects, such as beetles and spiders. 

Create a pond

Having a pond in your garden can be beneficial to all sorts of wildlife. Ponds do not need to be large, even a small area like a washing up bowl or sink can attract frogs, newts, damsel, dragon flies, and insects. Ponds can become a feeding ground for birds, hedgehogs and bats. The important thing is to provide wildlife with access in and out of the pond so they don't drown.     

When positioning a pond make sure that it has some afternoon shade 

Put in stones, pieces of wood to create places to hide. Fill the pond with collected rainwater as tap water contains harmful chemicals. Plant up with some plants, you only need one or two.  

The best plants for small ponds, patio ponds and water bowls.

Even small ponds benefit from having plants put in. Not only do plants look good, they oxygenate the water and provide a safe haven for wildlife, helping fish and wildlife that visit to survive creating a mini ecosystem.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Dwarf water lilies
  • Dwarf papyrus
  • Sweet flag
  • Yerba mansa
  • Water hyacinth
  • Picked plant

Then wait for the wildlife to arrive, it won't take long.

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