While gardening is an activity that connects and engages us with nature in what seems like a constructive and healthy way, there are aspects of maintaining your garden that can have harmful effects on the environment. From water wastage that results from keeping plants watered, to the pollution that enters the atmosphere from petrol-fueled lawn mowers and chemical fertilisers, there are a number of potentially harmful practices that many of us conduct on a regular basis while gardening. Fortunately, however, this is a common concern among many gardeners, and the shared concern has led to a number of gardening tools, products and methods that can make your garden greener. Here are five general tips for becoming a more eco-friendly gardener.
Permaculture is a way of growing and living that has recently received an increasing amount of publicity, ‘but what is Permaculture?’ We hear you cry… Well in essence it is a method of growing which is self supporting and self sustaining. Rather than creating work by trying to control the vegetable plants we grow, growing to permaculture principles means following natures rules rather than our own. For example, peas and beans can grow up the stalks of corn plants, and one of my favourite permaculture based phrases – You don’t have an excess of slugs; you have a shortage of ducks.
After the chill of December snow and frost on the ground and the busy bustle of the Christmas period, getting through the January blues and starting to see evenings grow longer with more daylight hours to enjoy, I’m beginning to look to making plans for the year ahead.
Well I’m happy to report (belatedly) that the bean tunnel is up and the flowers are beginning to appear on my french beans and runner beans so can’t wait to start seeing little beans forming. The peas however have not ended up being part of the tunnel, but are in the main bed with some twiggy branches as supports which with further consideration, we felt would be better for them and gives us easier access to more of the main vegetable bed too so winners all around.
May has to be one of my favourite months of the year, not just because it often has more reliable weather than August, or because two bank holidays give the luxury of a couple of long weekends (although the reliable weather thing doesn’t usually extend to cover the British Bank Holidays as we are often made only too aware!). No, my reason for loving May is the sight of masses of vegetable plant seedlings bursting forth from the depths of their warm compost beds.
It’s National Allotment Week and across the UK different events have been taking place to spread the word about growing your own. From open days at allotment gardens across the UK to a scarecrow competition launched by an Elvis impersonating scarecrow at the Eden Project in Cornwall, and plenty more to come before the week is out.
Waiting lists of up to 9 years across different areas of Wales have led to calls for more to be done to increase growing spaces across the country. Growing your own vegetables is becoming ever more popular, with allotments still being the prime location for most if they can get their hands on a vacant plot.
Months of preparation are beginning to pay off as the first real crops are maturing at the allotment. From the time when the tiny seeds were planted in seed trays and tended daily to see how they progressed, to planting them out in raised beds or their specific areas at the allotment, it has been a journey with both triumphs and failures and lessons learnt for next year. Growing your own vegetables is at its most rewarding however when you can begin to pick your crops and enjoy meals made up of your own fresh homegrown fruit and veg.
Film director Guy Ritchie has submitted proposals to make Ashcombe House in Wiltshire “more self-sufficient”. 40 year old Ritchie received the home as part of the settlement following his split with Queen of pop Madonna and is looking to put plans into place that will make the 18th Century estate, worth £9 million, a greener, more sustainable place to live.
At a time when allotment waiting lists are as long as your arm and people are looking for different ways to get their own bit of ‘The Good Life’ by growing their own veg, National Trust has come up with the perfect solution. Window boxes.
I always think there is little more satisfying than planting a seed in a pot of compost, nurturing it with warmth and water, and waiting for the day when the tips of those two first little leaves poke their way through the soil into the light. Every day when returning from the office, I make my way down the alleyway like a child at Christmas to see how much the little family of seedlings has grown, and whether there are any new plants making their tentative first look at the world above the compost.