There are some beautiful plants out there ... but how well suited are they to your local conditions – and your local wildlife?
If you live in a dry area, does it really make sense to plant a tree that needs lots of water? And did you know that some exotic flowers, as lovely as they are to look at , provide absolutely no food for local bees and other insects?
Here are some ways you can green your garden:
- Choose local plants
Native plant species offer many advantages over exotic species. For a start, they're better adapted to the climate and soil of your area, so are likely to need less care – including fewer toxic chemicals.
They are also more likely to provide appropriate food and shelter to the insects, birds and other wildlife in your area. This can help local biodiversity enormously.
And attracting birds and beneficial insects can also help keep garden pests under control, reducing the need to use chemicals.
Why not part of your garden grow freely and see what wild flowers appear?
- Choose appropriate plants
Consider your local conditions before buying a plant. Will you need to water it a lot? Change the soil conditions for it to thrive? This will not only be a lot of work, it can also damage your local biodiversity.
- Choose your bulbs carefully
Buy bulbs from cultivated stocks only. Ask your local shop or gardening centre for advice.
- Respect nature
Never take plants from anywhere in the wild.
How does your garden grow?
Instead of automatically reaching for chemicals and the hose, go for more environmentally friendly options:
- Use compost instead of fertilizer
Compost and mulch improve soil health and reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
You use your own garden and food waste to make compost, either at home yourself or through a local council scheme. If they don’t have one, ring them up and ask for one to be set up.
And remember, if you must use pesticides and fertilizers, never pour them the ground, into storm sewers or down the drain. Always take these toxic substances to your local waste disposal facility.
- Use natural alternatives to pesticides
Instead of chemical pesticides, mix neem oil and garlic oil and spray on tree trunks and diseased plants and shrubs. This works like a charm on pests, bacteria and fungus.
You can also protect your plants using traps and by attracting birds and other natural predators such as ladybirds. In some places you can even buy ladybugs and release them into your garden.
- Use plants that repel insects
Some herbs and flowers – like basil, chives, mint, marigolds and chrysanthemums – mixed in with other plants help keep pests away.
- Remove weeds organically
Instead of toxic weed killers, spray weeds with something that adjusts the pH (acidity) in the ground around them. Try using vinegar directly on the most stubborn ones.
- Save water
Collect rainwater to water your garden.
Put your garden to work
- Plant a tree
Trees suck up CO2 and make clean air for us to breathe. A tree planted in the right place near your home can also provide cooling shade in the summer and save on air conditioning costs.
- Get fit!
Don’t use electrical equipment like leaf blowers. They consume so much energy for so little gain. Use a rake instead.
Sit back and relax
Take time out to sit in your backyard with friends and family, and appreciate the beauty of nature. But remember:
- Choose sustainable furniture
Don’t buy garden furniture or decking made of tropical hard wood, such as mahogany, unless the wood is sustainably sourced and has a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label.