APR 5, 2021 | BY RUTH JOY
A Quick Guide to Sustainable Gardening
Being surrounded by colourful flowers and growing our own vegetables is something that brings me so much joy. Gardening for me is a great way to relax and forget about the worries of everyday life. I have loved messing around with seeds and dirt for many years now but recently I have started to think...
Wouldn't it be great if there was a way of doing more eco-friendly and sustainable gardening?
So, let's jump right in - I want to share with you a few of the simple changes I have made.
What can you expect here:
1. Reuse and Recycle - plant your seeds even more sustainably
2. Save Water - few tips and tricks to use less water
3. Encourage Wildlife - it has so many benefits to our world
4. More tips! - Learn more various hacks for you eco-friendly garden.
Reuse and Recycle
As I write this, pretty much every single windowsill in our house is covered in pots and trays full of baby plants which need a LOT of containers to grow in!
Instead of buying new pots I kept and reused old ones from plants I had bought the year before. But it is important to give them a good wash before refilling with fresh compost though to get rid of soil salt deposits and plant diseases.
Sometimes, mums have to be creative to live in a more eco-friendly way.
However I got so excited about growing seeds this year I soon ran out of actual pots so had a rummage through my recycling bin to see what else I could use.
And you know what?
I have discovered that old plastic food trays make great seed trays and yogurt pots can be used for growing individual plants when they are big enough to pot on.
Make sure you poke holes in the bottom of any plastic container if it doesn’t have them already. Then, pop them on a tray or in a larger food container with no holes to catch any water that drains out after watering them.
Talking of watering, why not reuse an old cleaning spray bottle to water your seedlings? Just give it a really good rinse out first.
Beyond that, my little boy Joseph is currently growing marigolds in an old egg carton and I have sweet peas growing in toilet tubes. Then again I will plant them directly in the ground once they are big enough as the card tube will biodegrade.
Note: Make sure they aren't kept too close together and are in a well ventilated room or they can go mouldy easily.
To make sure I remember what I have planted I use old lolly sticks instead of plastic plant labels. Another way is to slice a strip off a stick with a sharp knife to write on instead.
It is now time to start planting out my biggest plant babies and I am finding that plastic 2 litre bottles with the bottoms cut off make great cloches to protect young plants, acting both as a mini greenhouse and slug deterrent. You can take the lid off during the day to let the air in and pop it on at night to keep them warmer.
If you don’t use plastic bottles or milk containers yourself ask family or friends to save some for you. You can melt the raw edge to make it ‘roll in’ by placing it on a hot pan which makes them studier too. There are some good tutorials out there about how to do this so just have a search.
If you don’t use plastic bottles or milk containers yourself ask family or friends to save some for you.
- Ruth Joy
Chances are that your gardening uses up a lot of water as well. This year I am trying to find ways to give my plants a drink without resorting to the tap as often as I have in the past.
- Obviously having a water butt in the garden is a great way to collect rain water but if you don’t have space or don’t want to buy one then just popping some buckets and other containers out when it rains is also a great way to collect it to use on your garden when the soil dries out again.
- Another brilliant idea my good friend Beth told me about recently is the concept of ‘Grey water’ Which means recycling the dirty water from your washing up and baths. You need to use the water quickly before any bacteria present will feed on any organic matter like food particles. But beware: it is not recommended to use it on any plants you are growing for veg or fruit but it is perfect for general flowerbeds or houseplants.
- Another simple piece of advice I have been following myself is to water less but water well. Give your plants a really good soak so that it reaches right down to the roots. If only the top layer gets wet it will soon dry out and need water again far more quickly.
An extra tip: For pots both outside and in I tend to water from below and sometimes simply pop all my houseplants in my bath with a few inches of left over bath water for an easy way to water them all in one go. The exception to this is seedlings and baby plants who really don’t like being over watered which is why I tend to use an old spray bottle and water them daily.
Encouraging wildlife into your garden
The cool thing is that wildlife like bees, butterflies, birds, ladybirds and hedgehogs are all very beneficial for our gardens, some pollinating plants and others eating aphids and slugs. That's why this year I have planted some more wild flowers in our garden like Red Campion and have let some areas of our lawn grow so that they are now full of dandelions, daisies and clover.
When choosing plants remember bees prefer single flowers over double ones and love tubular shaped blooms like foxgloves and snapdragons. Purple flowers like Lavender and Buddleja are also great for bees who can see purple more clearly than any other colour.
A few years ago my children April and Joseph helped build a simple bug hotel using some old bricks, bits of wood, plant pots and natural materials like pine cones and this year we are going to add a bee hotel and make a hole in the fence to let hedgehogs in.
Leaving out water for wildlife is also important but so is remembering to change it often so it doesn't go stagnant!
Extra eco-gardening tips
Here are a few more sustainable gardening ideas that we do ourselves:
Collect seeds from your plants to resow the following year (keep them in a cool dry place with a stable temperature - not a garden shed)
‘Harvest’ seedlings growing in between paving stones to plant in your pots and flowerbeds. They love the warmth of these little gaps and you may be surprised at what you find growing there if you look!
Make your own compost from household veggie waste, cardboard, grass cuttings and ..... We supplement ours with shop bought compost but always make sure to check its peat free.
Ditch the plastic plant ties for biodegradable alternatives such as string or...
Use old compost bags to line hanging baskets. Poke a few holes in them for drainage.
Add water retaining crystals to the compost to help stop water evaporating so quickly.
Make your own plant feed from comfrey or stinging nettles
Look into using companion planting as a great eco friendly way to help deter pests, boost your soil fertility and help your plants grow better. (For more guidance check out this Companion Planting Guide. )
Now it's your turn to try these sustainable gardening ways to enjoy healthier, more tasty veggies and fruit, benefit our environment and make the world a better place for our little ones!
Written by Ruth Joy
Hi, I'm Ruth and mummy to April (six) and Joseph (nearly 4). I am writing this sitting in a beautiful field in front of our tent with a river running along next to me and the air full of birdsong which all makes me very happy.
I am a very visual person and love having lots of colour in my life which is one of the reasons I love dressing the children and myself in Alba. My love of colour and the outdoors combine when it comes to our garden which I like to fill with as many flowers and vegetables as I can fit into our little plot of land.
I also love travelling, eating my mum's homemade cakes and snuggling down under my duvet with a good book and a hot water bottle!