There is one place in which you really can make a start at ‘going green’ - your garden. If you’re still staring at an immaculate lawn with border beds kept in-check with regular cocktails of pesticides, weed killers and chemical fertilisers, it’s time to start thinking ‘out of the box’! Your garden could both feed you and become a tribute to living in harmony with all that surrounds it.
Using the principles of permaculture
Many green gardeners are adopting the principles of permaculture in their approach to gardening.
As its underlying premise, permaculture believes in benefitting life in all of its forms. It is the art and science of designing human beings’ place in the environment (rather than the place of the environment in the lives of human beings). Permaculture design teaches you to understand and mirror the patterns found in healthy natural environments.
If you’re interested in pursuing a course on permaculture – see our directory - or read more about permaculture here
This translates as: out with anything that isn’t natural or real – no fertilisers or pesticide cocktails - unless it’s the chilli/garlic cocktail we use to keep off the white fly or the organic snail pellets by Biogrow that even humans can eat (although personally I’d stay away from the garlic/chilli concoction, it’s lethal!) A system in balance shouldn’t need much intervention but sometimes you might need to take some action.
Kitchen scraps for compost
This has to be the simplest form of saving the planet. Any organic substance – vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grinds, tea bags, egg shells, stale bread and even tissues - can go into your compost heap – think how much you’ll save from going into landfill? By making your own compost [botany.uwc], you’re saving on buying the commercial products and you’re getting your hands dirty – good for the soul and the soil. If you’re short of space, get compost in fast mode by feeding your scraps to worms. Known as vermi composting or worm composting, the end result is quite different from ‘regular’ composting – worm casts are like superfood for plants. [get yourself a worm bin or compost bin]
Catch the rain
Depending on your rainfall pattern, this can be a really worthwhile venture. A rain tank – whether you’re making one of your own [soil for life] , or buying varying sizes of rainwater tank [rainwater harvesters on urban sprout] – is an effortless way to capture rainwater that otherwise would be run off from your roof. In this way, you’re not using purified drinking water (something we’re soon going to be very short of) to water the plants.
Smart use of water
Most of this is common sense, but it bears reflecting briefly on the smart use of water: use a drip-irrigation or water at the roots of plants – only two out of every one hundred drops of water actually reach the roots of a plant! The rest is wasted either as evaporation or run-off. This is why compost and mulch play such a pivotal role in a garden, so mulch, mulch, mulch! And water either early in the day, or in the early evening, to avoid evaporation. You can also plant in such a way that plants are grouped according their watering requirements. [for further tips on conserving water, read green your water]
Grow your own
You know that when this is a topic of conversation at one of your child’s birthday parties that growing your own vegetables in the garden has finally moved into the ‘trendy’ arena. No longer referred to as ‘subsistence farming’, growing your own is both rewarding and fruitful – it sure beats mowing the lawn! Use your garden as food – it will be hard to find something fresher, more nutritious or closer to home. [edible garden services on urban sprout]
Start a community garden
Known as guerrilla gardening [treehugger], greenies in the UK and USA are creating gardens – food, flowers and anything else that grabs your fancy – on just about any available piece of land in cities. I’ve chosen to take Trevor Manuel’s call to grow food on any arable land quite literally [food crisis] , and encourage you to join with neighbours and start a community garden. If there is available land close to you, contact your city council about leasing it – this will, of course, take forever, but nothing is stopping you going ahead with your community garden anyway, whilst you wait for bureaucracy to follow its very slow course!
Go local, go bos
This is an obvious green choice. Planting indigenous plants, local to your area, in place of huge stretches of lawn, is not only a water-wise decision, but it also encourages the creepy crawlies, butterflies and birds, which in turn, helps get rid of the bugs you’re trying to avoid when you stop using pesticides and the like… happiness all round.
There are numerous ways in which you can re-use and recycle in the garden – re-use pots and pans to grow plants and seedlings or even your old milk containers, use old building materials such as old baths and sinks, buckets and barrels; car tyres too make excellent ramparts or wind breaks (be careful about using these for growing root vegetables due to possible leeching of heavy metals). Even old boots or shoes make quaint pots for herbs and little plants.
Just in case you’re muttering about not having the space for a garden, there is always a way to bring the garden into your home – on your balcony or even on your kitchen window sill. You can grow a number of vegetables and plants in containers and pots. We’ve grown lettuce on a window sill and a miniature edible sunflower forest. Don’t forget too about wheatgrass and sprouting [kitchen garden]