Your own personal wilderness
We are all nature lovers, whether we’re vocal about it or not. The emotional, physical and psychological benefits of interacting with nature are well-documented and for many of us, home gardens were our first introduction to the natural world.
As children we spent countless hours climbing trees, hunting for frogs, making daisy chains and combing through lawns for insects that made us feel like giants. The fact that our species now faces a challenge on the scale of global warming indicates that we have somehow lost our connection, love, and reverence for nature.
One of the biggest challenges when considering climate change is to not succumb to paralysis in the face of a task too great for any one of us to conquer alone. Instead, it will be the small, consistent, daily actions of everyone that will add up to our collective salvation.
It’s poetic, then, that one of the most effective ways you can contribute to overcoming the climate crisis is by returning to your youth. Returning to the garden, the wilderness of home.
The benefits of conscious gardening, whether they be related to personal wellbeing or not, continue to be unearthed however our list of garden improvements focus on creating the greatest possible environmental impact.
1. Bring the rain
Water is perhaps the most important natural resource on earth, life cannot exist without it and it is running out. Despite being a self-renewing system, our impact on the planet has led to intense water pollution, desertification of green spaces, and an impending shortage of clean water.
You can aid this imbalance by reducing the amount of water you use each year in your garden. Start by installing a rain barrel under your drain pipes and in areas which see a lot of rainfall. The water from this can be used to water plants during hotter months.
A more comprehensive approach would be to build a committed ‘rain garden’ around areas hit with a lot of moisture. If you have paved or sloped areas, consider bordering them with herbaceous perennials that can then sequester that extra moisture.
Finish by covering any soil in the area with a thin layer of mulch or bark that can further absorb the water and reduce evaporation.
2. Grow (and fertilize) your own
We hear all the time about the benefits of growing your own fruits and vegetables, you can eat organic at a fraction of the price and also get the satisfaction of having created and nurtured the food you’re eating from soil to table.
However, it’s also worth noting the environmental benefits of locally grown produce. The unfortunate reality of the food we eat is that the majority of it, even that which is plant-based, carries a lot of embedded CO2 emissions. Embedded CO2 refers to carbon that is not created during the production of an item but later, either during distribution, storage, or even when it is discarded.
So while an avocado tree produces no carbon dioxide at all, the transport of those avocados from abroad, as well as their storage in supermarket fridges and finally your own uses a lot of energy, in turn producing CO2.
Growing your own allows you to cut out several polluting links in your food chain. If you want to go a step further, install a compost bin to take care of any vegetable scraps and allow you to fertilize your crops without using chemicals that might harm soil and wildlife.
3. Build green corridors
Speaking of wildlife, it is shrinking around the UK and the world. I’ll leave David Attenborough to fill in the details but, suffice to say, non-human animals are suffering from human behaviour and they need our help.
One of the best ways to do this is by turning your garden into a green corridor for wildlife, you could even speak to your neighbours about collaborating on a miniature oasis – especially if you live in a built-up area.
Foxes, hedgehogs, birds and insects can all be attracted and sustained through a combination of techniques. If you have hedging or dense shrubbery, perhaps allow it to expand further to allow for nesting birds or migrating rodents. A wildflower patch is an excellent way to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies and there’s always the faithful birdbox to bring feathered friends into your garden.
4. Beauty and clarity
So often we focus on the aesthetic beauty of our gardens without asking how we can further support the biological systems around us. A painting rather than home as it were.
When choosing your planting lists for this year, consider replacing some of your flowering plants with larger shrubs or even investing in a small tree. These not only help to cool your garden with their shade, they also reduce moisture loss through evaporation and pump more oxygen into the air. As a result, these plants can contribute to your physical health as well as that of the wider world.
5. Retire your lawnmower
Lawns appeal to our desire for order and open spaces but they do leave something to be desired in how they interact with local ecosystems. The most popular species of lawn grass create homogenous landscapes and strip biodiversity – particularly when we insist on rooting out every so-called weed and treating lawns with harsh chemicals.
However, you needn’t tear the thing up like an emerald carpet, instead, we offer the possibility of doing nothing here. Simply allow your lawn to continue growing, or a small section of it if you can’t bear the chaos. Retiring your lawn mower will save money in CO2 in electricity use but, more importantly, wildflowers and rogue grasses will spring up as the site is left unattended. In time nature will reclaim the space and fill it with biodiversity.
So ends our guide on how to create a more environmentally friendly garden, we hope that you’re able to use some of the advice here and perhaps devise your own innovations to support a greener world.