Following our last piece about the rock stars at Rancho Margot, we wanted to offer some advice, techniques and methodology on how our own gardens can be more environmentally friendly.
Many of these ideas have been selected for their viability on a smaller scale and a combination of several can significantly benefit both the planet and your own personal paradise.
Sustainability begins at home.
Much like a great recipe needs the right ingredients, a sustainable garden must be formed of the right materials and the importance of sourcing them sustainably can’t be exaggerated. As an industry responsible for 5% of the global industrial CO2 production (second only to the fossil fuel industry) concrete is perhaps the best example of the environmental costs that can be hidden in seemingly ‘green’ material. Fortunately, due to rising environmental awareness and subsequent consumer demand, there are numerous alternatives for (former) concrete enthusiasts.
Regarding surfacing, resin bound composites are an eclectic new technology that are fast becoming a common theme in landscape and garden design. Depending on your needs, their anatomy can include everything from gravel to recycled glass for driveways or paths to recycled rubber , whose elasticity is ideal for play areas. Aside from the diversity of its applications, resin bound surfacing wins over concrete in one other important respect: it’s water permeable, which in light of last winter’s floods seems a prudent design feature.
‘Hempcrete’ is a favourite wall construction alternative to concrete as it is actually a carbon negative material that can theoretically absorb 165 kg of carbon for every cubic metre of hemp grown whilst releasing the embedded oxygen once built. So your garden can actually mitigate non-local carbon emission just by virtue of your design choice, whilst still maintaining the structural integrity, geometry and charm of a modern green space. Absent of the brittleness of regular concrete, this material is also far better suited to extreme temperatures and does not require expansion joints during construction.
Recycled timber is an excellent resource for sustainable garden design since it comes in a variety of forms, is completely biodegradable and, like hemp, possesses a carbon negative growth cycle. ‘Wood Pavers’ are a fairly new concept centred around the upcycling of old tree stumps – a cross section of the stump cut several times forms the sort of beautiful slabs you’d expect to find in Rivendell while ensuring no stump gets left behind. Repurposed railways sleepers are also gaining popularity as walk ways and decks for their stability and rustic appearance, (however, it is essential they not be utilized for veg beds or children’s play areas as they may contain treatment chemicals from their previous life on the tracks).
The alternatives suggested here, while viable, are merely a starting point that has hopefully inspired you to seek out more innovations by which you can further empower yourself as a friend of the environment.
In our next piece we will be discussing the softer elements of garden design such as water conservation, soil maintenance, planting choices and composting and how you might integrate these practices to garner the greatest benefit for your garden and for the surrounding ecosystem.