There are strong links between green spaces and wellbeing. Plants can help reduce stress, anger and depression and gardening is a good form of exercise. Growing your own vegetables encourages healthy eating as well as saving money and helping the environment by reducing food miles. Gardens can also help the well-being of the wider environment. Choosing plants for a wildlife friendly garden can support bees, butterflies and other insects which in turn supports birds, small mammals such as hedgehogs and other wildlife. Garden features such as ponds can also contribute to local improvements in biodiversity.
Sustainable gardening practices ensure that natural resources such as water and peat are preserved. They also help to ensure that your garden has a positive effect on the environment, for instance through providing important habitats and supporting our native biodiversity. Humans are dramatically altering the natural environment and this is leading to a steep decline in biodiversity as species struggle to survive. Collectively, the UK's 15 million gardens could provide a rich and valuable habitat for wildlife.
Hints and tips to help you manage your garden most sustainably
1. Choosing the Plants
- Native species
- Fruit and vegetables
- Locally sourced and self-grown plants
- Plants for pollinators
- Leave seed heads and grass plumes to develop
- Avoid or remove plants known to cause problems in the wider environment, e.g. Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica), Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), parrot's feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) and New Zealand pygmy weed (Crassula helmsii).
2. Encouraging wildlife
- Choose plants that provide pollen for our declining pollinator populations. See the Royal Horticultural Society Plants for Pollinators list. Flowers with flat-topped umbels or daisy-like heads are particularly attractive to many nectar-seeking insects.
- Make or buy boxes for bird, insect, bats and hedgehogs
- Bird feeders
- Provide a pond or other areas of water (ideally without fish)
- Don't be too tidy and leave some areas undisturbed. The wilder areas are often the most valuable for wildlife.
- Create a variety of habitats (i.e. long grass, heaps, log piles, shrub)
- Grow a range of trees, shrubs, climbers
- Reduce use of pesticides and herbicides to the absolute minimum
- Scatter wildflower seeds
- Reduce the area of your garden given to lawn.
3. Minimising waste
- Compost garden waste in a heap or purchase a compost bin. Subsidised bins are available from the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership.
- Reuse household waste by turning it into planting containers e.g. tyres and plastic bottles
4. Conserving water
- Harvest your own rainwater for use in the garden with a subsidised water butt from Hertfordshire Waste Partnership.
- Drip irrigation systems
- Reuse of waste water from baths and sinks
- Water directly to the root zone by hand, according to what the plants need rather than to a schedule.
- Water in the morning to reduce evaporation.
- Mulch your garden well in spring to reduce water loss
- Avoid the use of sprinklers
5. Reducing your impacts on the global environment
- Avoid using any peat in your garden in order to protect remaining peat bogs and wildlife that depend upon them.
- Ensure that any wood or garden furniture is recycled or sourced from sustainable forests and avoid tropical hardwoods
6. Go organic
- Avoid the use of chemicals in the garden which can kill wildlife. Seek advice on growing without chemicals from Garden Organic, the UK's leading organic growing charity. Alternatives methods could include biological control (e.g. introduction of nematodes/parasitic wasps), companion planting, pheromone traps, crop rotation etc.
For more information download our Greening your Garden Guide below