Feb 5, 2015 ,

When it comes to creating the most eco-friendly garden possible, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a variety of ways to make a more self-sustaining environment that not only reduces waste but is more reliant on renewable sources of energy as well. And best of all, your local wildlife will certainly thank you for providing a range of habitats right outside your house.

Gardeners play a unique role in lessening the ever-growing pressures within the ecosystem. Studies have also shown that eco gardening has made a positive impact on the slowing of climate change, cutting energy use, and reducing waste. If you find your garden to be uninteresting and dull, consider eco-living to transform your space into something that is more biologically diverse and planet-friendly. Below are just five gardening ideas so that you can make your garden even more eco-friendly:

1. Attract Friendly Bugs

Ladybirds, lacewings, and ground beetles, oh my! Whether you absolutely detest insects or enjoy watching them fly about the garden, the fact of the matter is that while there are plenty of bugs, like greenflies, that can be harmful to plants, there are also beneficial bugs that can help reduce the population of harmful bugs.

Ladybirds and lacewings, for example, eat aphids such as the blackfly. So, if you have an aphid infestation, consider planting a flower border of sunflowers, candytuft, and marigolds to attract these “good guys” and minimize any damage to your garden.

Ladybug. Image courtesy of Moni Sertel.

2. The Early Bird Catches the Worm

As for the snails, slugs, caterpillars, grubs, and other pests that can destroy your garden, birds can serve as exceptional and natural protectors. Install bird feeders for a variety of birds and nesting boxes to encourage more birds to visit. Using birds and beneficial insects in this way will also help eliminate the need for synthetic insecticides, fungicides, and weed killers that are toxic to the environment. For a faster approach to eliminating slugs and snails, you can plant barriers such as crushed eggshells or environmentally friendly slug pellets.

3. Consider Companion Planting

The most beautiful and healthy gardens are those with a diverse mix of plants. Furthermore, certain combinations of plants are said to complement each other to boost growth and vitality. Marigolds, for example, are said to help deter unwanted flying and soil insects from plants. Tall plants can naturally provide shade for more sun-sensitive and shorter plants.  It is wise to keep in mind that although there are some brilliant pairings for plants in your garden to keep them in the best shape possible, some plants do not go well together and can hinder the growth and productivity of other plants.  You should always take into account what you would like to grow in your garden before you begin to add plants, and once you know this be sure to do your research so that you do not encounter difficulties in growing season.

Below are some great garden combinations to consider, but, again, keep in mind that these do not necessarily all work with each other, only that the individual pairings do.

  • Chives & Tomatoes – Planting chives can provide added protection for your tomatoes in close proximity.  The onion-like scent of chives helps to deter aphids from attacking your tomatoes, leaving them to grow in peace.  Furthermore, the scent of the chives does not seep into the tomatoes, so there is no worry about contaminated flavors, and you get two delicious ingredients for the kitchen.
  • Rose & Garlic – Planting garlic in combination with roses is nothing new, as garlic serves as a natural rose pest repellent due to its scent. In addition to being a great cooking ingredient, garlic chives also sprout small purple and white flowers during springtime, which blend in gorgeously with the roses and other foliage throughout the garden.
  • Carrot & Spring Onions – This is a particularly beneficial pairing as the mixture of carrots and spring onions benefits both of the contributors.  The smell of onion will help to discourage carrot root fly from getting too near the carrots.  Likewise, the smell of the carrots will help to prevent onion fly from being in close proximity with the onions.  This again leaves you with two untouched, perfectly suited plants for your garden and ingredients for your kitchen.
  • Cucumber & Radish & Dill – When radish is planted with cucumber it can help to minimize the possibility of cucumber beetles attacking your crop. If you wanted to go one step further then you can also plant some dill near your cucumbers as this will help to attract beneficial predators – those that will not eat the cucumber but will eat other pests that try to.

4. Set Up a Compost Bin

While you can purchase your own soil from a local gardening or hardware store, compost is the most important supplement you can have in your eco garden’s soil. Not only is the process of composting an easy way to give your garden the nutrients it needs to grow, but it’s also a more satisfying solution for both your wallet and the environment.

By adding compost to your garden, you’re essentially introducing new and beneficial microorganisms that will help aerate the soil, break down the material to encourage further plant growth, prevent plant disease from spreading, retain moisture in the soil, and serves as a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.

To set up your compost bin, start by collecting compostable ingredients such as table scraps (fruits, vegetables, eggshells, tea leaves, etc.), coffee grounds, shredded paper, and weeds. Avoid composting meat, fish scraps, and bones, as they will attract unwanted pests. Once you have your compost together, spread the mix of peelings and garden waste over a warm, partly sunny site in the garden. When weather conditions are right, the compost will encourage compost-making bugs and the compost will be ready to use within six to nine months. If you have outdoor pets that may consume the compost, consider surrounding the soil with durable fencing which can be purchased online or at various home improvement retailers.

Compost bin
Compost bin. Image courtesy of London Permaculture

5. Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle

There are so many ways to reduce the amount of waste you create, from growing your own fruit and vegetables to using your own compost, to only buying recyclable packaging.  A large part of reducing waste is to reuse what you already have, such as fencing, vegetable peelings, plant clippings, and even using a water butt to decrease the amount of fresh water you use when looking after the garden.

Everyday packaging, plastic bottles, and wooden containers can all be reused in a variety of ways around the garden. Plastic bottles, for example, can be used as seedling protectors by cutting off the base and placing them over the seedling patch. Or if you fancy having a makeshift watering can for the greenhouse that won’t take up much space at all, simply poke a few holes into the lids of plastic bottles and use them to sprinkle your crops.

Whether you’re looking to be a more eco-friendly citizen or simply want to make your garden more appealing and welcoming, there are plenty of ways to do so without having to worry about your wallet or Mother Nature. What eco-friendly methods do you use?

About the Author

With a love for all things outdoorsy, Gemma Perkins finds great enjoyment in experimenting with different ideas on how to create things from nature.  From walks in the park she can pick up flowers for her decorating ideas, and from walking around the countryside with her family she can come up with ways to transform old shed buildings into fun, but useful, areas of space.  Finding inspiration in the smallest of things, Gemma is definitely an opportunist at heart.

Feature image courtesy of Tony Hammond

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