29 Mar 2017

Sustainable gardening has become a bit of a buzzword as of late, and for good reason. Gardens can take a lot of energy and water to maintain resources that we should be carefully using and not wasting.

Sustainable gardening has become a bit of a buzzword as of late, and for good reason. Gardens can take a lot of energy and water to maintain resources that we should be carefully using and not wasting. Because of this, sustainable gardening focuses on gardening in a way that minimises its impact on the environment. Being environmentally conscious is not just a trend, but is a responsibility that we need to fulfil today, in order to pave the way for future generations. Ask yourself: Is your garden really as green as you think it is?

1. Install tanks for rainfall and greywater systems

If you live in a region that gets a lot of rain throughout the year, it seems silly not to use all that free, clean, literally fallen-from-heaven water. If there’s space on your property, consider buying a big tank (or tanks) of water, so that they can store rainfall. You can use that to water your garden, and it is also a good idea for the summer months, when the risk of a bushfire could be quite high.

On the other hand, greywater is also another clever way to reuse water. Greywater is the drain-waste water that comes from your shower, sinks, bath, spa, dishwasher and washing machine. It is not the water that comes from the toilets. Unlike rainfall though, greywater must be recycled in order to be used in your garden. Recycling systems and greywater devices must be installed from a licensed supplier and a plumber.

2. Indigenous plants

To reduce the amount of water and care your plants need, consider planting a few indigenous plants in your garden. Having native flora specific to where you live means that the plants are used to growing in that area and will thrive without excessive care or extra watering other than rainfall; just how it would happen in the wild.
Additionally, having indigenous plants will provide a natural habitat and refuge for the local wildlife, such as birds, reptiles and insects.

3. Add organic matter

Composting is reusing all the organic materials that you would otherwise waste in your kitchen (including food and garden vegetation) for the benefit of your garden. Not only is it a smart way to recycle and look after the environment, but it also improves the soil’s quality, so your plants will love it! Nothing better than nature going back to nature.

The first step of composting is the bin. Choose a big bin, preferably plastic, with a lid and ventilation slits, and position it in a shady spot in your garden. This will ensure the bin is always moist. However, make sure it’s never wet, and ventilate it once a week. After all that is sorted, start placing all organic waste on the bin, in layers. This could include egg shells, seeds, veggies and fruits, its peels, tea bags, vacuum dust, leaves, shredded paper, prunings and grass. Avoid citrus fruits, meat, bones, dairy products, sour products, bread, cake and pet excrement.

After about four months, your compost should look a lot like mulch, looking quite dark in colour. This is when the compost is ready to be applied to your garden.

 4. Have at least one shade tree

Nobody wants a gloomy garden, but having at least one shade tree is a must if you want your garden to be greener. Natural shade in your garden will help you get protection from the harsh Australian sun and high summer temperatures. Plus, it’ll help the plants and garden to retain some of its regular temperature, so you don’t need to use extra water to keep them alive. It’s even better if the tree is native to Australia.

5. Plant a couple of dense bushes

Realising that you’re sharing your property with Australian wildlife is important. A green garden should have a presence of reptiles, bugs, insects and birds. The latter love to to find refuge in dense bushes, which is a perfect shelter for them to build their nests. Having a little water fountain and even providing a bowl with a couple of seeds for birds to feed on, is also a great way to care for the flora and fauna of your local area.

6. Grow your own veggies

Every garden should have its own organic veggie patch. After all, why not make the most out of your piece of land? If the satisfaction of growing and savouring your own clean veggies is not enough to get you on board, think about less time in the shops, less money buying produce at the supermarket, less plastic bags to carry those vegetables and not to mention the subsequent benefit to the planet.

When planting your own vegetable garden, you are actually saving energy, as a percentage of greenhouse gases affecting the environment are linked solely to agricultural production.

Some good ideas for easy veggies to grow and look after are: Cherry tomatoes, which  grow quite fast, green beans, spinach and silverbeet. Silverbeet is very sturdy, doesn’t need to be pulled from the root to be eaten and as such, the same plant can keep on producing leaves (unlike lettuce) thriving throughout the year in every season. In addition, silverbeet has high levels of iron, which is quite beneficial for your overall health.

An environmentally-friendly garden should also have herbs, such as rosemary, parsley, basil, chives, mint and rocket.

7. Have at least one fruit tree

Fruit trees are also a great addition to your garden (other than being deliciously convenient!) Having a fruit tree not only helps us humans to enjoy a healthy snack, but can be a source of food to some native animals too. Lemon and orange trees are sturdy and easy to grow in most climates, while an avocado tree could save you lots of money in the future!

8. Worm farm

It may not sound too appealing, but worm farms keep your garden healthy without the damaging and dangerous effects pesticides can bring. Plus, your kids will be fascinated by them!

Worms actually turn food scraps into a powerful juice-like substance which is pure nutrition for plants. You can buy the worms or worm farms from your local nursery or build one yourself if you’re feeling adventurous. All you need to do is make sure the worms have a place to rest and that they are left in a shaded area. You’ll have to get around 2,000 worms for your farm to be effective. Feed them organic matter, such as fruit peels, tea bags, bread and all the other materials that you would put in the compost bin.