eco-friendly gardening


- Words Sophie Kalagas

CONSIDER YOUR SOIL Before you think too hard about which plants to whack in your garden, it’s worth spending some time considerin­g the soil itself. Give it a boost with some organic compost (simple scraps from your kitchen will do the trick), which holds moisture for longer, plies your plants with health-bringing nutrients, and traps atmospheri­c carbon dioxide (CO²), a harmful greenhouse gas. Avoid excessive digging and tilling, as it releases that CO² back into the air. As for fertiliser­s, use them sparingly – especially chemical-filled varieties. Most contain nitrogen, made by burning lots of natural gas, and release nitrous oxide – a major contributo­r to global warming – as they break down.

CHOOSE PLANTS WISELY Though any plant you add to your garden will help increase oxygen in the atmosphere, some types are more climate change-friendly than others. Drought-tolerant species like wattle, lavender, bougainvil­lea and any succulent won’t guzzle up loads of water; meanwhile, plants that are native to your area will adapt well and provide food for local wildlife. Most important is to create a varied, thriving ecosystem featuring annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. Precious pollinator­s like birds, bugs and bees won’t be able to keep away, and your garden – plus the broader environmen­t – will be all the stronger for it.

BUILD A BEE HOTEL Speaking of bees – those fuzzy, buzzy critters play a vital role in pollinatin­g our gardens, so you might like to whip them up a place to stay (an Airbeenbee, if you will). Find somewhere sheltered, slightly elevated and close to water and pollen-rich plants, then it’s time to begin constructi­on. You’re best off sticking to natural materials like logs, timber, clay and bamboo, drilling deep holes of different sizes so any bee can fit. They’ll also happily nest in mounds of twigs and bark – just make sure your ground-level hotel is out of the way, safe from errant pets and big, stomping feet.

LOCATION, LOCATION What if we told you the placement of greenery in your garden could affect the size of your energy bills? Shelter from well-positioned trees or hedges can act as insulation in winter, reducing the impact of chilly winds on your home and giving you less reason to pump your ducted heating (and thus, spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere). In summer, extra shade leads to cooler, aircon-free days – a simple and energy-efficient way to take on the crazy temperatur­es caused by climate change.

DON’T BE A WALLY Water. It’s kind of important. So why not set up a system in your garden that makes efficient use of the precious resource? Consider a rain storage barrel (also known as a water butt – teehee) or a ‘rain garden’ – a special garden bed that collects rainwater runoff from the roof, giving your plants a drink and slowing the water’s entry into stormwater drains. If you have the means, a drip irrigation system could be useful, too. It runs on a timer, releasing just enough moisture at the coolest, most water-efficient times of day.

GROW YOUR OWN VEG There are plenty of reasons to grow your own fruit and veggies at home: you’ll spend less at the supermarke­t; have a productive, wholesome hobby; avoid unnecessar­y packaging; and reduce your exposure to nasty pest-killing chemicals. If your space doesn’t allow for a thriving crop, though, try shopping for produce at local farmers’ markets. You’ll support smaller growers and cut down on CO² omissions from trucks delivering ‘fresh’ goods long distance. (Apparently, our food travels an average of 2500 kilometres before we chow down, which is quite the carbon footprint.)

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