Look after your garden soil
Mulch once a year. This means adding a 5-10cm layer of bulky organic matter, such as homemade peat-free compost. If you have clay soil, Autumn is the best time to do this, for sandy soil, mulch in Spring. Mulching will help protect the soil from losing nutrients and water. As the mulch breaks down, it improves the soil structure. The added organic matter also keeps beneficial micro-organisms and earthworms that live in the soil, healthy and fed. This all bodes for healthier plants and biodiversity. Other bulky organic matter mulches include: mushroom compost, wood chippings, leaf mould or a combination of these.
*Remember wild areas and wildflower patches do not need mulching, quite the opposite, they prefer poor soil, so remove any cuttings or plant material after the seeds have fallen, to prevent enriching the soil!
Collect rain water
Add a water butt. Think creatively, there is no need to buy a brand new one. How about recycling an old dustbin, water-tank or beer barrel? Connect your chosen container to a down pipe, or place it somewhere where there will be rain runoff. Top off with a cover to keep the water clean. If you have good DIY skills you can add a tap too! Use the collected rain to water the garden in drought, and top up ponds.
Minimise hard surfaces
Think about where the rain goes if there is a sudden downpour. It is a good idea to have more porous landscaping than hard, to absorb rainfall and avoid flooding. An off-road car-parking area, need not be tarmac. Consider two parallel paved areas, to accommodate the wheels, interplanted with ground cover; or a gravel garden and soak away area.
Right plant right place
Pick suitable plants. Choose plants that will be happy in the position you place them. Don’t put a delicate tree like an Acer, that prefers shelter, in a wind-whipped forecourt. Nor a sun-loving plant, like lavender, in the shade. This will save time, money and energy in the long run. Many plants are happy in moist but well drained soil. However, some prefer really good drainage, and some, especially water-meadow plants like snakehead fritillary actually thrive in damp ground!
Increase biodiversity and help wildlife
Use native plants. Wildflowers are good at coping with extreme circumstances and poorer soils. They provide nectar and pollen, which attract pollinators like bees and flower beetles. These plants also provide insect larval food for moths and butterflies, increasing biodiversity all-round. Hedgehogs are insectivores, and baby birds in the nest, need to eat around 100 caterpillars a day, to survive. A nettle patch, or blackberry bush, will both provide excellent nurseries, for many moth and butterfly species.
We hope you have found these tips useful. We’d love to hear about your sustainable gardening ideas too. Do please comment, or share on socials @seed_ball