As the trend towards wildlife gardens continues, Hannah Stephenson looks at 10 simple ways to make your garden more eco-friendly
If your planting is attracting bees, butterflies and other wildlife, your shed is devoid of pesticides and your fruit and veg are strictly organic, then you are already heading along the right road to eco-friendliness.
But follow these 10 simple tips and you could get even further, even faster.
1. Plant bright flowers such as candytuft, sunflowers and marigolds, to encourage beneficial insects like ladybirds and lacewings. These will eat aphids such as blackfly, which can decimate your flowers and crops. Bluebells, cowslips, foxgloves and primroses are all wildflowers to add colour and beauty to any garden. Buy flowers that will bloom as late into the autumn as possible, to allow more beneficial bugs and bees plenty of time to pollinate.
2. Invest in a water butt. Even better, blend it in with your garden scheme by building a wooden casing around it and painting it, suggests DIY power tool experts Dremel (www.dremel.co.uk). Alternatively, buy an old wine barrel as an attractive alternative and customise it so you can fill a watering can. Wooden water butts need to stand above ground level, allowing the wood to breathe from beneath.
3. Create your own makeshift mulch. If you have collected leaves to make leaf mould over the years, this will act as a great mulch in spring. Alternatively, use compost, bark or garden clippings which have been shredded.
4. Consider ‘companion planting’ to ward off predators. Many plant combinations mask each other with scent. The smell of Tagetes (French marigolds) will deter whitefly, while garlic and other alliums have been used as companions to keep pests at bay. Trailing nasturtiums repel woolly aphids, while bugle extract repels cabbage white caterpillars. In a similar way, leeks repel carrot flies, okra shields peppers from wind, while tall crops provide a canopy for short ones, such as lettuce and spinach, which prefer partial shade in the heat.
5. Recycle everyday packaging to use in your garden. Plastic cartons which have held pre-packed veg can be adapted as seed trays, yoghurt pots which have been thoroughly cleaned can be used to raise seedlings and larger plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off can work as makeshift cloches around young vulnerable plants. Large wooden crates can be used to store fruit and veg later on in the season.
6. Set up a worm compost bin if you only have a small space, and make a home for some small, red tiger worms, which you can buy. Use a wooden box with holes and a lid for a worm compost bin., add a layer of moist, shredded newspaper and soil for their bedding, then feed them once a week with vegetable peelings wrapped in newspaper or paper towels. Every two or three months, the rich, fine compost will be ready to use.
7. Use solar power to light the path to your front door. Solar lights fixed into the ground store energy at low cost in the daytime and light the way to your front door in the dark. Cut niches into your paving stones by using a compact saw or plant them either side of your path in the garden borders.
8. Make a compost bin if you don’t already have one. To make a simple wooden compost bin simply cut wooden slats to size and screw them together at right angles. Sand down any sharp edges or splintered wood, then prepare your compost by layering grass cuttings, leaves and natural waste from your kitchen (such as paper, cardboard and vegetable peelings) and turn regularly. Once the waste has rotted, it should be an ideal supply to mix with your garden top soil.
9. Charge battery-powered equipment the smart way. If your garden tools are battery-powered, bear in mind that the prices charged for electricity may vary at different times of the day and night. Once you have the details you can start saving money by charging batteries during off-peak hours. Additionally, lithium-ion batteries retain their charge even if they haven’t been used for some time.
10. Minimise your non-permeable hard landscaping, such as pavers set in concrete. Create boundaries with hedging rather than fencing if you can.