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Protecting the environment should be our main focus, and improving our gardening habits is a great step towards achieving a ‘greener’ lifestyle. Whether you have a small garden or a large one, you’re a novice gardener or an experienced one; we have all the info that you need. Throughout this article, we will shed some light on what an eco-friendly garden looks like and what aspects will require your attention.
Creating an eco-friendly space in your backyard might seem like a challenging task, but it’s actually quite easy. With a combination of natural solutions, eco-friendly materials, creativity, and good intentions, your garden will become a green paradise.
Read on to learn how to make your landscape more environmentally-friendly in a sustainable and affordable way.
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Most gardeners are tempted to choose what to plant in their garden based on their own preferences. However, if you want an eco-friendly garden, we recommend planting according to the surrounding environment. That means making decisions based on the climate, the available space, and all the other characteristics of your garden.
For example, if your garden doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, go for a woodland-style garden. Wetland plants are a great option for soil that tends to get waterlogged. On the other hand, if you live in an arid region, try your hand at xeriscaping, which is a type of gardening that uses very little water. If you are the lucky owner of a sunny garden, you can successfully grow Mediterranean plants that have adapted to this type of climate.
Another great advantage of choosing native plants that fit the environment is the fact that you won’t have to deal with pests and diseases. If you choose native plants, you’ll notice that they are easy-to-grow and they will also attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and other beneficial insects and wildlife, which need all the help they can get.
Here are some examples of native plants that are versatile and low-maintenance:
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A friendly ecosystem needs to have a little bit of everything, so don’t forget about climbers. These plants produce quite a lot of nectar and they also provide protection during the cold season. Trumpet creeper, passionflower, native honeysuckle, or native wisteria are all great examples of climbing plants that can spruce up your garden and attract friendly insects. The key is to choose plants that will thrive in your garden and to give them plenty of room to grow.
Native plants will pretty much take care of themselves, but make sure you plant them in the right places. For instance, sun-loving plants should get plenty of sunlight, while shade-loving plants will appreciate a corner where they will get some protection from the scorching sun.
Here are some examples of climbing plants and vines that are native to Maryland and that won’t give you a hard time:
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It’s perfectly natural to want to have a tidy and nicely designed garden, but spaces that are ‘too perfect’ can’t really become an ecosystem. If you want to turn your garden into a green paradise, leave some parts of it to their own devices at least for a little while. Rather than always cutting and pruning, allow your plants and trees to grow in a natural way.
Nature tends to like a bit of chaos, and so do the birds and the bees. To attract insects and foraging birds, leave piles of leaves, logs, and branches in a few spots that are more secluded and protected from the wind. Don’t be surprised if you start noticing more wildlife in your garden as small creatures love feeding on insects in leaves that gather between the roots of trees, inside compost heaps, underneath timber piles, and so on.
Replacing your lawn with a meadow is also recommended if you want to increase the habitat of butterflies and other pollinators. However, we recommend starting small, choosing native plants, and keeping your meadow tidy by removing the weeds regularly. According to Maryland Grows, some examples of good plants for establishing a meadow are Broomsedge, Virginia Wildrye, Beaked Panicgrass, Little Bluestem, and Purpletop.
As mentioned above, it is very important to go for native plants, and that applies to trees and shrubs as well. If you want to create an eco-friendly garden, native trees and shrubs will become a perfect habitat for beneficial wildlife. Hawthorn and other native berry-producing trees and shrubs will attract birds and insects. If you want to enclose your property for privacy, choose dense shrubs and trees instead of walls.
Even with a small garden, planting trees is a great thing that you can do to help the environment. Trees can provide shade, can produce oxygen, and reduce pollution in the surrounding area, and they will make your garden much more attractive to wildlife.
Examples of native trees and shrubs:
If you want to give a helping hand to native wildlife, create an ecosystem that encourages biodiversity and attracts beneficial birds, insects, and reptiles, and even small mammals. These cute companions will reward you by helping you get rid of certain pests. For instance, toads feed on slugs, birds feed on caterpillars and grubs, and bats eat mosquitoes and other insects.
By planting native flowers that produce a lot of nectar, you will attract bees which have a very important role in the health of the environment. As you already know, bees pollinate plants and fertilize them, and rely heavily on native trees for nectar in the spring. In fact, without bees, many different plants that serve as a vital food source for humans would disappear.
Attract beneficial wildlife to your garden by doing the following things:
Add a water feature – If your garden is spacious, you can add a pond that will provide moisture, nutrition, and protection to a large number of insects and amphibians. Many birds and mammals will also benefit. If your garden is small and you don’t have enough room for a pond, you can always install a birdbath or place water dishes on the ground during the hot summer months—just be sure to clean them out daily.
Build homes for wildlife – Sometimes, trees and shrubs don’t provide enough shelter for wildlife, especially over the cold winter months. Bug hotels, bird boxes, and piles of debris for shelters are just a few examples of wildlife homes that you can add to your garden.
Eliminate chemicals – This is a very important thing if you want to have an eco-friendly garden. Using toxic chemicals can seriously disrupt the complex balance of the ecosystem. It is a well-known fact that chemicals have a lot of negative side-effects from health problems in humans to issues in pest control and even species endangerment. The good news is that there are many natural methods that you can apply such as using water jets to knock of pests, copper slug rings, traps, garlic sprays, growing repellent herbs, etc. To combat certain pests and diseases, you can also try your hand at companion planting. For instance, to protect your tomatoes from aphids, you can grow French marigolds nearby.
If the architecture of your house or shed allows it, build a green roof. Eco-roofs are becoming more and more popular as they have many benefits. They improve the air quality in the surrounding area, provide insulation, attract wildlife, control water run-off, and look great. There are many different green roof projects available online. All you have to do is choose the one that fits your needs and your budget and get to work.
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A great way to make your garden more eco-friendly is by making your compost. As mentioned above, heaps of leaves on other compostable things will be used by beneficial wildlife and overwintering insects as a temporary shelter over the cold winter months. Compost heaps will attract toads, birds, earthworms, and other beneficial creatures and you can use the compost to fertilize your garden.
Many gardeners choose to make homemade compost as it has many benefits. First off, unlike packaged compost, homemade compost doesn’t really cost you anything. So, you’ll save money and feed your soil at the same time.
Here are some of the things that you can you add to your homemade compost (be sure food scraps are only added to enclosed compost bins):
Things that you shouldn’t add to your compost:
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Producing waste while gardening cannot be avoided completely, but the good news is that there are many effective ways to become more eco-friendly and to reduce it and repurpose it.
Repurposing fallen leaves – A great example is using the fallen leaves. Instead of gathering them and throwing out with yard waste, you can store them in a corner over the winter or just spread them across garden beds and under trees and shrubs as free mulch. They will insulate the ground, help keep soil moist, and turn into a nutrient-rich, carbon-based fertilizer by spring to improve the soils. On lawns, leaving some behind or chopping them up with the lawn mower will provide free fertilizer for the soil.
Saving water – Another waste-reducing idea that you can try out is collecting rainwater. By doing so, you reduce the amount of tap water that you use. This will have a positive impact on your budget and the environment. It is very important to avoid wasting water, so we recommend installing rain barrels and investing in an larger cistern, if possible. A large cistern or several rain barrels can collect sufficient water for an average-sized garden, and it can also be used to flush the toilets in your home. Avoid using a sprinkler. Instead, opt for a drip irrigation system, if needed, that will provide moisture to the roots of the plants, instead of wasting it on their leaves and blooms. Also, by keeping your lawn higher than 3”-4” you can keep the soil moisturized longer.
Using recycled materials – It is also important to consider the quality, the origin, and the manufacture of the materials that you’re using in your garden. Whether you’re planning on installing walls, paths, fences, or other structures, it’s highly recommended to use recycled materials. This practice has become quite popular, so you won’t have any issues finding reclamation yards, junk shops, or second-hand stores. You can also find quite a lot of used and reused stuff that’s still in perfect shape in specialized online stores such as eBay or Freecycle. A few examples of things that you can find on these websites include pipes, scaffolding boards, buckets, tin baths, wood planks, etc. By using recycled materials, you don’t just help the environment, but you also put your creativity to good use and make your home more personalized and unique.
Buying ‘new’ things that are made of recycled materials – If your schedule is quite busy and you feel that you wouldn’t have enough time on your hands to ‘hunt’ for recycled materials, we have a great solution for you. You can opt for ‘new’ construction materials that are made of recycled plastic, recycled concrete, and other materials. So, even though you are buying new things, at least you know that you’ve helped the environment by selecting something made of recycled materials.
Shop locally – This means buying materials that are produced nearby. Naturally, these products have a smaller carbon footprint. If you buy things that are made by the local community, you don’t just help the local economy, you also help the environment substantially. These materials are not transported over long distances and they will surely look natural and complement the surrounding environment. Some examples of eco-friendly materials include log walls, stone pulled out of the ground from a local construction project, rammed earth, straw bales, brick, etc.
Whether you’re choosing locally sourced materials or other types of ‘green’ materials, make sure you consider the durability and the costs. In some cases, more durability might be preferred, but it all depending on your personal needs and preferences.
It is never too late to start becoming an eco-friendly gardener! Hopefully, we’ve convinced you that making your garden more eco-friendly is not as difficult as it sounds. All you have to do is to start working with nature and not against it. Creating a healthy eco-system for plants, wildlife, and humans is a very important thing and so is making the most of your surroundings.
Post written by Flowers Across Melbourne