Gardening can benefit the environment - for example, by creating spaces for wildlife or producing food which hasn’t had to travel. However, not everything you do in the garden is good for the environment. Here are a few steps you can take to make your garden greener.
Ditch the peat
Help protect environmentally precious peat bogs by choosing peat-free or peat-reduced mulches and soil improvers. These can be just as good or better than peat, but check the instructions on the bag, as they sometimes need handling differently.
Peat-free and peat-reduced products are widely available at high street stores and garden centres. Check that the bag says “peat-free” or "peat-reduced", or ask an assistant.
Use pesticides and weedkillers as a last resort
Some garden chemicals can harm people, wildlife and the environment, so only use them as a last resort – work with nature to control pests and weeds instead.
Use water wisely
Get a water butt
Thousands of litres of water fall on the average rooftop every year. You can easily save on mains water by collecting some of this to use on your garden. Water companies and councils often sell water butts at subsidised prices.
Recycle your water
Any water that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called greywater. Shower, bath and washbasin water can be re-used in the garden. Guidelines for doing this include:
- only watering non-edible plants with greywater
- making sure it is cool before you use it
- avoiding pouring it straight on to foliage
- Saving water in the garden
- Local councils in Northern Ireland (contacts section)
Compost garden and kitchen waste
Composting at home is a great way to dispose of your kitchen and garden waste. Home composting is a great way to prevent unavoidable food waste, such as peelings, cores and teabags, ending up in landfill and can do wonders for the garden.
Encourage invertebrates, such as insects, and other animals by creating a variety of places for them to live and provide sources of food when you plan your garden. For example, flowering plants that offer nectar and pollen will attract bees, butterflies and other insects, and trees and shrubs that produce berries will help feed birds.
Think before paving over your garden
Paving over gardens contributes to flooding, which can sometimes cause sewage and pollutants (like pesticides) to be washed into local waterways.
If you need to create space for parking outside your house, consider using materials that absorb rainwater or let it drain through.
Choose your wood carefully
Look for labels on timber or wood products (like sheds and garden furniture), that show they have been produced sustainably. Common labelling schemes include the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC).
Reclaim and recycle
Give old timber, metal and plastic a new lease of life by buying decking, planters and garden ornaments made out of reclaimed materials. Use your imagination and turn old containers of all kinds into unusual plant pots.
Choose your charcoal
Make sure the charcoal you use on your barbecue comes from sustainably managed forests: look for labels from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), or other forest certification schemes.
Grow your own
Growing just a little bit of your own produce can provide you with a healthy supply of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegtables.