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  • Writer's pictureLynn Cordall

Growing green

Sustainability. Big word and big topic.

As the COP 26 leaders meet next week in Glasgow and talk a good (if potentially ineffective - little bit of politics there) game on what to do about climate change, us Gardeners can all do our bit and really help and impact in a big way.

So, what to do? funny you should ask.

Here are 10 things everyone can do without much effort and make a big change. Its not woolly jumper, tree hugging hippy stuff, just some basic common sense. Your garden will still look fantastic and give you joy. Really it should give you a bit more joy as you'll share it with many more creatures. So, Make it your everyday approach and things will change. We all know that actions speak louder than words...


  1. Plant a tree or two....They store carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. It needn't be big. They also look fabulous, are great for wildlife and there are species that are right for every environment. My favourite trees for small gardens are:

L-R clockwise: 1. Sorbus Olympic Flame, 2. Silver birch, but get the right one - Betula utilis jaquemontii Snow Queen (or you could end up with a monster grower), 3. Prunus Sargentii, 4. Amelanchier Ballerina. All get to approx 6/8m high and 3/4m wide. Try a large container. Trees in a small space do make it feel bigger.


2. Grow plants that aren't water needy. Again, right plant, right place. Once in the ground and established, plants really should not need watering. I don't water any of my plants planted directly into the ground. Ever. Remember, there are 1000's of plants to choose from. That plant you want to grow that loves moist to damp conditions but you live in dry Essex on free draining soil just wasn't meant to be. Have a look around. You'll see something else you love just as much.

3. Don't totally pave over your driveway. Where will the water go? Will it drain and cause flooding? will it carry leaves and block drains? If you need parking, and we do, make sure you use a permeable paving solution, that will allow water to drain into the ground. If not, ensure you have some planting beds, and plan you paving to drain into beds to water you plants. You know it makes sense. Front garden are habitats too and need plants for wild life. Wildlife just doesn't live in your back garden. Oh, and it looks much better too (and adds value to your home in the long run).

4. Don't use Peat. You now why. Digging up peat bogs releases carbon and destroys habitats. Also, they dry out and can add to flooding. I have an Australian friend who is a very talented plantsman. They don't have peat bogs in Australia and they grow plants fine. Enough said.

5. Make your own compost. It not only recycles your green waste, but saves transport miles and the plastic bags used for shop bought compost. In small urban plots like mine, its hard to produce enough. So go for your councils green waste. Locally produced, no plastic and good VFM too. If you do buy compost ( I still do, this is a perfect list - any action, no matter how small, does help), look out for new labels that from next Spring will rank the compost you buy according to its Eco credentials. Graded A-E, A is the top score. Any compost containing peat will not score higher than D. (Peat is to be banned from 2024 in compost, so best to make the switch now).

6. Minimise hard landscaping in your garden. Look at permeable solutions if possible. (Get them laid by a professional and they will last and look great for years).

7. Store water. A water butt, dip tank -anything - it all helps. Good for your pots and vegetables. Many plants actually do better with rain water. If you are growing seedlings though, use "clean water". Growing plants from seed saves those many plastic pots we all have left over after a impulse nursery trip.

8. Don't use Insecticides / pesticides.... be organic. Again its not woolly jumper time, its just common sense. In a recent Gardeners World "Put Pollinators first campaign", 48% said that they have know stopped using insecticides. Why do we use them? To stop things eating / infecting /spoiling our plants. Nonsense really. Let the habitat (especially the insects) come back and those insects and wildlife that you have been turning away will come back and take care of the pests for you. Work with nature, not against it.

9. Use electric power tools, not diesel or petrol ones -and change your supplier to one that supplies from just renewable energy sources. (Put this on the list for when the current crazy prices settle down). Getting your energy via renewables can save 1.6 tonnes of C02 per year, v your households recycling of 0.1 tonnes. (Source BBC)

10. Grow wildlife friendly plants and grow some of your own food. More on that in my next blog - but for now, here are my favourite 3

wild life friendly plants that I grow.

  1. Verbena bonariensis. I didn't get finches in my garden until I grew this. Don't chop it down over winter and see them hang upside down loving the seeds in deep dark winter

  2. Ivy. Controversial with some people. Why? Evergreen, a great coverer and screener. Just look after it. In my Ivy I get many nests (The newly promoted Asst Gardener hates not being able to prune it after Feb), and when it flowers in early Autumn its a great nectar source for bees and wasps. (Yes wasps are a gardeners friend. Stop being waspist.) Then when the berries ripen in Feb / March, the birds feast - invaluable at this time of year. It even attracts Jays to my garden every March.

  3. Astrantia. This one is Roma, but there are many gorgeous varieties. Hover flies seem to love this more than anything in my garden. I plant it near wherever I sit in the garden so I can watch them. As I have said before...….Gardening, its a rock and roll life style that not everyone is cut out for...….


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