I do love my garden, it gives me great joy but it also provides plenty of heartache and to be honest I don’t really spend as much time in it as I should. I’m not a very patient person and I like to have my finger in many pies so the idea of pottering around it every evening and weekend falls far short of the reality. So how do I create a lovely garden, full of insects, colour and organically grown edibles without using up every hour god sends? By being clever!
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I’ve written plenty of articles on how best to plan and tend a garden and you can find links to these articles at the bottom of this one. All of that information still stands but here are a quick reference list of tips to maximise the environmental impact of your garden with as little effort and money as possible.
- Avoid dark coloured pots, they heat up more and require more watering.
- Use bigger pots, they dry out more slowly and require less watering.
- Groups pots together, they help to keep each other cool and require less watering.
- Have a canary plant. This is a plant that shows water shortage quickly; typically soft stemmed with big leaves that wilt when in need of water. This will alert you to the need to water pots early on and avoid other plants getting damaged from drought. My canary plant is Bishops Weed.
- Buy small plants rather than mature plants, they need less watering to get established and are less expensive to buy!
- The best way to deter weeds is to give them no space by planting what you do want instead. The aim is to have your borders so full during the growing season that weeds don’t get a look in. In veg beds plant ornamental friendly plants like the poached egg plant in beds to suppress weeds you don’t want. In paving plant thyme, in cracks plant fleabane or campanula ‘Mrs Resholt’.
- There are only 3 organic way to kill of weeds that I’ve found work; remove them by hand, burn them repeatedly or block all light so they die off.
- There’s no point in giving up weedkiller and insecticides if you’re going to bring it in on new plants so ask neighbours and family for some of their plants or buy organic or chemical free. Unfortunately most of the plants in garden centres are coated in bee-killing pesticides but thankfully the organic plant nursery Caherhurley Nursery, sells very reasonably-priced plants around the country at ISNA plant fairs.
- Make homemade plant feed. Check out my article on how to make homemade fertiliser from comfrey or nettles.
- Make your own compost. See my article on how to make your own compost. You can also make ericaceous compost for lime hating plants by composting your Christmas tree! And adding ash from burnt wood is a great way of adding potassium into your compost.
- Make your own leaf mould by gathering up autumn leaves and storing in a container or old compost bag for 1-2 years. This makes a great medium for planting seeds into and for when planting woodland plants out.
- Water your garden with rain water. Apart from the cost of the rain water butt it’s free! See my article on which rain water butt to buy. They also crop up for free on freecycle pages from time to time. Set up an alert on adverts.ie and stand by the email!
- If you want healthier plants it’s much more effective to feed your soil than your plants, easier too. You do this by putting quality compost on top of your beds once a year. If you make your own compost it’s free but even if you have to buy in compost it it’ll save you time and money fighting pests and diseases on weak plants. You can get organic compost loose from mulch.ie or in small returnable bags from mulch.ie in D17 and landscapedepot.ie in D24. For other stockings
- Plant plants that suit your soil and climate. This will result you healthier plants and less pest and disease. To find out what grows best in your area, check out your neighbours’ gardens.
- Buy from garden centres and nurseries that don’t make plants flower early. They are much less likely to die on you when planted out.
- Get free plants by weeding less. I now have a fabulous display of snap dragons in my garden thanks to the wind!
- When you buy a new plant leave it outside in it’s pot for a week or so to acclimatise before shocking it by planting it. This is assuming it’s warm enough to be put outside. If not keep indoors and ‘harden it off’ when weather gets warm enough.
- When buying bedding plants ask the retailer if they have a pot return scheme. Most don’t but asking might make them start one. You could also use the opportunity to introduce them to compostable Posi Pots. I like to buy from local nurseries as they typically take back washed pots.
- Avoid bedding plants in styrofoam. These containers are neither recyclable nor reusable. Bedding plants are also low in pollen, which insects need for protein. Instead buy a packet of hardy annual seeds that you can sow directly into the soil. They’ll come back year after year and give impact with very little effort.
- If you haven’t managed to avoid styrofoam completely use it in the bottom of large pots to reduce the amount of compost needed to fill them, making them lighter.
- You can also put wine corks at the bottom of large pots to make them lighter.
- Reuse bottle tops are feet under pots in winter. It raises the pot up making it less likely for the roots to become waterlogged and frozen and reduce the risk of your pots cracking.
- Don’t waste your money on cheap pots. Invest in frost-proof pots like those from Wexford based company Dunne & Dineen.
- Don’t clear your beds of all fallen leaves in winter. They provide valuable cover for over-wintering insects and help to insulate your soil but make sure any leaves are away from the plants themselves as wet leaves on top of plants can cause rot. Similarly leave a pile of logs and a bundle of branches. Tidiness is the enemy of hibernating creatures.
- No need to buy grass fertiliser, simply leave grass clippings on your lawn to feed it. This works best if you cut the lawn fairly regularly but if the lawn is too long to do this then just cut in two passes, lowering the blade for the final cut.
- Aim to plant new plants when you know you’re due a few days of rain showers. It’ll save you having to water them in as much and makes them much more likely to survive.
- In warm weather plant in the afternoon so plants have longer to adjust before they beaten with hot sun. In cold weather plant in the morning so plants get heat from sun before being exposed to cold at night. This puts the plants under a lot less stress leading to less watering, feeding and pest / disease control.
- In hot weather shade newly-planted plants to reduce the need for watering. Wind is also very drying for plants so protect newly planted plants from this too.
- Share tools with friends, family and trusted neighbours. It reduces the overall level of consumption, which puts less pressure on the earth’s resources.
- Collect seeds from plants instead of ordering new seeds every year. This will work unless your plants are sterile hybrids (F1 varieties).
- Egg shells at the bottom of seedling pots is said to boost growth. (Have to give his one a go myself!)
- If you’ve blackspot on your roses don’t reach for chemicals try this organic treatment. (Another one on my to do list).
PS – Here are some of my other gardening articles
- Growing Fruit & Veg: Design and Layout
- Growing Fruit & Veg: Raising seedlings,
- Growing Fruit & Veg: Planting Seedlings Outdoors
- Growing Fruit & Veg: Feeding and Watering,
- Creating an Ornamental Garden: Selecting Plants
- Creating an Ornamental Garden: Planning for Summer
- Creating an Ornamental Garden: Spring Colour
- Creating an Ornamental Garden: Early Summer Colour
- Creating an Ornamental Garden: Mid Summer Colour
- Creating an Ornamental Garden: Late Summer Colour
- Wildlife Friendly Gardening