Do you always remember to grab your green bags before you hit the shops? Do you know the intricacies of recycling soft plastics versus hard? Are you a savvy composter? In our experience, green thumbs tend to be pretty, well, green. But did you know that you can be more sustainable in the garden too?
Sustainable gardening involves designing and maintaining green spaces that don’t require a huge amount of water, energy (other than the sun, of course) and other resources to survive. The aim of sustainable gardening is to have as little impact on the natural environment as possible. Sustainable gardens are planned for the long-term and are generally self-sustaining, with the added benefit of being much easier to maintain. Win-win!
So, how do you create a more eco-friendly green space?
1. Use native and indigenous plants
There are thousands upon thousands of vibrant and beautiful native and indigenous plant species to choose from, from ground cover and grasses to shrubs and trees. And all are, of course, particularly suited to the Australian climate.
It does still pay to do your homework to make sure you’re picking the right native plants for your space. Some will thrive on the coast, others in the shade, while still others prefer the hot and dry conditions of the desert. You should try to match the natural growing conditions of the plant to the conditions in your garden. Choose wisely and you’ll have a garden that not only looks beautiful, but is also easy to grow, very low-maintenance and self-sustaining.
For an extra sustainability boost, consider an indigenous plant. Like natives, indigenous plants are native to Australia, but indigenous plants occur naturally in your specific area. These plants need little water, fertilisers or pesticides to thrive.
Not sure what indigenous plants are local to your area? Get in touch with your local council, who will be able to point you in the right direction.
2. Zone your plants
It’s a great idea to place your plants in zones based on their specific water, sun and soil needs. By planting water-loving plants together, you can cut down on the areas you need to water. Or if you know there’s a zone that requires a specific type of fertiliser, you can stick to that zone, rather than wasting it on other spots that don’t need it.
You should also consider the needs of your plants as they grow. As they grow, larger plants might provide shade for smaller shade-loving plants. Or, they might get in the way. Think about this when planning out your garden.
You’ve probably heard it many times before, but it’s so important to mulch all of your garden beds and pots. Mulching helps your garden retain water and stops your soil from drying out. That means much less watering (mulching can reduce watering by up to 60%!).
Mulching can also help prevent weeds from growing, which means you may not need to use harmful chemicals to keep weeds at bay. Mulch also moderates the temperature of your soil and prevents erosion. Is there anything that mulch can’t do? In our opinion, it’s one of the most important parts of building a sustainable garden.
Opt for an organic mulch, such as a straw-based mulch, and you’ll be adding organic matter to your garden bed, which will help inject more nutrients into the soil, improve soil drainage and encourage earthworm activity (all good things).
4 Install stonework and permeable pavers
You’ll often find sustainable gardens featuring rocks, stones and pebbles in place of large expanses of lawn or concrete. This is because stonework can help to direct water flow. Unlike a solid concrete slab, water can filter through the gaps in a stone walkway right down to the soil underneath.
You could go one step further and look at installing a permeable surface such as “permeable pavers”. Paths and driveways made with permeable pavers allow water to permeate the surface, rather than draining off into drains and waterways, reducing the number of chemicals and pollutants that flow into our rivers and streams.
The other argument for replacing large lawns with rocks and stonework is that they require a lot less water. But if you can’t go past a lawn for some backyard cricket, opt for a native lawn, such as Weeping Grass or Wallaby Grass.
5. Use PFC-certified sustainable materials in your garden design
We might be biased, but you can’t go past timber in the garden for looks and durability. Not only does it last for years (so you won’t have to replace it nearly as often as plastic furniture), it also looks beautiful, naturally complementing a sustainable garden design.
When choosing timber, steer clear of Merbau, which generally comes from slow-growing rainforests. We choose to use cedar instead. Cedar trees grow extremely fast, so cedar timber is generally considered to be one of the most sustainable timbers available (when a cedar tree is harvested, a new one is planted, making the plantation and the timber PEFC-certified).
6. Conserve water with greywater and rain tanks
Mulching, permeable surfaces and using appropriate plants for your climate are all things you can do to save water. On top of this, you may choose to conserve water by installing a greywater irrigation system or rainwater tank.
Greywater is household water, such as water from the washing machine, bathtub or shower (don’t worry, toilet water isn’t included), which can be reused to water your garden. The jury is still out on whether greywater is damaging to plants in the long-run, so it’s a smart move to monitor your greywater’s PH levels, alkalinity and salinity to be safe.
If all that sounds like too much work, rainwater tanks are now available in a range of sizes and designs to suit all spaces. You’ll need a licenced plumber to install it, but once properly hooked up, your tank will enable you to water your garden with collected rainwater via hose, watering can or irrigation system.
At Bloom Box Products, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, from how we design and build our products to how we source our materials. Looking for a long-lasting sustainably built planter box to add to your sustainable garden? Look no further than our range of PEFC-certified timber planter boxes.