By keeping our front gardens green we can
reduce the risk of flooding, lower levels of pollution and muffle
traffic noise, but what is the environmental impact of growing
plants in the first place? Pesticides contain all sorts of harmful
chemicals, compost contains peat from unsustainable sources and all
of this is harmful to wildlife and destroys vital habitats.
Environmentally friendly gardening is one of the first steps
towards making a big difference to your local area. Below you will
find advice and information on some of the enviromental issues
Have you ever bought a bag of
compost at the garden centre? Chances are it’s got peat in it. But
what is peat?
Peat is used in horticulture either as a
soil improver or as a growing medium.
Each year in the UK, around 2.5 million
cubic metres of peat are sold to commercial and amateur
gardeners. In Great Britain, over 94% of the 69,700 ha of peat bogs
have been damaged or destroyed. Most of this damage has occurred in
the last 50 or so years, since the promotion of large-scale use of
peat for the horticultural industry.
Why is this so important?
Below are some interesting facts about
- peat is partially decomposed plant debris.
Peat forms where plant debris is added faster than it is broken
- peat bogs are important sites for
wildlife. They are unique habitats which support a fascinating
variety of birds, invertebrates and plants
- peat bogs also help to protect the earth
from global warming
Peat mining results in valuable habitats
being lost and large amounts of carbon dioxide being released into
- newer peat alternatives can give equally
good, if not better results without damaging valuable
habitats.Coconut fiber compost or ‘coir’ is readily available from
garden centers and is sustainably produced without the
environmental damage caused by peat mining
- home composting is a great way to get the
most out of your rubbish. If you have space in your back garden or
on your balcony why not start your own compost bin or invest in a
wormery, both are relatively cheap and wormeries are a great way to
teach children about how nature works
- there are lots of everyday waste
materials that can be composted; egg shells, tea bags, coffee
dregs, fruit and vegetable peelings, newspaper, grass cuttings and
many more. It will help cut down on the amount you throw out and
provide you with a steady sustainable supply of compost and liquid
fertilizer for your garden or window box
Most of us put down slug pellets or spray
pesticides but it is not only the pests that these chemicals
damage; useful insects are killed or driven away by pesticides and
hedgehogs and birds eat slug pellets and die.
Fight nature with nature; there are many
natural, more friendly ways to combat pests in your garden or in
your flower pots:
- companion planting, explained below, is
one method that not only looks good but can be used as a highly
successful means of pest control
- making your garden wildlife friendly,
explained in the next section, is another great way of maintaining
a natural predator/prey balance that helps control pests
- there are also natural sprays and
solutions that you can buy from garden centres or even make at
Below is a common recipe for natural pest
control for some of the pests that might afflict your garden.
Garlic spray is generally an effective
repellent and will kill some soft-bodied insects. Spray
regularly for maximum effect.
cloves of crushed garlic
1 teaspoon of liquid soap
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 litre of water
garlic and vegetable oil and leave overnight to soak. Strain the
mixture and add to the water and the liquid soap. Spray
Other environmentally friendly means of pest
- soot is good for keeping onion flies away.
Sprinkle on the ground when you plant the onions and again when
they start to grow
- ground up eggshell around your plants will
stop slugs eating your plants
- copper strips for slugs and snail -
gastropods will not pass over copper
- fatty acid spray (available from garden
centres) keeps aphids away
- fine mesh can be placed over plants to keep
white fly away
- iron phosphate pellets keep slugs and snails
away and are non toxic to other creatures
- wood ash helps to keep slugs at bay. Sprinkle
liberally over the soil
Caution: Sprays which kill
harmful insects will also kill beneficial insects. Use these
homemade remedies selectively, only spraying the infected plants.
Apply them early in the morning or just before dark. Re-apply after
a rain. Wear protective clothing when spraying insecticides.
The right combination of plants can not
only look good but can also act as pest control; attracting
beneficial pests and deterring harmful ones, offer protection from
wind and sun and even enrich the soil.
Some combinations to try include:
- french marigolds with vegetables; the
strong scent of the marigolds is believed to cover the smell of the
surrounding crops and prevent pests from finding them
- planting sage or leeks with carrots is
beneficial for both as each drives away the other crops pests
- garlic planted among roses has a similar
effect to garlic spray used to deter aphid
- plants in the pea family enrich the soil
by taking nitrogen from the air and storing it in their roots. Once
the peas have finished, cut off at ground level and allow the roots
to decompose in the soil
- dill attracts aphid-eating pests like
How do I recycle garden tools?
Keen gardeners in Kensington and Chelsea can now ensure that
their old garden tools get recycled. Thanks to an innovative new
project called Tools Shed, residents can now deposit their old
garden tools in a special bank at the Civic Amenity Site, Smugglers
From here, the tools are picked up by HMP Wandsworth, where they
are refurbished by inmates in the prison’s workshops. The
refurbished garden tools are then distributed to primary schools
within the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and
Fulham, Lambeth and Wandsworth.
Recycling old garden tools in this way prevents them from
otherwise ending up in landfill and helps future generations
discover the pleasure that can be had from gardening.
Where do I leave my garden tools?
You can leave them at the specially designated collection bank
at Western Riverside Waste Authority Civic Amenity Site, Smuggler’s