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Top tips for an eco-friendly garden

Have you always dreamed about creating the ultimate eco-friendly garden? Do you long for the type of garden that requires little maintenance and little water, but still looks great? Well, perhaps what you should be doing is ‘eco-fitting’ your garden. Eco-fitting is all about making a garden more self- sustaining, less wasteful, more reliant on renewable sources of energy and friendlier to wildlife.

Successful eco-fitting can turn a garden that was drab, uninteresting and lifeless into a space that is biologically diverse, beautiful, productive and much more planet-friendly. Does that sound good to you? Then here are Ladybrook Nursery’s top tips on how to achieve that.

The basic tenets of eco-friendly gardening

  • Recycle all garden waste through composting.
  • Reduce garden energy use.
  • Harness and use sunlight energy.
  • Harvest rainwater and use it wisely.
  • Improve soil with garden compost and green waste.
  • Create a thriving garden ecosystem by adding habitats and encouraging wildlife.
  • Grow flowers to attract beneficial pest-controlling insects and boost biodiversity.
  • Mulch to conserve soil moisture and stop weed seeds from germinating.
  • Create areas for play and relaxation.
  • Grow some of your own food.
  • Use reclaimed, recycled and sustainable landscaping materials.
  • Avoid use of synthetic insecticides, fungicides and weedkillers.

Choose the right plants

Plant choice is an essential component of the eco-friendly or ‘water-wise’ garden. So for optimum results always choose plants that are native to your region, or native to a place with similar climate conditions. In that way your plants will be more likely to thrive with minimal irrigation. If, however, you have particular favourite ‘thirsty’ plants that you feel you can’t live without, just group them together so you’re only watering in one area and add a thick layer of mulch to reduce evaporation.

Group plants in the right way

A key water-conserving strategy is to group plants with similar water and sun needs together. Planting lavender in full-sun and sandy soil will generally work well, but planting a water-thirsty perennial next to it defeats the purpose as one or both plants will suffer.

To avoid this problem try to zone your garden and arrange plants according to the particular conditions. Shade-loving plants like hostas if planted in the sun will require a greater amount of water and will suffer accordingly. Woodland plants will also suffer if planted in full sun.

Compost

Help to retain soil moisture with an application of organic mulch, such as high-quality compost. The benefits from this are many: its loose material of varying sizes slows water down, so that more moisture goes into the soil instead of running off. Water does not evaporate from the soil surface as quickly. Mulch provides nutrients to the soil and helps suppress weeds. Mulch can be applied three inches thick in existing ornamental beds, with just a few precautions. Do not pile it up against the trunks or stems of shrubs, and use only a thin layer around rhododendrons and other shallow-rooted shrubs. Go easy with the compost around perennials like astilbe, helleborus, and paeonies which prefer a more alkaline environment because compost can be slightly acidic.

Best plants for an eco-friendly garden

  • Low-water plants: agaves, sedum, yucca.
  • Ground-covers for natural weed control: verbena, creeping wintergreen, and juniper.
  • Drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials: yarrow, lavender, salvia, penstemon, echinacea, russian sage.
  • Pest and disease-resistant plants: salvia, crape myrtle

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