Close up of hand using trowel to plant young salad plants

6 tips for creating a sustainable garden

Regardless of how much space you have to work with, whether you have acres of land or just a small patio area or even a balcony, there are ways to create more sustainable space on your property.

While there’s no official definition for what a sustainable garden looks like, the overall concept is to minimise the impact that your outdoor space has on the planet. From avoiding pollutants to preserving natural resources, in this article we could a few ways you can create a sustainable, eco-friendly garden and do your bit to help the planet.

Go organic

One of the easiest ways to transform your garden into a more environmentally-friendly space is to practice organic gardening methods. By limiting the number of chemicals in your garden, you can foster a more ecologically sound area.

Close up of colourful rainbow chard
Source: Markus Spiske

This is particularly important if you want to grow food, as the chemicals, you would ordinarily use will wind up in the fruit and vegetables your garden produces. Begin from the ground up by developing strong, organic foundations through nutrient-rich soil and use organic pest-prevention solutions.

Sustainable gardening can also help support and encourage wildlife. It provides an environment away from harmful materials and toxic chemicals for local animals to thrive in your garden.

Switch to eco-friendly materials

Take a conscious approach to the materials you use in your garden, which extends beyond just avoiding single-use plastics. For example, if you’re installing decking or a patio area, do your research into the types of materials available that can lower your carbon footprint.

View of decking area with comfortable outside seating, table and chairs
Source: Zac Gudakov

For example, timber decking is sourced from sustainable forests, meaning the material has strong eco-credentials. However, Trex Composite Decking can be equally green, this material is made of plastic and wood and uses 95 per cent recycled materials.

If you have a larger space and are considering building a path or patio, use recycled gravel or reclaimed slabs to improve the carbon footprint of your new project. Try working with the materials you already have in the garden. If you need to buy new, sourcing local materials will help support smaller businesses and reduce the carbon costs of transporting heavy items.

Conserve water

Water is a precious resource and in a bid to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly, we need to be conscious of how much we’re using day-to-day. This is vital all over the world, but particularly in locations where water is scarce.

Plants will often benefit from being watered thoroughly once a week, rather than adopting a little and often approach. This method encourages the roots to look for moisture deeper into the ground. Watering once a week (at most) will also avoid the need for a water sprinkler – which is often one of the worst for water waste.

For other ways to use less water when you’re gardening, consider installing a rain barrel that will enable you to use rainwater for your plants and planting drought-tolerant plants that don’t need excessive watering in order to thrive. There’s also the practice known as xeriscaping, which is a landscaping method that reduces irrigation needs and maximises natural precipitation.

Learn how to compost

Most people are aware of the importance of composting when it comes to reducing waste, but few people understand how to compost properly. There are guidelines as to what can and cannot be included in a compost heap, in order to create a nutrient-rich fertiliser that you can then use for your plants. When building your compost consider the location carefully. Avoid areas with direct sunlight and ensure there is good air circulation (this helps with the decomposition).

The key to healthy compost is developing a balanced ratio of carbon and nitrogen, which means including a mix of materials in your compost. From sawdust, grass clippings and tea leaves to eggshells, coffee grounds and cardboard, do your research and be clear about what you should add for the best results.

Apart from composting being free, helping wildlife to thrive and being easy to make, it also has a number of other positive impacts on climate change. It can be tempting to throw everything in general waste but composting will help sustain our landfills for the long term. It also reduces carbon emissions for local waste management services when collecting and transporting higher volumes of rubbish to take to landfills.

Ditch the lawn

A luscious lawn might be the pride and joy of many gardeners, but few people realise just how resource-intensive a weed-free lawn really is. A vast expanse of lawn is not the most sustainable option for this reason, so if you’re striving for an eco-friendly outdoor space, it’s time to replace the lawn with perennial ornamental grasses, shrubs and easy-care groundcovers that won’t require as much water or fertiliser to grow.

There are options for every type of garden, from moss lawns for shaded gardens to wildflower gardens that are low-maintenance and encourage more wildlife to your outdoor space.

Plant trees

Planting trees isn’t an option everyone has available to them, as it depends on how much room you have to play with. But trees are one of the most effective carbon sinks the planet has, and the larger the tree, the more pollutants and carbon dioxide it will absorb.

View of decking area with comfortable outside seating, table and chairs
Source: Nikola Jovanovic

What’s more, a tree in front of your property can actually provide as much as 25% insulation for your home when it’s in leaf. Plan for the future of the planet and plant trees where possible to create interest in your garden and pockets of privacy, as well as delivering environmentally-friendly perks that generations to come will benefit from.

Final thoughts

Sustainability is a broad issue that encompasses various topics. But when it comes to creating a sustainable garden, the focus should be on reducing waste, researching eco-friendly materials and preserving natural resources. Any change, no matter how small it may seem, can contribute towards a healthier planet, so think about the ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and adopt a greener mindset while still enjoying your outdoor space.