Creating an eco-friendly garden is like planting your cake and eating it too.
Design your backyard with the environment in mind and wildlife will come and hang out.
If you build it, the will come.
And you’ll get to enjoy nature from the comfort of your deck.
When it comes to renovations and improvements, most people focus on the inside of their home. They think about remodelling the kitchen, adding a bedroom or upgrading their furniture and appliances for something newer and sleeker.
Those changes will only serve to keep you inside. A much better idea is to spend your time and resources giving your backyard a makeover. Along with increasing the value of your property, this approach will entice you outside more often.
Even better, it’s an opportunity for you to dust off your eco warrior cape and indulge in a little sustainable gardening. Enjoying the sunset is nice, but it can grow old pretty quick. Before long, those newly purchased outdoor seating sets will be sitting idle on the deck.
By creating an eco-friendly garden that attracts (and plays host to) a plethora of wildlife, you’ll be able to enjoy nature from the comfort of your own home.
Because let’s face it, camping isn’t for everyone.
Unleash Your Eco Warrior With These Sustainable Gardening Tips
Everywhere we look there are messages telling us we need to be more eco conscious. It’s true. Humans can definitely up our green game. Tree planting retreats and beach cleanups are great, but why not chop two carrots with one knife?
Planting an eco-friendly garden is good for the environment and it soothes your city-dwelling soul. Imagine ending a long day of back to back Zoom meetings with an hour (or two) of R&R in your backyard.
Unless you’re one of those crazy DIY types, these tips will take some time to action. Don’t let that put you off. Gardening has many health benefits, so dig out your sun hat and coveralls and get cracking.
It’ll be fun, I swear.
1. Plant for the Bees (And Other Pollinators)
Without the bees and other pollinators we’d run out of food in no time. It’s in our best interests to keep them safe. With 13 bee species already extinct in the UK alone, and a further 35 on the threatened species list, there’s no denying the bees are in trouble.
What better way to help than by gardening for bees? Choosing bee-friendly plants and planting through the seasons so they have access to a year round habitat are two of many things you can do.
Take a look at Friends of the Earth’s Bee Saver Kit for more ways to protect and save our yellow and black striped friends.
2. Create a Backyard Pond
If you have the space, a backyard pond can add diversity to your garden. Done right, a pond will begin attracting beneficial wildlife almost from the get go. If you’re concerned about mosquitoes, don’t be.
According to the National Wildlife Foundation, backyard ponds very rarely attract these annoying creatures. They’ve also put together an in depth guide to help you design and care for your pond.
3. Lose the Lawn (And Try This Instead)
Great expanses of lawn might be pleasing to the human eye, but when it comes to the environment, it’s an unfriendly eyesore.
Some 50 million acres of American land is covered in manicured turf grass lawns. Ground cover purely for human entertainment. With so many more sustainable (and beautiful) alternatives to grass available, what’s the point of insisting on something that requires so much upkeep?
Converting to a less thirsty form of landscape means less time behind the lawn mower and more time relaxing on the porch. “I’d much rather be mowing the grass,” said nobody ever.
4. Make Beneficial Bugs Feel Welcome
We’re taught to believe that all bugs are the enemy. This messaging is driven home by overprotective mothers and pest control companies looking to cash in on our fear.
A lot of insects play a beneficial role in the garden, so we should be encouraging them to move in rather than forcing them to leave.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac (and they should know, right?), beneficial insects fall into three main categories: pollinators, predators and pararizers. Between them they pollinate our garden’s flowers and eliminate the pests.
Resorting to chemical pesticides means obliterating everything, good and bad. Even ‘natural’ pesticides are harmful to beneficial insects.
Eleanor Perenyi —author of Green Thoughts— suggests this instead, “Every insect has a mortal enemy. Cultivate that enemy and he will do your work for you.”
5. Design a Haven for Birds
Birds are fun to watch and lovely to listen to. Waking up to the sound of their early morning tweeting is better than any ringtone your phone can dish up. How do you go about attracting more feathered friends into your garden?
Provide them with the basics of life (food, a home and security) and they’ll arrive in their droves. Discover Wildlife has a bunch of tips on how to go about this.
Among other things, they recommend buying bird food from a reputable source and avoiding junk foods like peanuts and multi-purpose pet food. They also suggest installing a birdbath and planting fruit or berry-bearing trees.
If you have cats, you need to be more strategic in your execution. Place the bird feeders in hard to reach places that kitty can’t get to. Please don’t install electric deterrents. I know Discover Wildlife suggests that route, but harming one creature to protect another is counter-intuitive.
It’s Time to Create Your Eco-Friendly Garden
Now that you get what an eco-friendly garden entails and why it’s beneficial to you and the environment, it’s time to get busy digging.
Of course, it depends where you live. If you’re in snowy climes you can dig for ideas and plan out your garden on paper. But don’t let the weather stop you from going to check for signs of life.
Easy for me to say sitting here in my t-shirt with the windows wide open.
If you’re a beginner gardener or new to the idea of sustainable gardening, look for an eco-friendly organisation or nursery in your area. In Cape Town, for example, we have Soil For Life, an NPO that teaches people how to grow their own food and nurture and protect the environment.
Alternatively, ask your colleagues, friends and family, there’s bound to be a green thumb or two in your network. If all else fails, ask Google.
Most importantly, have fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself there’s a good chance your garden won’t survive. And then where will the bees end up?