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The rise of the eco-gardener

29th April 2014 Print

Unless you have been hiding in a cave - or perhaps a dirty greenhouse - you will not have failed to pick up on the worldwide concern about damage to our environment. Global warming through the production of greenhouse gases, threats to wildlife and biodiversity, and the burning of fossil fuels, are real threats to our environment. So it is incumbent on all of us to do our bit, no matter how small, starting with giving consideration to the products you use on your plants and garden; the work of Agrarian Organics is duly being recognized.

Water is a vital, natural source for plants, but too much of it can run away, and when 700 million people around the world suffer from a water shortage that is inexcusable. The Mother Earth News website, dedicated to living sustainably, says that letting water flow from a garden faucet/tap, “can waste up to one gallon of water each minute which is completely unnecessary, wasting your money and the planet’s resources.”

So invest in a water butt to catch the water, which will both aid the environment and save on the bills. Even water used to boil vegetables can be retained, and used to water plants and flowers receptive to a mix of h20 and ‘vegetable juice.’

With a little bit of planning and technique there should be no limit to the vegetables and fruit you can grow, and it will cut out annoying trips to the supermarket. Here’s a cool way for the eco-gardener to take advantage of a lack of space, courtesy of Benedict Vanheems at “Vertical growing has come of age over the past few years, with many off-the-shelf contraptions helping space-strapped gardeners get the most from their plot. The really clever ones can turn a bland garden wall into a fresh flush of salads, herbs and fruit – and what home-grown devotee wouldn't want that?”

We hardly need tell you that apples, potatoes, onions, seeds and other food can also be ‘regrown’. And if you actually plan to use all your food at the start of the week - leftovers in next day’s sandwiches, stale bread broken into breadcrumbs for the birds - you’ll be surprised how far it can go.

There are other, simple ways of reusing objects. Old tyres can be filled with flowers and hung up above decking, plastic bottles can be cut in half and used as planters, cans can be utilised as flower pots, and egg boxes can house young seedlings. Jeremy Dore, the founder of suggests using sinks and bathtubs as ponds when sunk into the ground, old windows as cold frames, hanging CDs as bird scarers, and joining pallets together into a compost bin.

Pesticides and their associated chemicals are an absolute no-no for the eco-gardener, but those bothersome bugs have got to go somehow. Unusual ways of disposing of aphids include wrapping your hands in tape (sticky side out!) and brushing the leaves, while yoghurt pots sunk into the ground and filled with beer will trap slugs, although leave it a little above ground level to stop beneficial insects creeping in.

Fancy an alternative to over-the-counter plant fertilizers? In a blog for the Guardian newspaper Kim Stoddart details her intentions to use cheaper alternatives such as eggshells, coffee grounds and banana skins: “I tend to gather washed-up seaweed every time I go to a beach, which is fine to do because it's for non-commercial use. As with any foraging, it is okay to take a little bit... I'm looking for ideas for a lime replacement that will enable me to raise the pH of the soil a little. I've heard before that wood ash can work well so I'll give that a go.”

Can you design and construct your perfect garden by being completely eco-friendly? Tricky, not impossible. Broken terracotta pots, bricks, tiles and stone can be smashed further and pep up your gravel track or rockeries. And here's a nifty trick that will require expertise – lay your paving at a very slight angle so that waste water trickles down into soil or grass. You'll be helping the environment without even knowing it.