CHAIN MAIL

Issue 145    Dec 1st   to   March 1st   2020

Call for Eco Friendly Gardening by Stacy Tuttle

You may have heard me say this a time or two before but respecting and nurturing our environment is a priority. It is a practice which I adopted some years ago for my gardening and it is good to see that the rest of world has woken up to what a small group has been saying.

 There are positive steps you can take to help which I would sum up as become organic, conserve water and encourage wildlife.

Being organic is thankfully no longer an alternative lifestyle choice for the few. As an organic gardener you give up using chemicals as pesticides and fertilisers. Installing your own compost heap means that appropriate garden waste is re-used to supply a material which has nutrients and moisture retaining benefits- and it’s free. Our compost heap has a mixture of annual weeds, some twiggy material, kitchen leafy waste and eggs shells plus the manure enriched straw from the chicken house. It is certainly a very snug place as we had 2 voles move in there in the spring, followed by some little baby voles.

The one thing which I believe has made the most difference to my garden has been stopping pesticides. The first product I gave up many years ago was Slug pellets. If you use those you may as well put out poisoned bird food. Yes slugs are a problem which has not been completely solved – I have tried many remedies and natural solutions with varying degrees of success but I have found that looking at the bigger picture is the best solution. So encourage hedgehogs and frogs in the garden to munch the slugs, and use plants which are not so slug-tasty. (I do grow Hostas and they mainly stay intact.)

I then stopped using sprays on aphids in the garden. It did take around 4 years before a natural eco system evolved where the birds, ladybirds and hoverflies were taking the aphids during which time I crushed them with my fingers. Although the RSPB tell you to feed the birds during summer we give minimal feed as I want them to find the garden pests and we have a fantastic bird population.

Water conservation is a difficult topic as water is key to good plant growth. Water butts are a must and also re-use of water, especially if you grow vegetables. However if you adopt a “right plant right place” policy for your flower garden you will find that the need to water is decreased. In simple terms, choose a drought tolerant plant for a sunny spot or a moisture loving one for damp shade. Annual bedding plants are thirsty devils and can require lots of irrigation as do tubs in general. So either eliminate those or at least limit their use. I did have a hanging basket this year- it is actually one which my son-in-law planted for me around 4 years ago and I manage to overwinter in the greenhouse each year, only needing to add a few plants to it. It git minimal water and survived. I grew Cosmos this year which went into gaps in the borders but they were left to their own devices without watering and were very successful.

For wildlife we have a pond with newts and frogs- it is lovely to see the birds swooping down and drinking from it, birdbaths dotted around the garden, a hedgehog house, bat boxes, bird boxes, insect house, homemade and bought. Walls have gaps for insects to hide and plenty of roosting places for birds.

I haven’t mentioned the problem of plastic in the garden- labels, plant pots, garden products are all plastic and pressure still needs to be put on the horticulture industry to find the solution.                 

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a plastic free New Year !