12 Sustainable Gardening Tips To Make Your Garden Greener

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Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or are just starting out, here are my top sustainable gardening tips. Not only will these make your garden bloom, but they’ll also make your garden an eco-friendly oasis.

My partner and I have been gardening for nearly two decades together, in a whole host of different set-ups – from windowsills and balconies to huge allotments and the tiny cottage garden that we now have.

While our gardening setups have changed dramatically over the years, one thing has stayed consistent – our desire to garden as sustainably as possible.

Growing up, my dad used all kinds of chemicals in the garden. Whether it was weedkiller, pesticides or slug pellets, you name it, he used it. I’d always thought there must be a more eco-friendly way to garden, so as soon as I had any kind of space to grow any plants and fruit and vegetables I wanted to see if I could do things differently.

As you might imagine, over the years I’ve amassed a ton of green gardening tips. I’m always keen to pass on my knowledge, so I’ve got tons of tips that have worked for us in creating a planet-friendly space that I’d love to share.

What Is Sustainable Gardening?

Wendy from Moral Fibres gardening naturally in her allotment polytunnel
Me working in the polytunnel at our old allotment!

First up, you might be wondering what exactly is sustainable gardening. Like many facets of sustainability, there’s no official definition.

I choose to define it as using gardening practices that don’t harm the natural world, whilst actively taking steps to enhance it.

12 Clever Sustainable Gardening Tips & Ideas

Orange plant in a plastic-free coir pot next to gardening tools, with a blue text box overlay that reads sustainable gardening tips to make your garden greener.

You don’t have to be a gardening expert or have a big budget to garden with nature in mind. It doesn’t have to be complicated, costly, or compromise the look of your garden. Not convinced? Here are my 12 top tips:

1. Opt For Peat-Free Compost

Peat bogs are unique habitats, home to all sorts of rare plants, animals, and invertebrates that you seldom find outside of peat bogs. Plus peat bogs act as carbon sinks – capturing all the carbon that plants absorb while they grow. In fact, peat bogs are essential in our fight against climate change.

The problem is that gardeners have been adding peat to their gardens to grow their plants and vegetables since the 1950s. While peat is technically a renewable resource, its extraction is not considered sustainable and causes serious harm to the environment. So much so, that because of demand from gardeners, peat bogs are now one of the most threatened landscapes in the UK.

Thankfully, growing plants in peat-free compost is just as effective, and not nearly as environmentally damaging. Try one of these UK peat-free compost brands to help get you started.

2. Try Organic Gardening Practices

Adopting organic gardening practices – such as not using any harmful chemicals such as weed killer, slug pellets, pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides – is a key component of sustainable gardening.

Many of these chemicals are designed to kill insects and other pests, and we’ve become so reliant on them that they’ve now found their way into everything from our rivers and our food. And with pesticides having been found to be directly and indirectly responsible for a decline in insect populations, it’s never been more important to stop using them.

We don’t use any pesticides, herbicides or insecticides in our garden. Instead, for the weeds that pop up between cracks in our paving slabs, we either pull them up by hand or use a non-toxic homemade weed killer. I make this with vinegar, salt and washing-up liquid, and it’s incredibly effective, but isn’t harmful to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

3. Conserve Water

Garden full of sunflowers and and pink flowers, with a downpipe from a white shed running into a wooden water butt.
c/o Pumpkin Beth

Water is an incredibly precious resource, so conserving it is a priority. Any water left over from cooking, cleaning or left in my kid’s water bottles gets used to water our plants.

Another thing you can try is using a water butt to harvest rainwater, which you can then use to water your plants. We’ve always used bog-standard water butts. However, if you want something a little easier on the eye, I came across this barrel-style water butt on Pumpkin Beth, which looks so lovely.

4. Plant With Pollinators In Mind

Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies and wasps, are incredibly important because they contribute to a healthy functioning ecosystem. And with at least a third of the plants we eat directly or indirectly dependent on being pollinated by insects, without them we would be in trouble. Yet bee populations are plummeting, due to pesticide use, disease, a reduction in their natural habitat, and climate change.

One way you can help is to plant your garden with pollinators in mind, the next time you are adding new plants. Try my guide to bee-friendly plants for tips on the beautiful plants you can grow, to have a sustainable garden that looks amazing throughout the seasons.

5. Add A Wildlife Pond

A beautiful wildlife pond filled with native plants, and surrounded by rocks and stones.
c/o Gardener’s World

Over the last 100 years, it’s estimated that the UK has lost almost half a million ponds. It might not feel like a big deal, but these bodies of water can be of crucial importance to threatened species – providing space to eat, bathe, drink, and breed.

Therefore, one incredibly impactful thing to do is to add a wildlife pond to your garden. This beautiful pond from Gardeners World is a beautiful example. But even if your garden is tiny a small wildlife pond made using a bucket or barrel can still be beneficial to local wildlife, providing a refuge and a home to freshwater creatures.

6. Opt For Reclaimed Materials

Reclaimed garden seating made from bottles, old bricks and stones.
c/o Ben Chandler

Buying planters and garden furniture is an expensive business. One way to keep costs down when you are gardening the sustainable way is to use as many reclaimed materials as possible.

When it comes to planters, most ones available in garden centres tend to be made from plastic. Yet almost anything can be repurposed into useful planters.

I use some ancient Belfast sinks that my grandad reclaimed and used as planters in his garden who knows how many years ago. I don’t know where they came from, but I can always remember them being in his garden. Now, even though my grandad is no longer with us, the sink planters are a lovely reminder of his resourcefulness.

If you don’t have any old sinks, then that’s not the only thing you can use. One of my neighbours uses an old tin bath and old buckets, that they have filled with plants. My mother-in-law has used old welly boots and even old jeans as planters! The only limit is your imagination!

When it comes to furniture, I love the reclaimed seating pictured above, that’s made from glass bottles, building waste, rocks, and scaffold boards.  It was designed by Ben Chandler and is a thing of beauty!

Check out this guide to sustainable building materials for more inspiration.

7. Get Composting

To help stop having to buy compost in plastic bags, you can turn kitchen scraps and garden waste into nutrient-rich compost for your garden. Once you’ve bought the initial kit, it’s a zero-cost way to enrich your soil naturally.

Composting your waste isn’t hard to do – there are just a few dos and don’ts to learn to get the best results every time. And, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t a smelly job if done correctly. Here are my top tips on how to make compost at home – from what you need in the kitchen and garden, what you can and can’t compost, and more.

8. Add A Green Roof To Your Shed

Grey wooden bike shed with a green roof.
c/o Melissa Jolly

If you have a small garden, then one way to help nature is to add a green roof to your shed, bike store or bin store, like this one found on Melissa Jolly.

As well as being visually stunning, it adds a little bit more biodiversity to your garden in an otherwise unused area. Check out my green roof ideas for small gardens, for even more inspiration.

9. Practice Companion Planting

A great way to have a sustainable and productive garden is to practice companion planting. This is an age-old growing technique that involves growing mutually beneficial plant combinations next to each other. It might seem simple, but this method can enhance the growth of your plants and vegetables. Plus it can deter pests naturally without the use of harmful pesticides.

For example, nasturtiums can be grown to entice pests away from your cabbages, tomatoes or beans. And calendula can trap aphids and blackflies in their sticky stems.

Not sure where to start? The Soil Association, a charity that promotes everything organic, has a handy companion planting table. This can help you discover which plants thrive together in your garden.

10. Divide Plants With Friends & Family

Buying plants at the garden centre can get expensive, and most come in plastic pots. To save money and cut down on plastic waste, you can divide many perennial plants (the plants that grow back every year), and grow new plants from old.

As well as saving resources, these plants can become extra special additions to your garden. When we moved into our current home, my mum divided up some of her plants for me. As such I’ve now got plants growing from plants that were divided up from my grandmother’s garden. I lost my grandmother 30 years ago and then sadly lost my mum last year, but when I tend to these plants I feel close to them. It’s almost like gardening across the generations.

Check out the Gardener’s World guide to lifting and dividing plants to get the best results.

11. Go Easy On The Weeds

Now that the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) no longer class slugs and snails as pests – instead urging people to consider these creatures as an important part of the garden ecosystem – it’s high time we did the same with weeds. Many weeds are beneficial to the environment, our gardens, and wildlife, after all – providing food, habitat and cover for insects.

Here are just some of the beneficial weeds you want in your garden. Bear in mind that there’s no need to devote your entire garden to weeds. Leaving just a few patches on untended ground can be enough to create a sustainable and eco-friendly garden that supports wildlife.

12. Make a Home For Hedgehogs

Hedgehog in a leafy garden

Finally, hedgehogs may be Britain’s best-loved mammal, but our spiky friends are under threat due to habitat fragmentation.

Hedgehogs roam far and wide in search of food, mates and nesting sites – roaming over a mile each night. Yet the fences we add to secure our gardens impede hedgehogs, making it harder for them to roam, and reducing the land available to them.

Simply adding a small hole to the bottom of your fence – just 13cm by 13cm square – is one of the most impactful things you can do to help hedgehogs get around. Visit Hedgehog Street for top tips on making a “hedgehog highway” in your garden.

Any more top eco gardening tips? Do share with us in the comments below!

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