Sustainable Eco friendly garden landscapes

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Eco friendly landscape gardening is related to wildlife gardening and organic gardening, but there are important differences. For example, peat is organic and natural, but using it for gardening is unsustainable. Using concrete slabs for patios and paths is not environmentally friendly whereas using Indian sandstone (although cruel to the children mining them) is. Sustainability comes first or nothing else would make sense, so my order of priorities are, a garden that is sustainable, works for you or your client and is good for wildlife and then organic. 

 

More and more people are interested in environmentally friendly garden landscaping. This article explains the basics. 

 

Be neither an Eco warrior or an Eco worrier. 

If you are not careful, becoming an Eco-friendly landscaper could cause so much confusion, the temptation might be to say, "sod that". Unless you chop the driftwood you have collected from the beach by hand, pull your wooden trolley with wooden wheels down to the nearest quarry to fill your hazel basket with loose chippings, almost any landscaping material you might want to use has an environmental impact.

Are Concrete slabs, Natural stone, Gravel or Block pavers environmentally friendly landscaping materials.

The more product labels I read the more confused I become 
  • Concrete slabs made from Cement. OK or not? Cement is produced from natural stone, isn't transported to far if you live in Portland, so could be Eco friendly, but for every ton of cement produced, approximately one ton of carbon dioxide is emitted.  Eco friendly or not?
  • Natural stone flagstones, sound OK. However if they haven't been extracted in an environmentally sensitive way and have been transported thousands of miles to reach your garden, Eco friendly or not? If we stop using Indian sandstone will the Indian kids be forced back to search the rubbish tips?
  • Gravel seems safe and natural and importantly these days, allows water to drain through it, but only Eco friendly say the environmentalists, if locally sourced and has not been dredged from the sea bed, as this kills marine life.
  • What about block pavers that let water seep into the ground or into soakaways rather than the drains, which is an increasing problem as so many of us are paving over our gardens. Pavers are permeable and that's Eco friendly, but made from concrete and that's not. 

So what is the Eco-garden landscaper supposed to do about paths, terracing and patios, driveways and walls? It is basically about four things. 

  1. Sustainability comes first,
  2. the energy footprint used to source, manufacture and install hard landscaping,
  3. the energy used to transport the materials, the effect on garden drainage, etc.
  4. Does it work for you or your client, Eco chippings and locally sourced gravel aren't much use if your client or there visitors to an Eco friendly garden use a wheelchair or walking frame.

Looking for Eco friendly landscaping materials? Reclaimed materials are the answer, they have already had an environmental impact, done the air-miles and been taken from the ground.

Reclaimed materials are the safe way. 

When laying paths, terracing and patios, driveways and walls, a slightly more expensive option, but positively Eco friendly would be to use reclaimed materials such as house brick (they make attractive and permeable surfaces), terra-cotta roof tiles (for path edges), reclaimed walling stone and timber sleepers make great retaining and boundary walls.  

When laying patios allow water to filter through and into the ground, instead of pointing, fill the gaps with sand or grit.

It is all about a balance and common sense because almost all of the landscaping materials we use in our "green" garden will have had, or will have, some impact on the environment, but some have less impact and are more Eco-friendly.

10 Things to consider at the design stage to make landscaping Eco-friendly.

  1. Conserve water Even with all the rain we get in this green country of ours we still need to plan ahead and conserve as much water as possible and use it thoughtfully. In periods of normal rainfall we should be using water butts to collect run-off rainwater and during longer spells of dry weather try to recycle household water from baths.
  2. Watering generously only when absolutely necessary is far better than little and often, as it encourages deep rooting rather than shallow surface roots, encouraging roots of the garden plants to search more effectively for water in dry weather. Watering in the evening or early morning,  directing the water at the soil rather than the leaves minimises evaporation. Mulching with organic material or gravel helps retention of moisture within the soil
  3. Planting plans should take into account whether the soil is dry or wet. Planting thirsty plants in thin dry sandy soil will require much wasteful watering just to keep them alive. Choosing and planting the right plants, should make it possible to achieve non or at least minimal watering in most gardens. New plants will need to be watered until they establish but once they reach maturity the deep searching roots mean no more watering.
  4. Using peat is not sustainable. Once the bogs have been stripped, they are gone forever. The Royal Horticultural Society and the National Trust both use alternatives that are peat free to improve soil and mulch their gardens. Persuade your client to visit to there web sites for advice it is well worth while. There are many alternatives to peat on sale but your best bet is still to convince your client to build a compost heap if there's room.
  5. Recycling kitchen and garden waste on a compost heap. It may seem an odd thing to include in a garden design, but once you or your client have started producing  homemade compost by piling unwanted vegetation on to a compost heap. you or they will never send garden and kitchen waste of to the landfill site again. (That's double ECO friendly) Tips for making your own compost heap and organic liquid fertiliser can be found from my gardening basics page.
  6. Reusing non-biodegradable products.
  7. Most of those plastic pots in your garden shed can probably be reused rather than sending them of to the landfill and then buying more. Try cut of pop bottles as mini propagators and yogurt and margarine pots for potting on seedlings.
  8. Minimise the use of chemicals. I say minimise instead of never because even if you aim to garden organically, it somehow seems justifiable to clear a garden infested with bindweed, to plant vegetables you are growing to eat and flowers to enjoy (saving all of those food miles) Once you have treated the area with a glyphosate based weed killer, the garden weeds will be much easier to keep under control. The alternative, digging out perennial weeds by hand could take forever, even covering the area with old carpet or similar would take months. It's all about balance!  I have included tips to clear bindweed here.
  9. On the wild side. If you have enough space try to leave a part of the garden to grow wild flowers, piles of logs and decomposing twigs, long grass and fallen leaves are great habitat for wildlife and might encourage nature's pest controllers into your garden, the hedgehogs eat slugs and snails and ladybirds eat aphids helping keep pests at bay. 
  10. Garden lighting. Bright garden lights as well as confusing birds, are irritating for neighbours and waste electricity. It might be reasonable to light up the garden for parties, but not every night. If you must light up your garden, plan in solar-powered lighting and candles creating more atmosphere and less annoying for your neighbours.