For many the garden is their main contact with the natural world, however many gardens have evolved to be highly unnatural places.
Today, many gardens regardless of where, are lawn and borders holding plants, many which may be transported halfway across the world. To maintain such gardens in peak condition requires constant irrigation and liberal doses of chemical insecticides, fertilisers and weedkillers. Many people worry about chemicals inside their homes and on food that they buy, but forget about the garden which could be much more toxic than they imagine.
By choosing planting that is suited to your environment your garden will be ‘lower maintenance’ and you can get more pleasure and do less work! Eg, did you consider that a petrol mower running for an hour creates the same pollution in the atmosphere as driving an average car 560km?
Working with nature
Instead of imposing an artificial garden idea on a site regardless of the conditions – go with what mother nature would have planted there herself! Do this by looking around at your local forests, parks and see what works well in neighbouring gardens, ask advice at a good quality garden centre. By promoting native species, you attract local wildlife and insects and you will require less water to upkeep. In addition to this, use non-toxic structures and natural organic methods for pest control (see below)… and that is pretty much and eco garden!
Lawns do have their place and can be highly practical for children to run around safely on. If you have a lawn try to create a space for a natural garden area too then you will still attract the right predators to keep your precious plants uneaten.
- Type of soil
- Amount of rainfall
- Temperature range/winds
- Aspect – direction of sun
Type of soil…. note that sometimes you might have a mixture of soil in your garden and some will be exposed to sun and other parts in the shade. Choose your plants according to the soil/area/blooming season and in no time you will have an abundant, all year interest garden. You could also put anything you want in a pot with the corresponding earth mix.
Clay is heavy, high in nutrients, wet and cold in winter and dry and hard in summer.
Sandy is light, dry warm and low in nutrients
Chalk is very alkaline may be light or heavy
Dry soil benefits from being mulched (spread and dig in) with product you can buy or make your own from old leaves and composted vegetables from the kitchen (avoid dairy/meat scraps).
Shade loving plants – if you have shade embrace these lovely plants which are full of texture – I love hostas! (note: put sharp grit or crushed egg shells around the bases as snail and slugs also love them!)
I couldn’t leave the Buddleia out of this post – it is a wonderful plant that thrives almost anywhere (so much so that it can be looked upon by some as a pest – shock horror!) There are over 100 varieties to choose from in pinks blues and whites…. butterflies and bees love it and it only requires hard cutting back when it gets a bit too full.
The Royal Horticultural Society has a plant finder search where you can list your soil/sun/rainfall and the search engine will advise you. click to find plants here
Not all weeds are created equal – I have some in my garden (not a clue what they are) but they are pretty so I leave them! I do however like to tidy weeds, stray grass etc away from the driveway and paths… just pull them up when I see them or you could try my recipe below – the toughest will wilt and it is all natural…… be careful not to spray on plants you want to keep!
It is completely unnecessary to use chemicals in your garden just another multi-billion dollar industry we have been programmed to “think” we need.
Insects friend or foe?
Many insects are highly beneficial to our gardens as they prey on others that eat our pretty plants! Ladybirds (or American Ladybugs) are not called the gardner’s best friend for nothing! They eat aphids, whitefly, greenfly and mites. Some people even buy them and put them in their gardens!
One of the best tactics is to attract the correct insects to your garden, for a complete list of making your own mini insect army to fight the war for you click here
If you do have a persistent problem this natural insecticide is safe to use on affected plants only.
If you are too squeamish to collect the slugs and snails (my kids love doing this) and take them to the local forest to set them free…. then get a few small glass jars (baby food or jam) and fill 1/3 with beer. Leave them sheltered from rain under the leaves they like to eat. Once they have been removed you could lay crushed eggshells or sharp grit to deter others.
Would like to end this post with a pic from my garden of my favourite tree Magnolia Grandiflora – spring has defiantly arrived here in Switzerland.
Thanks for reading