The following guide has been created to inform readers about the practices and principles of eco-friendly gardening as well as illustrating the most efficient and cost-effective organic gardening methods that you can adopt. In accompaniment to these helpful hints and industry exclusive insights, this guide also includes a wealth of online resources upon which you can capitalise to learn more about ecologically responsible gardening methods and their impact on local, national and global ecosystems.
The various sections that this guide will cover include:
- An Introduction To Eco-Friendly Gardening
- How Eco-Friendly Gardening Reduces CO2
- Best Trees for Reducing CO2
- Fruit & Vegetables Growing Guide
- Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
- Composting & Natural Fertilisers
- Eco-Friendly Gardening Advice For Businesses
- Ecologically Responsible Green Roofs
- How Aquaponics Can Prevent Global Warming
- Other Useful Gardening Information
According to a recent infographic posted online by Living Green Magazine:
“A reflection of the depletion of glaciers, the Glacier National Park in Montana, United States, has fewer than twenty-seven glaciers now, in comparison to over 150 glaciers in 1910. This is a decrease of about 87% in the number of glaciers [and that] In 2004, it was reported that Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is losing about 4 inches annually because of global warming.”
These startling figures outline the global importance of combating climate change and reducing our individual carbon footprint. Indeed, in recent years there has been a broad range of ecologically responsible breakthroughs; such as affordable solar panels and biomass heating which individuals can utilise to reduce their total household energy wastage, as well as electric hybrid cars, which reduce the burning of hazardous fossil fuels for transportation purposes. However, despite these significant advancements, there are still many areas of modern life that are hazardous to the welfare of our planet.
For instance, many of the practices and tools used for modern day gardening purposes actually hinder the environment rather than support it. From synthetic fertilisers that contaminate natural soil reserves to inefficient watering systems that unnecessarily require the expenditure of more energy, all of these actions amount to a sizeable carbon footprint for each household.
Fortunately, there is a solution – eco-friendly gardening. This green philosophy is primarily focused upon reducing the carbon dioxide emissions generated by inorganic gardening purposes, and upon increasing the livelihood of the wildlife by preserving existing ecosystems.
Organic gardening combats the main concerns of climate change; ever depleting water reserves, wildlife habitat destruction, loss of diversity and chemically contaminated produce. By replacing modern gardening practices with targeted plant care resources and water conservation methods, such as rainwater butts, drip irrigation systems, utilising grey water supplies and making compost from recycled household waste, it is possible to preserve local ecosystems for their residents, plant life and wildlife within the region.
How you can make a difference
By gardening with these organic, completely natural practices in mind, you can positively impact your local plants and wildlife. If more people garden in this manner, then it may be possible to support local, national and global ecosystems for many years to come.
Although eco-gardening may require you to replace your current outdoor practices with organic gardening methods, the rewards will be plentiful. With eco-gardening, every plant, crop or outdoor structure that you maintain will be for a particular purpose. This includes growing your own fruit and vegetables to sustain yourself with fresh, organic produce that is free of pesticides, to planting trees to equip yourself with future building materials as well as a plant that will absorb excess carbon levels. Unlike modern gardening practices that often only exist for stylistic, superficial purposes, with eco-gardening you will be able to take pride in your work and create a viable, aesthetically pleasing yet practical ecosystem for future generations.
Regardless of whether you are a gardening novice or a seasoned horticulturist, whether you have a small back garden or vast acres of land, you can enjoy the benefits of eco-gardening practices. Irrespective of whether you wish to create a maintenance-free outdoor space or if you intend to spend hours cultivating the garden allotment of your dreams, by adopting the eco-friendly gardening practices that are demonstrated throughout this guide you can take pride in the fact that you are sustaining your family with natural produce and materials in addition to safeguarding your local, national and global ecosystem for the future.
For many years there has been a public assumption that any garden is eco-friendly because plants absorb harmful carbon dioxide emissions and give out oxygen. However, this is not the case. Unfortunately there are many processes that occur within modern gardening practices that are responsible for releasing hazardous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If gardeners wish to pursue organic gardening and begin reducing their carbon footprint then they must first be aware of these harmful processes in order to rectify them. Consequently, this section of the guide will outline some of the most environmentally damaging aspects of modern gardening practices and highlight how eco-friendly gardening can substantially reduce their carbon dioxide emissions:
Synthetic fertilisers & manure: Although synthetic fertilisers containing nitrogen may accelerate the growth of your plants, they will have been manufactured via the Haber Bosch process; a system that depends upon converting methane from natural gas into hydrogen. Carbon dioxide emissions are a detrimental side effect of this process and as such synthetic fertiliser distribution is one of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, using manure as compost will also release methane into the atmosphere, thereby exacerbating the effects of global warming.
Despite the complexities of this issue, the solution is quite simple; make your own compost. Not only will making your own compost save you money and recycle your general household and garden waste, but it will also ensure your fertiliser is 100% organic and prevent harmful methane gases being emitted during the manufacturing process.
Peat-based compost: Naturally occurring peat bogs absorb a sizeable amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and prevent it from damaging our atmosphere. Unfortunately, by purchasing compost that contains peat you are depleting these natural resources and diminishing the Earth’s ability to efficiently absorb greenhouse gases. Given that approximately half of all the compost sold within Britain contains peat, you should only ever buy compost that bears a certified no-peat label on it.
Fortunately, there are many non-peat based compost products currently available that you can purchase from your local gardening stores. Out of all these products, one that reaps the best growing results is coir-based compost. Coir is a type of waste product generated whilst processing coconut fibre. Even though this coir-based compost must be shipped across the world to be used, its shipping methods create minimal levels of transportation-induced carbon dioxide emissions. As such, by swapping your peat-based compost or potting soil for coir-based alternatives you will be significantly reducing your carbon footprint as well as accelerating the growth of all your plants.
Inefficiently heated greenhouses: If you frequently heat your greenhouse, your carbon footprint will be greater than it needs to be. This is due to the fact greenhouses are very rarely fitted with double glazing and they have good ventilation to support plant growth. This lets out excessive amounts of heat. Therefore, unless you are depending upon a renewable energy source to heat your greenhouses you will be inadvertently generating excess carbon dioxide emissions.
Subsequently, you should endeavour to start growing your plant seedlings inside your heated home with full spectrum grow lights and leave your greenhouse empty over the winter. By doing so, you can utilise your household heating to support both your family and your plants; thereby saving you money and reducing your household and garden carbon dioxide emissions. For more information on eco-friendly gardening practices and biodegradable products, please visit the links provided in our Other Useful Gardening Information section at the end of this guide.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, it is universally acknowledged plants take in carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen. However, you may not be aware that the total amount of carbon on our planet is constant, and that it moves and changes form with ease.
Furthermore, the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, which have been buried under the surface of the Earth for thousands of years, causes carbon to become converted into harmful carbon dioxide emissions. Once these carbon dioxide emissions enter our atmosphere, they absorb and emit infrared radiation, which contributes to global warming. Most worryingly, the current level of carbon dioxide emissions on the planet is predicted to be the highest it has ever been in the last 20 million years.
Fortunately though, scientists believe they may have found a viable long-term solution; carbon sequestration. This process involves planting trees that will absorb the planet’s excess levels of atmospheric carbon during photosynthesis. This will be stored within the tree for the entirety of its life.
Despite the fact that all living plant matter absorbs carbon dioxide via photosynthesis, trees carry out this process far more significantly than smaller plant species due to their extensive biomass, root structures and longevity. As a result, scientists often refer to them as nature’s “carbon sinks”.
Specific plant types, such as oak, pine and yellow poplar trees are particularly effective at absorbing and storing carbon. Therefore, this section will outline the best trees you can plant for reducing your carbon footprint:
Some of the best tree species which efficiently absorb and store carbon include; red mulberry, horse chestnut, blue spruce, pine, oak, yellow poplar, silver maple, London plane and dogwood, amongst others. Generally speaking, when planting trees to reduce carbon dioxide emissions you should adhere to the following specifications:
- Plant trees that have large leaves and wide crowns in order to enable maximum photosynthesis to take place
- Choose fast growing trees because trees will store the most amount of carbon possible within their first few productive years.
- Select trees with a long life expectancy because they will store carbon within their trunks for many years without releasing carbon dioxide via decomposition
- Choose tree types that are renowned for their low maintenance and disease resistant properties, because they will be able to withstand possible contamination from nearby pesticide products, synthetic fertilisers or inorganic gardening equipment.
Plant tree types that are native to your region and climate because they will thrive and grow optimally in your soil type, as well as attracting and supporting the local wildlife and plant life
Above all else, it is important to plant types of trees and plants that require minimal maintenance. Otherwise, local tree surgeons and landscapers will have to use sizeable trucks and chainsaws to maintain these trees and it is these tools that’ll pollute the air with harmful fossil fuel emissions. As Stan Wullschleger, a researcher at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, states:
“There are literally dozens of tree species that could be planted depending upon location, climate and soils.”
Therefore, as long as you plant a tree that can grow and develop within your particular region and climate then you will be aiding the environment. Feel free to browse through the Other Useful Gardening Information section of this guide to access several online resources, which will demonstrate some of the best plants and trees to plant in your area to reduce your carbon footprint.
4.Fruit & Vegetables Growing Guide
One of the most rewarding eco-friendly gardening practices that you can adopt is growing your own food. Not only will you benefit from a plentiful supply of fresh, organic food in your own back garden, but you will also save approximately two pounds of carbon dioxide emissions for every pound of fruit and vegetables you grown. This is due to the fact that in order to generate mass amounts of commercial produce, many farmers depend upon fossil fuel burning tractors and machinery, as well as petroleum-based fertilisers and environmentally damaging pesticides. Subsequently, by adopting organic gardening practices you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money on your food bills. You will also yield a return that equates to up to at least 10 times the amount of your initial investment and produce fresh, seasonal food that tastes delicious and hasn’t been damaged by harmful chemicals, herbicides and pesticides. So, if you would like to begin growing your own fruit and vegetables today, listed below is an informative growing guide to help you get started:
Choose your growing plot
Regardless of the size of your outdoor space there will be types of fruit and vegetables you can plant. Irrespective of whether you own a large plot of land, numerous allotment areas, a small back yard, several hanging baskets or some indoor plant pots, as long as your fruit and vegetable seedlings are planted in an area that receives plenty of sunlight for at least six hours a day, you will be able to successfully grow your own produce.
You will also need to take the necessary precautions to effectively protect your plant seedlings from adverse weather conditions such as high winds, frost and snow. If you intend to grow your produce indoors this will not be an issue. Otherwise it would be advisable to invest in a set of cloches, row tunnels, hoop tunnels or covering tunnels from your local gardening store. When purchasing these items, always check the label to ascertain that they have been manufactured in keeping with organic gardening standards. Alternatively, you could choose to create your own cloches by cutting old plastic bottles in half and creating holes in the half that does not have a lid attached. These cloches will protect your young seedlings and plants from cold weather conditions, as well as scavenging insects, slugs and all manner of garden pests.
Fruit and vegetable garden beds
There are a wide range of different plant diseases and soil-borne pests that can hinder your produce from growing to its maximum yield. Therefore, if you intend to grow an array of fresh produce it would be advisable to plant similar species of fruit and vegetable seedlings in one garden bed to prevent cross-contamination of these harmful pests and diseases. By doing so, you can rotate these garden beds each year to ensure all of your produce develops to its full potential.
What’s more, there are certain types of plants that, when grown in close proximity, will complement each other to boost growth and vitality. From tall plants providing shade for smaller plants more sensitive to sunlight, to certain plant species which have been scientifically proven to deter specific flying insects and soil-based pests, it is worthwhile investigating the best plant combinations for your garden. This will help to encourage the best growing results for your backyard fruit and vegetables. Listed below are some of the best plant growing combinations, as well as the types of fruit trees thriving in certain climates:
Chives and tomatoes: The onion scent that is emitted by chives will deter aphids and other insects from eating any tomatoes that are grown in close proximity. Moreover, you can rest assured that this onion scent will not permeate into your tomatoes. By growing the two plants together you can reap maximum results without hindering their taste once harvested.
Carrots and spring onions: The smell of onion plants will deter carrot root flies from being attracted to the scent of your carrot crops. The smell of carrots will also prevent different variants of flies from eating your onion plants. As a result, growing carrots and spring onions together is one of the best organic gardening combinations you can utilise to your advantage!
Roses and garlic: For many years rose plants and garlic have been grown together due to the fact that garlic is a natural rose pest repellent. What’s more, the purple and white flowers that sprout forth from garlic plants during the spring months beautifully compliment numerous rose plant varieties. Subsequently, by growing certain plant types together you can yield both practical and aesthetic gardening results.
Cucumbers, radishes and dill: If you plant dill near your cucumber plants you will actually attract beneficial predators towards your crops. These predators will eat other flying and soil-based insects that would have previously contaminated your crops. Additionally, if you plant radishes near your cucumber plants then you will reduce the likelihood of cucumber beetles being attracted to the scent of your plants.
Fruit trees: Whilst many citrus trees will thrive well in any climate and species such as mango, avocado and pawpaw trees will flourish best in warm, tropical climates, there are certain fruit trees, including kiwi, apple, cherry and peach, more suitable to the British climate. This is because they will grow best in cooler weather. Moreover, if you are low on outdoor gardening space, it is advisable that you plant multi-grafted, espalier fruit trees. These will provide you with fresh produce without taking up too much space and depriving your other plants of the essential water stores and nutrients they need to survive.
Pest deterrents: If you grow certain flowers and herbs in close proximity to your vegetable crops, you can naturally and humanely deter all manner of garden pests. For example, echinacea, chives, borage, pyrethrum daisy, basil, garlic and nasturtium are all highly effective pest deterrents. By planting these organic gardening pest deterrents you can protect your fruit and vegetable garden beds without having to depend upon harmful, chemical based pesticides. What’s more, you will also generate a plentiful supply of herbs that will beautifully complement your fresh produce once cooked!
The following sections of this guide will offer additional targeted advice and guidance on how to water and fertilise your plants using organic gardening methods. By adhering to these practices and investigating the additional plant care resources provided in the Other Useful Gardening Information section at the end of this guide, you can cultivate a bountiful, eco-friendly and highly rewarding fruit and vegetable garden for you and your family!
Did you know that, when at peak demand, gardening can consume up to 70% of the UK’s water supply? This huge demand for such a precious resource has led many organic gardeners to devise various reduction, re-use and recycling techniques for preserving water reserves. Many of these techniques are cost-effective and easy to carry out. Therefore, if you have been looking for ingenious ways in which to preserve your water supply and reduce unnecessary wastage, listed below are some tried and tested helpful gardening hints that you can utilise:
Use a Rainwater Butt: You can capitalise upon the vast amount of rainwater that falls in the UK each year by storing it for use in drier months. Given that at least 24,000 litres of rainwater falls each year even in the driest areas of the country, it is highly recommended that you invest in an eco-friendly plastic or terracotta rainwater butt that will hold upwards of 160 litres of rainwater. By storing this excess water during wetter periods of the year and using it when the climate is more arid, you can reduce your annual water bills, conserve vital water reserves and in so doing reduce your carbon footprint.
Reuse grey water: Even though it may not be aesthetically pleasing, reusing grey water that has been collected from your kitchen sink, showers or baths is safe to use to water your plants. All you have to do is purchase a grey water diverter from your local gardening store and this device will divert water from your home to a storage facility to be relied upon during warmer months. As long as the grey water you reuse does not contain any harmful chemical cleaning products, such as bleach or cleaning disinfectant products, it will be safe to use to revitalise your plants and soil when your alternative water stores are depleted.
Correctly water your plants: Even seasoned gardeners can fall victim to over-watering or under-watering their plants; a practice that can hinder the growth of your allotment as well as depleting your precious water stores. Fortunately, there is a simple yet highly effective solution. All you have to do is check that the soil around your plants is approximately as deep as the level of your spade and that it is damp. Only water this space if the soil feels dry. By doing so, your plants will continue to thrive and you will save water. As a rule, most plants require roughly 24 litres of water every 10 days. Sandy soils will require more water than heavy soils and clay-based soils also need less frequent watering but in larger quantities. If you remain informed of the type of soil in your garden and its unique seasonal needs, you can dispense the exact amount of water your garden needs to grow without wastage.
Water plants at the right time: It is more efficient to water your plants during the evening than throughout the day. This is due to the fact that if you water your plants in the evening then less water will evaporate and your plants will retain more of its essential oxygen and nutrients.
Invest in drought resistant plants: There are certain plants such as lavender, cacti and verbena that require far less water than others. Consequently, it is recommended that you opt for drought resistant plants in order to stylishly yet efficiently decorate and populate your garden.
Use an eco-friendly watering system: Did you know that a traditional hosepipe can expend up to 1,000 litres of water per hour? Or that the amount of energy that went into treating and supplying that water is equivalent to leaving a 60W light bulb or five energy saving light bulbs running for the same period of time? Therefore, it is paramount that you should procure a more efficient watering system that will comprehensively replenish your garden whilst reducing your carbon footprint. From sprinklers and seep hoses to automated irrigation systems, by investing in a watering system that best suits the needs of your plants and the size of your garden you can ensure all of your plants are sufficiently watered without using excessive amounts of water; a practice that often occurs when using a watering can. You can use the links outlined in the Other Useful Gardening Information section at the end of this guide to locate and purchase your ideal eco-friendly watering system.
6.Composting & Natural Fertilisers
In addition to reusing your household and garden water as mentioned in the section above, there are a multitude of products you can recycle for use in your garden. For example, you can cut up plastic drinks bottles to use as cloches for your fruit and vegetable crops. Smaller plastic containers such as yogurt pots can also be used for planting seeds and cuttings. Moreover, if you live near the seaside you can even recycle old seashells or cockleshells instead of purchasing new gravel for your garden, as decorative features amongst your indoor and outdoor plant pots or to use as mulch on your planting beds!
Ultimately, as long as the products you use do not contain any harmful chemicals, pesticides or herbicides that can endanger your plants and local wildlife, they can be recycled for use in your garden. In fact, one of the most common organic gardening recycling projects is making compost.
Irrespective of the type of soil within your garden, compost will improve its structure. From retaining water and vital nutrients to ensuring the roots of all your plants receive sufficient oxygen, to attracting earthworms and other insects that will improve the structure of your soil, compost can enrich and revitalise your garden plants, fruits and vegetables.
However, although many gardeners are fully aware of these benefits of compost, many continue to use synthetic store-bought compost which does not retain its nutrients and which can pollute your plant life and water supply. For these reasons, many organic gardeners resort to making their own compost. If you choose to do so then you can ensure that your compost has been made solely made with fully decayed organic matter. Moreover, making your own compost is completely free, requires no expensive or timely trips to local gardening stores and provides a viable outlet for recycling your household waste. In fact, research estimates that between 10% and 30% of all landfills are filled with garden and household waste that could have been used to make compost!
How to make your own compost
Compost is incredibly easy to make and requires very few resources. Some of the many organic garden materials and household waste you can use to make compost includes:
Leaves, branches, foliage and other natural debris
Grass and wood cuttings
Old plants and shrubs
Food leftovers such as fruit peels, egg shells, raw vegetables or tea bags
Old newspapers, cardboard and other paper items.
When making your own compost you should only ever use organic materials. Never use contaminated substances such as diseased plant parts, garden waste that has been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals, pet waste or any foodstuffs, which may attract pests such as dairy, meat or oil.
Once you have assembled your preferred organic garden materials or household waste, shred them or break them up into smaller pieces and then place them in a pile or inside a compost container. Always remove the seed heads of any plants you use for compost and chop up thick branches or wood to accelerate the composting process.
There are many eco-friendly compost bins you can purchase; many of which are fitted with a tumbling mechanism which can be turned to accelerate the composting process. Moreover, many of these store-bought containers are equipped with innovative doors to facilitate ventilation whilst simultaneously preventing garden pests from entering the container.
You can even choose to construct your own compost container out of plastic bin bags, metal bins, or any large plastic container. If you choose to use bin bags then you will need to enter your compost materials, close the bags and tie the top, then punch holes in the sides for ventilation purposes. Although this method is extremely easy to do, it takes significantly longer for the compost to transform into nutrient-rich fertiliser than other methods; on average between 12 to 18 months.
Alternatively, by utilising a metal bin or plastic container you can store larger amounts of compost and reap the gardening rewards in a significantly faster turnover time. All you have to do is cut the bottom out of your chosen container, punch holes in the sides and lid for sufficient ventilation, insert your compost materials and then seal the container.
Irrespective of the storage method you choose, after amassing all of your compost materials within your bin all you have to do in the meantime is turn and water your compost occasionally to keep the pile aerated and moist. By doing so, you will benefit from nutrient-rich fertiliser in just a few weeks!
How to use your homemade fertiliser
Once your compost has turned a black or dark brown colour and is of a crumbly substance you can begin to use it as fertiliser. There are many different gardening practices the addition of fertiliser will benefit. Amongst these various practices include:
To provide essential nutrients for plants: There are three essential plant nutrients. Nitrogen promotes dark green stem and leaf growth; phosphorus supports rapid plant and seedling growth, as well as strong stems, roots and flowers; potassium which promotes overall plant and flower vigour in addition to bolstering resistance against drought and disease. Although these nutrients are essential they are not found in all soil types. Consequently, by placing your homemade fertiliser over your soil you can ensure your plants receive these essential nutrients.
To support new plants and allotment crops: If you scatter some fertiliser around every new hole you dig and mix it into the soil before planting, you can provide your new plants, trees, flowers, fruit and vegetable crops with a nutrient dense area within which to grow and thrive. By doing so every planting season you can promote optimum growth throughout your garden.
Use as mulch: As gardening guru Paul James states: “Adding organic matter is the single most important and effective thing gardeners can do to improve garden soil.” As a result, you can use fertiliser as a form of mulch in order to enrich your soil structure and prevent it from drying out or compacting, to moderate soil temperature and nutrients. By placing fertiliser over your soil you will also increase the population of earthworms and soil microbes in your garden, promoting healthy plant growth and suppressing weeds.
To revive dying plants: If you notice some of your plants bear discoloured leaves, or they aren’t growing or blooming as well as they should be, they may be deficient in certain nutrients. To rectify this, you can scatter an inch of fertiliser around the roots of these plants to revitalise them.
You can reap the rewards of all of these gardening benefits by utilising your own homemade fertiliser. However, there are also several natural fertiliser brands you can purchase from local gardening centres that will enable you to reap similar dividends. These products are helpful to use when your homemade fertiliser stores are in short supply or if your plants are deficient in one particular nutrient. When purchasing these natural fertiliser products, it is important that you verify they are manufactured using 100% organic matter. For more information on making your own compost and to learn where you can purchase natural fertiliser products, feel free to visit the Other Useful Gardening Information section at the end of this guide.
7. Eco-Friendly Gardening Advice For Businesses
A recent infographic posted online by B2C (Business 2 Community) revealed global natural resource consumption is at 125% of the Earth’s bio-capacity and is expected to rise to 170% by 2040. The percentage of citizens willing to act on environmental concerns has jumped from 57% in 2008 to 80% today. In response to this ecosystem dilemma and customer opinion, many businesses have begun to implement sustainable sourcing strategies within their current business models.
The term ‘sustainable sourcing’ refers to the process of businesses purchasing organic and locally grown foodstuffs to support the long-term maintenance of ecosystems and agriculture for future generations. By sourcing their company products and supplies in this manner, businesses can significantly reduce the carbon footprint for which their business was previously responsible. From reducing the amount of vehicles importing and exporting foodstuffs over a long distance, to reducing the use of toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilisers that were previously used in the manufacture of their company’s foodstuffs, businesses can drastically reduce their pollution emissions, increase their profit margins and garner customer loyalty due to their eco-friendly sustainable sourcing endeavours.
There are many online and offline resources dedicated to helping businesses establish these eco-friendly gardening practices. One of the most successful resources is The Cool Farm Tool; an online greenhouse gas calculator that farmers can utilise to measure the carbon footprint of their crop and livestock products. This tool is currently used by both small businesses and large corporations such as Tesco, Marks & Spencer and PepsiCo, in order to measure, manage and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of their company and its suppliers. As the Cool Farm Tool organisation state, their mission is:
“To be a highly credible and capable partner for agricultural greenhouse gas management – ‘credible’ through using best available science and multi-stakeholder processes for methodology development and quality assurance; and ‘capable’ through providing leading agricultural greenhouse gas management products and services.”
This resource is completely free for farmers to download and use and as such, if you own a business you can utilise the Cool Farm Tool in collaboration with your local suppliers to calculate and reduce your carbon footprint. Feel free to visit the Other Useful Gardening Information section of this guide for links to the Cool Farm Tool website and to access other eco-friendly gardening advice resources and tools for businesses.
The term ‘green roof’ refers to a roof structure that is either completely or partially covered by a growing medium. This growing medium is planted over a waterproofing membrane and can be used to plant and support the growth of vegetation as well as to attract insects and bees to populate and pollinate the surrounding area. A green roof can be fitted to both small and large buildings, in urban areas or throughout the rural countryside and can be equipped with additional layers including drainage and irrigation systems, as well as root barriers.
Consequently, these natural and organic structures offer a wealth of eco-friendly gardening benefits. For instance, if you live in an urban city area then a green roof will provide you with an efficient space in which to grow your own fruit and vegetables. You’ll create a naturally thriving outdoor space that will oxygenate the surrounding area and provide you with a clean and fresh place in which to relax and recuperate. This is due to the fact many airborne particles and pollutants are filtered from the atmosphere by the substrates and vegetation on the green roof. As the Tyndale Centre research team state:
“The world needs a 10% increase in green space within our cities in order to effectively combat climate change.”
These green roofs provide the solution.
Green roofs are extremely low maintenance and in fact would provide additional protection to your current roof structure. The combination of its waterproof membrane and the layer of the growing medium will safeguard your home from adverse weather conditions, provide efficient sound proofing and alleviate the pressure of your current drainage system by reducing its existing run-off by up to 70%. This process occurs because the plants growing on your green roof will filter rainwater and transfer it into the atmosphere. Subsequently, green roofs have been shown to double and even triple the life of the waterproofing membranes that exist beneath the green roof.
Furthermore, a green roof will insulate against heat loss during the winter months and retain cool air during the summer. As a result, by investing in a green roof you can substantially reduce your heating, air conditioning and overall energy bills throughout the year. In turn you’ll drastically reduce your household’s carbon footprint. Ultimately, green roof structures are cost-effective, environmentally efficient, aesthetically pleasing, easy to maintain and can increase the biodiversity of urban areas by providing a viable habitat in which local wildlife can thrive and populate. These overwhelmingly positive factors suggest that a green roof structure could be a viable long-term organic gardening solution for both urban and rural areas. For more information on the benefits of green roofs and how to install one for your household, feel free to visit our Other Useful Gardening Information section at the end of this guide.
The term ‘aquaponics’ refers to the innovative farming and fishing practice that integrates fish farming and growing plants without soil. Ingeniously, aquaponics farms both fish and plants within a singular system in order to eliminate wastage and reduce the carbon footprint of both practices.
In an aquaponics system, the waste produced by fish is recycled to provide essential nutrients for the plants growing within the same system. At the same time, the plants being grown in water will filter this fish waste from your aquaponics system to create a clean environment within which your fish can live.
Simultaneously, the worms and microbes that live on the surface of your grow bed media will convert the ammonia within the fish waste into nitrites, nitrates and ultimately vermicompost that your plants will absorb. Consequently, aquaponics harmonises all of the negative aspects of both aquaculture and hydroponics in order to create a cyclical system that is mutually beneficial for both fish and plants.
As a result of this completely natural and waste-free process, aquaponics is also one of the most ecologically responsible forms of agriculture available. This is due to the fact that, by combining plant care resources with fish farming you are significantly reducing your total water consumption and energy usage. On average, aquaponics utilises 90% less water than conventional agricultural methods and, given that the process of aquaponics controls the conditions of your growing environment by itself, there is no need for artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides. The production of these would release harmful carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.
Aquaponics also liberates you to produce a vast array of fish and plants throughout the year. Within this controlled environment you can optimise the level of water and nutrients in order to yield maximum fish and plant growth regardless of the season.
Aquaponics in action
Subsequently, many prominent figures within the gardening world have launched plant care resource initiatives to centre around aquaponics. One of these includes the UK’s first aquaponics solar greenhouse, which was constructed in 2014 on an ex-council farm in Monmouthshire in Wales.
The farm is managed by Springwatch TV presenter Kate Humble and her husband Ludo Graham as part of their Humble By Nature initiative. They have transformed the land in order to teach various rural skills, cookery and educational courses that convey the main principles of aquaponics to both residential and commercial farmers.
Furthermore, Humble by Nature’s aquaponics solar greenhouse initiative continues to operate alongside the non-profit social enterprise organisation Aquaponics UK. Speaking about their joint ecological endeavours on the Humble by Nature website, Kate and Ludo surmise how;
“In a nutshell we grow fish and recycle the nutrient rich water into soilless vegetable production cleaning the water in the process so it can be constantly reused…We’ve built a passive solar greenhouse in which to house this productive, edible ecosystem which is also…combined with a variety of other complementary farming techniques such as producing fish and poultry food from insects, growing mushrooms from used coffee grounds and growing poultry, fed from by-products of the system.”
Their greenhouse demonstrates how aquaponics can be a self-sustaining agricultural solution for all manner of British farmers because it permits them to raise fish and grow crops within a waste-free integrated system. As such, the practice of aquaponics heralds a new future for modern day farmers, which has great potential for reducing our global carbon footprint. For more information on how to create your own aquaponics farm, please peruse the links provided in our Other Useful Gardening Information section of this guide.
10.Other Useful Gardening Information
If you have any further questions regarding organic gardening and the different ways of reducing your carbon footprint, there are a variety of websites you can visit. These online plant care resources can provide you with targeted advice and specific guidance on growing your own fruit and vegetables, conserving your water stores, making your own compost and natural fertiliser, as well as introducing you to forward thinking eco-friendly gardening practices such as aquaponics and green roof structures. By investigating these organic gardening resources, you can begin to cultivate and maintain a thriving ecosystem within your local community:
- Eco-friendly gardening practices: HGTV Eco-Friendly Gardening Tips, Biodiversity Advice, Environmental Footprint Calculator, Leovan Design, Zero Carbon Footprint
- Biodegradable products: WWF, Biodegradable Product Institute, European Commission Bio Waste Information, Biodegradable Plastics, Discovery Express, Biodegradable Flower Pots, Biodegradable Tea Bags, Wildlife Gardening
- Eco-friendly resources for businesses: The Cool Farm Tool, Eco Business Links, Green Wise Business Grants & Funding, Brentwood Environmentally Friendly Business Advice, Gov.uk Environmental Taxes, Reliefs & Schemes For Businesses, XLN Green Guide For Small Businesses
- Making your own compost: BBC Making Your Own Compost Tips, Recycle Now Home Composting, Planet Natural Composting 101, Earth Easy Composting Guide, Eden Project How To Make A Compost Heap, Tree Hugger Compost Bins You Can Build In A Day, The Art Of Simple Composting Bins
- Natural fertiliser products: Home Grown Fun, The Ecologist’s Recommendations Of Best Natural Fertilisers, Hobby Farms, Rodales Organic Life, Gardening Know How, Soil Association, Web Ecoist, No Dig Vegetable Garden, Organic Facts
- Organic gardening watering systems: Mother Earth News, Earth Easy, The Organic Gardener, Organic Growers School, The Micro Gardener, Wise Watering, Watering Systems For Your Vegetable Garden, Beat The Heat: Conservation-Based Garden Watering Systems
- Plants and trees for reducing your carbon footprint: Grow Veg, Trees Direct, Carbon Footprint UK Tree Planting, Plants Need CO2, Eden Project Eco-Friendly House Plants, The New Ecologist, Monrovia, BBC Nature
- Green roofs: Living Roofs, Green Roof Guide, Green Roofs Today, Renewable Energy Hub, How Stuff Works: What Is A Green Roof
- Aquaponics farm: The Aquaponic Source, Green Gro Tech, The Guardian, Backyard Aquaponics, Instructables, So Cal Fish Farm, Endless Food Systems, Sustainiverse