As more and more land is being swallowed up for farmland or, increasingly, to build houses I believe that is our duty to make our gardens as eco-friendly as possible. Don’t click away if you don’t have a garden – I’m going to put in a few things you can do if you have no outside space.
I had no outside space for a good decade. And by none, I don’t mean a three by three-foot courtyard or balcony, I mean NONE. Even the pavement outside the front door was about a foot wide and on a busy road.
Why have any eco-friendly garden?
Mainly for the insects. Pesticides and habitat loss have caused a rapid decline in numbers for many insect species, so let’s give them a hand. If you have an abundance of insects you’ll also encourage birds, bats, and hedgehogs. Yay! If you grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers you’ll benefit from increased pollinators. If you’re interested in saving the bees, check out this post.
Can’t I just leave my garden to return to nature?
Er, yes I suppose you could, but just because you want an eco-friendly garden doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful too. It’s nice to have somewhere you can sit out and drink a cup of coffee whilst the birds sing and the bugs, er, whirr (?).
Do I need to have green fingers to create my eco-friendly garden?
Christ, I hope not, because I have no IDEA about gardening. We’ve only lived here for 18 months.
Is it expensive to make your garden more eco-friendly?
No. Obviously, if you want to invest in fancy-ass birdfeeders then go for it, but a simple bowl of food will help immensely.
So, how do you make your garden more eco-friendly?
1 – Put out water
We don’t have a pond, and didn’t want to invest in one because we only rent. In its place, we buried a plastic box – just a small one we’d previously used to store paperwork in- and filled it with water. We put in some water plants that had been left by the old tenant. They’re doing really well, and the birds like to drink from it.
We also have a terracotta dish for a bird bath – the blackbirds in particular LOVE it, but will only bath in the bird bath – they prefer to drink the gross water in the ‘pond’.
We also put out a small ramekin of water filled with gravel so that bees can drink from it without fear of drowning.
2 – Put out food
I’ve previously bought (affiliate link alert – after this, they’ll be marked with a *) this bird seed* from Amazon, though I’m trying to buy more from our local pet shop, who are a small business and sell their seed in paper bags
We also put out cat food for our resident hedgehogs. We have a couple of regulars which is extremely exciting for me. We also feed at least three local cats, so my boyfriend built a feeding station that only the hedgehogs can access (we’ll still put food on top for the cats – I’m not a monster).
This is just an observation, but since putting cat food out at night we’ve had fewer cat visiting during the day, which is great for the birds.
3 – Grow native species
Most garden centres sell packs of wildflower plants pretty cheaply. Just don’t do what I did and let them grow wantonly because they’ll take over and suffocate everything else. I had success with red campion (TRIM IT BACK THOUGH), but Fox-and-cubs just took over. My cornflowers grew beautifully but got straggly, so I’m going to try again this year and train them up something.
My main issue is that I know NOTHING about gardening. It’s all trial and error, plus a bit of Gardener’s World for back-up.
Campanulas grew well, and I’m hoping the Red Hot Pokers flower this year because birds and bees love ’em. I’ve planted some teasels (for the goldfinches) this year from seeds my dad harvested from his, so hopefully, we’ll have the seed heads next year.
Oh, and lavender. I know it’s technically not native but ours thrived last year – a combo of the red hot weather and the fact that the cherry tree soaks up all the water, so the lavender stays nice and dry as it likes.
All insects LOVE lavender except mozzies. Yesss.
4 – Don’t use pesticides
I just my slugs get on with it (rip, delphiniums) but if you’re plagued with them I two ideas:
- Copper tape*. They can’t go on it because it gives them a mild shock or something. Put it around your flowerbeds (or skirting boards, if they come in the house).
- Creep out at night with a torch and catch the buggers in the act. Pick them off your plants and put them in a container (or hoy them over the fence into next doors) and take them to your nearest river or duck pond. Release them. Not into the river, because that’s just mean, but ducks love them. That’s not mean, it’s just nature.
- Ooo, a third idea, and my fave: get a duck.
5 – Houses
We have 2 nest boxes and a hedgehog house.
We have blue tits in one of the nest boxes which is awesome. No idea if anyone lives in the hedgehog house. We made it out of turf and sticks that we had remaining after making a new flower bed.
When putting up nest boxes be sure to check the position – ideally they should be facing northeast, but if that’s not possible make sure they’re not too exposed. If the box gets too hot the parents will abandon it and the chicks will cook.
6 – Compost
I bought this one* from Amazon. I find composting strangely pleasing. It’s worth researching yourself how to compost properly, but in general, you can compost fruit and veg trimmings, tea bags, coffee grounds, and cardboard. Don’t put in cooked food because you could attract rats. We put in lawn trimmings too, as well as the litter contents of our rabbit. You can’t compost cat or dog poo, I’m afraid.
7 – Collect rainwater
I’ve not done this yet, because last year we watered the garden with our old fish tank water. There’s also decking where the water barrel would go, but I suppose there’s nothing stopping me setting up a water collecting system on the shed.
Apparently, rainwater is best for washing cars and windows because it doesn’t leave streaks. However, I’ll only use it for watering the garden because I don’t wash cars or windows.
8 – Gravel over concrete
Permeable surfaces are the way to go, in order to protect against flooding. Bark chipping is another option. In some areas, you actually have to apply for planning permission if you want to concrete your drive, because of the threat of flooding.
9 – Hedges over walls
I suppose a nice dry stone wall could potentially provide the homes for a lot of critters, but in general, hedges provide more food, homes, and shelter for wildlife. If that’s not an option for you, maybe grow some climbing plants up the wall (check they won’t damage the brickwork).
We’re growing jasmine and honeysuckle in pots atm (that we got from Morrisons for £1.76), so fingers crossed I don’t kill them. We’re thinking we’re going to grow them up the shed wall.
(We keep a lot of things in pots because we want to take them with us when we move house – hopefully, it won’t be in like a decade when they’re all enormous).
Tips for having an eco-friendly apartment
Feed the birds
You can get kits specifically for feeding birds in apartments, but these stick-on feeders* work well too. Bear in mind, it can take a while for birds to trust you, so don’t give up if you have any birds for a few weeks – if you’re worried about wasting bird seed (you do have to change it quite often), take the old stuff to feed the ducks. There are ducks everywhere, yes?
A second tray for water would be nice too.
They’re good for insects and they purify the air.
Don’t kill bugs
Open the window and wait for them to leave. A bit of shooing is acceptable. Don’t kill. Not even wasps. They’re just doing their best
Get an allotment
If you’re desperate to grow stuff, get yourself on the list for an allotment. Watch Gardener’s World for inspo (with wine). Francis has got her own allotment this year and it’s going to be MENTAL.
Wow, getting old really creeps up on you.
I hope this was helpful to those of you that want to create a little wildlife haven, but haven’t the skills or funds to completely relandscape their garden. Please leave any tips in the comments below. Until next time, adieu.