Sustainable Lifestyle For Beginners

Welcome to Smart Money Green Planet, a sustainable lifestyle blog for beginners.

Hi, I am Reshma and I run the sustainable lifestyle blog, Smart Money Green Planet.

I write about home and garden ideas, as well as, natural skincare recipes to inspire you to achieve a minimalist home, develop a love for organic and edible gardening; and introduce you to an alternative non toxic, natural skincare routine.

You will also find blog posts about frugal living ideas to save money in the long run.

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Eco Friendly Garden – 12 Simple Tips on How To Start One

Start an Eco Friendly Garden

Eco friendly garden, how to start one by using 12 Simple tips. Being eco-friendly is the right thing to do, so how do you make your garden eco friendly?  The health of the environment is at the top of the list for most people nowadays.  However, if you are not eco minded, it could be a bit difficult to navigate your way through the eco minefield that has been dominating the headlines recently.  The best advice anyone can give you is to start small and start where you are most comfortable making changes.  If you have always wanted to start gardening or simply interested in making your garden more eco-friendly, then you have come to the right place.  Below is a list of ideas for you to implement in order to make your garden eco friendly.

Why Do We Need Eco Friendly Gardens?

For the last couple of years, the health of the environment, especially climate change and waste have been at the forefront of news headlines and documentaries.  Although reversing the health of the environment may seem like a monumental task, we can all play a small role in doing so.  By making small changes, we can collectively make a big impact globally.  For me personally ethical consumption, also plays are role in this process. Therefore I try to look for products that are made with the health of people and the planet in mind. 

 We need more eco friendly gardens so that we can:

  1. Improve biodiversity by attracting birds, butterflies and small animals into our gardens.
  2. Reduce over consumption of water at a time when the world’s global temperatures are causing water shortages across the planet.
  3. Reduce waste going to landfill and watercourses. For example, by reusing old containers as seedling trays, we can play a small role in waste reduction. 
  4. Support circular economy – it is not always possible to buy less, therefore, if you are going to purchase something, then buy products made from recycled materials. By doing so, you will ensure that we use less of our natural resources to make more products.
  5. Improve the overall quality of our soil – currently the soil across the globe is degrading due to over use and years of chemical and fertiliser input. We can improve soil quality in our gardens, for example, by composting organic matter from the kitchen, using less chemicals to deter pests and buying peat free compost.
  6. Improve air quality around us. For example, planting trees will absorb carbon emissions locally, thereby cleaning the air in your immediate surrounding.
  7. Become self-sustaining, even if it is just a small fraction of our everyday life. For example, growing some fruit and vegetables will reduce food miles, reduce packaging waste and be healthier as you would have avoided the use of harsh chemicals and fertilisers. 

All of the above reasons will become your personal contribution to climate change actions. 

Back to How To Start an Eco Friendly Garden – 12 Simple Tips

Tip 1 – Plant a Tree

First and foremost, plant a tree.  Nowadays, we are spoilt for choice when selecting a tree. Walk into a garden centre and you will come across several tree varieties.  When you are looking to plant a tree, select a tree that will grow in your climate.  By choosing a tree that is suitable to your climate, you will give it the best chance of thriving in years to come.  Growing a tree has many benefits, including providing shade, shelter for animals and keeping the soil rooted during heavy rainfalls. Let’s not forget, trees absorb Carbon from our surroundings, therefore, acting as air purifying filters to clean the air around us.

Tip 2 – Grow Flowers to Attract Butterflies and Bees

To improve the biodiversity in your garden, grow flowers that attract butterflies and bees.  The butterfly population has been declining over the last 10 years.  However, last year, their population saw a surge due to the unprecedented warm weather. Therefore, to give the population a chance to thrive, you can grow flowers that attract butterflies.  This also applies to the bee population.  Growing the right flowers will help them survive.  Flowers, including vegetable plants that produce pollen are ideal for our bees.  Examples of butterfly friendly plants include the buddeja, red valerian and the verbena.  Some plants that we may view as weeds are actually great for the butterfly population, such as the common knapweed and the Bowles’s Mauve. 

Related Article: Can I Use Neem Oil for Plants as Pest Control?

Tip 3 – Be Picky About Your Plants

Organic seeds, bulbs and plants can be expensive to buy, therefore you do not have to use organic all the time.  However, shop around and buy them from specialised growers to give your garden the best chance of becoming lush and colourful.  This year, I purchased generic seeds from the local supermarket before the Covid 19 lockdown and the germination rate has been appalling.  Out of every 8 seeds, only 2 germinated.  I have since had to purchase more seeds, which are now starting to sprout. 

Tip 4 – Use Less Chemicals in the Garden

It is not always possible to keep away from chemicals in the garden; however, there are some instances where you can replace the chemical with a homemade spray.  Homemade sprays can also be problematic, therefore, think about the bigger picture before you make one. For example, many people use water and dish washing soap to get rid of snail eggs. However, birds that ingest the soapy eggs snails will end up falling ill in your garden.

Try the following before you decide on a soap or chemical alternative:

  • Use vinegar and water to spray plant leaves. 
  • Grind eggshells and place at the bottom of plant pots.
  • Use salt to deter the slugs. 
  • Use citrus peels from oranges, lemons and grapefruit to deter pests.  The oils from the peels gives out a smell, which keeps certain insects from eating your vegetables. 
  • Grow plants that attract beneficial insects to act as pest controllers.

If all fails, then go for a commercial, eco friendly product that is not as harmful to the environment as mainstream deterrents.

Tip 5 – Birdfeeders

You can pick up a variety of birdfeeders from the market.  However, if you are on a budget or want to reuse household items, make a birdfeeder.  All you need to do is cut 2 square patches on opposite sides of the bottle, pierce a stick through, approximately ½cm below the squares for birds to land on. Then place it in a suitable location in the garden. 

You have to be patient though, as birds will take some time before they feel comfortable enough to eat from your birdfeeder.  But it is a rewarding feeling when you spot the first bird visiting the birdfeeder.  Birds are great pest controllers because they will eat the unwanted pests in your garden.

Tip 6 – Conserve Water

Water conservation is an important element of an eco-friendly garden.  With recent changes in the world’s global weather patterns, we are seeing extreme temperatures that are causing drought in many parts of the world.  Therefore, where possible, to save water, use it efficiently. For example:

  • Use rain water to water your plants. You can purchase a rain water tower, which will accumulate water every time it rains.  Alternatively, use an old container or barrel to collect the rain water.
  • Collect water used for washing fruit, vegetable, rice and even water from boiled eggs. Keep a bucket next to your kitchen sink.  Use this water in the garden.  You will be surprised at how much water goes down the drain whenever we are washing our food. 
  • Choose early morning or late evening to water your garden. The water will evaporate quickly if you decide to do it during the day.  Therefore, water early in the morning or late evening to allow the plants to absorb as much water as possible. 
  • Give the plants a good soak. By doing so, you will only need to water them every few days rather than everyday. 

Tip 7 – Make your own Seedling Trays or Choose Biodegradable

If you are planning to grow from seed, choose a plant pot or seedling tray that is compostable or biodegradable.  There are a number of new biodegradable pots and trays available on the internet.  When your plant is ready to be planted outside, you can transfer the entire pot straight into the ground.  The pot should break down into organic matter as the plant grows.

Alternatively, use everyday household items to sow your seeds.  For example, you can use toilet roll tubes to start the growing process.  You can read more about DIY compostable plant pot ideas on a previous post.  The plants in the toilet roll tubes can be planted directly into the garden.

Seedling in toilet roll tubes
Seedling in toilet roll tubes

If you decide to buy a compostable or biodegradable tray, you may not be able to recycle it. Please check with your local recycling service. Alternatively, break it down and place it in your compost pile at home.

Tip 8 – Use Egg shells

Eggshells have many uses in the garden.  For example, use them as seedling pots, crush them and sprinkle them at the base of a plant to deter slugs.  Grind them and use them to fertilise your plants. 

Seedling in eggshell
Seedling in eggshell

Tip 9 – Make it an Edible Garden

Have you thought about having a mix of flowers and vegetables in your garden?  Growing vegetables and flowers at the same time will enable you to attract certain insects that will eat or deter pests from entering your vegetable plot.

Tip 10 – Choose Recycled & Reuse

Many companies offer eco friendly garden items such as pots, fencing and furniture made from recycled materials such as plastic and wood. If you plan to buy new furniture, look for furniture made from recycled materials or pieces that can be recycled or reused later.  I recently published a post on garden dome igloos and pavilions.  Alternatively, shop around for reused pieces on platforms such as Facebook for its groups and marketplaces.

Tip 11 – Weeds

An eco friendly garden does not mean that you have to allow weeds to take over and create a jungle environment unless you want to.  However, you can allow some weeds to thrive in the garden.  Not all weeds are bad. There are some that will attract the right wildlife into your garden, which will attract a wider range of biodiversity making your garden more eco friendly. 

When I was new to the gardening world, I did not realise that the Bowles’s Mauve is a butterfly friendly plant.  I would weed them out.  Now that I know that is not the case, I let them grow wildly in my bedding.  In fact, doing so has brought additional colour to the garden. 

Tip 12 – Start Composting

Starting your own compost scheme at home will help you replenish the quality of the soil as well as reduce your organic waste going into the general waste stream.  You can either purchase a compost bin, make your own or start a pile somewhere in the garden.  The Eden Project have published a useful article on how to start a compost heap in the garden.

Your organic matter will turn into a nutrient rich compost that you can use anywhere in the garden. However, please note that whichever method you use to compost, be patient. Organic material such as fruit peelings, vegetable scraps and paper need the right conditions and time to break down.

To Finish Off

Your garden is a representation of your personality and character.  Therefore, design it how you want it to look.  You can choose to have an untamed eco friendly garden, or you can have stylish looking eco friendly garden.  Regardless of how you choose to design your garden, make sure you add elements to make it an eco friendly garden that makes you happy. 

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Is gardening good for the environment?

Gardening if good for the environment if you have an eco friendly garden.  To make an eco friendly garden you can plant a mix of flowers, fruit and vegetables, conserve water, make your own plant pots and even use less chemicals.

How can I attract butterflies to the garden?

Examples of butterfly friendly plants include the buddeja, red valerian and the verbena.  Some plants that we may view as weeds are actually great for the butterfly population, such as the common knapweed and the Bowles’s Mauve. 

How can I conserve water in the garden?

Water your plants early in the morning or late at night, not during peak sunshine hours.  Collect the water from washing fruits and vegetable to water your plants.  Collect rain water and use it in the garden during dry periods.