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Guest Blog: Andy Miller – 5 Top Tips for Creating an Environmentally-friendly Garden

Looking after Haddonstone’s stunning Show Gardens keeps our Head Gardener, Andy Miller, very busy throughout the year.  Nevertheless, he is also very dedicated to ensuring the gardens are as environmentally-friendly as possible.

In his latest blog, Andy explains some of the initiatives he has introduced into the Show Gardens over the past three years – and how you can try them yourself to ensure your own garden remains as environmentally-friendly as possible.

Recycle and reuse

We all know how damaging plastic is for our environment, which is why I try to source plants in recyclable pots from my local nursery, meaning I can recycle them when they are no longer needed or damaged.  I’ve also started a recycling ‘club’ with a group of other local gardeners and landscapers – they drop off their unused plant pots and I’ll repurpose them as seedling pots here in the Show Gardens green house.  Any unrecyclable pots are simply kept here and used as much as possible – nothing gets thrown away!

Try it yourself: Another great way to reduce your plastic use further is to create newspaper pots for seeds and seedlings.  All you need is a pile of newspaper and a cylindrical object, such as a bottle, to act as a mould.  Simply cut strips of newspaper that are wide enough to fold across the mould base, roll the paper around the mould several times and finally fold the newspaper over the base before tucking it in to ensure the compost remains in place.  Fill the paper pots with compost, a seedling or seed and when ready to go outside, plant them directly into the soil.  A very eco-friendly, biodegradable and cheap alternative to the plastic versions.

Conserve water

As far as possible I try to conserve as much rainwater here in the Show Gardens as I can.  This not only reduces the water bill(!), but is essential for looking after our planet.  We have several rain water systems in place, including a 2000 litre water tank which collects rain water from the roof of our forge, which is then used to keep the gardens looking pristine.  We also have a 1000 litre tank next to our greenhouses which we use to keep all of our own grown plants from the Show Gardens watered in the drier months.

These are just a couple of environmentally-friendly ways in which we can conserve water.  These systems have been installed over the past few years and approximately 70% of the Show Gardens are now on this system.

Try it yourself: Water butts are the obvious choice for conserving rainwater in any garden and there are so many cost-effective options available on the market, in all shapes and sizes!  However I’ve seen people create water butts out of old wooden barrels and metal drums – a ingenious, free alternative!  Remember that you’ll firstly need to connect a downpipe to the butt and link it with your guttering system to collect all that rainwater.  This can be a bit fiddly but is a good excuse to get out your ladder and clear out those gutters out too!

Go electric

All of our hand-held gardening tools are now electric which means we have reduced our carbon monoxide emissions by almost 100%.  There are so many electric strimmers, chainsaws and mowers on the market now, many of which are cordless and are all so much more environmentally-friendly than the diesel alternatives of yesteryear.

Using electric tools means less carbon monoxide gasses are being pumped into the air, but they are also a welcomed relief to the ears as they are much quieter than petrol alternatives.

  • compost

Make your own compost

This year we’ve spent a lot of time putting together a new composting area and ensuring that it’s filled regularly with fallen leaves, grass cuttings, vegetable peelings and other garden debris.

They say good things come to those who wait, and this is certainly true of our composting area.  Once decomposed, the mixture of decayed garden materials transform into an incredibly rich and eco-friendly fertiliser without the inclusion of chemicals and nasties.  I’ve been using our homemade compost in the Show Gardens for 36 months and have been really pleased with the results – which all the more satisfying knowing that it’s free and 100% natural.  Normally fallen leaves take approximately a year to decompose and once ready is a great way to improve the soil in our borders by simply forking it in.  We used this on our roses this year and the results were outstanding.

  • compost

Try it yourself: Making your own compost heap is really simple and doesn’t need to take up too much room in your garden or effort.  You can buy a range of wooden or mesh composters online or in your local garden centre.  Better still, you can make your own by fixing old wooden slats together to form a tall box shape – just remember to leave some room between the wooden slats to ensure good air circulation – this will prevent mould and will definitely provide better quality compost.

Firstly, pile straw, hay or twigs onto the bare earth inside the composter, followed by the compostable materials in layers, alternating between moist and dry matter.  Grass cuttings (in moderation), weeds, fruit and veg peelings, manure and leaves can all go into the composter.  You can even add used tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, cereal packets and old egg boxes.  Avoid adding cooked vegetables, meat, fish, dairy products and diseased plants though as they will certainly spoil your compost – and do remember to give your compost the occasional turn to encourage air circulation.

Tempted to try some of Andy’s top tips?

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