Our grandparents and great grandparents were the masters of reducing, reusing and recycling in order to grow vegetables and flowers during difficult times. There are lots of good tips to be found in old gardening books and magazines which you can pick up cheaply in charity shops.
Private gardens in the UK make up half of the green space. Encourage wildlife to your garden. Paving, astroturf and gardens laid mainly to lawn do not provide adequate habitats, if we discourage wildlife there are fewer and fewer places for them to live. Species such as frogs, song thrushes and hedgehogs used to thrive on farmland now they are more likely to be found in a domestic garden - they need our help.
Here are some quick tips to help garden in a sustainable way:
Buy plants that are grown in the UK even then many growers are still using peat, artificial fertilizers and lots of water and may have then travelled hundreds of miles to get to you.
Consider buying perennials rather than bedding plants which are thrown away each year.
Avoid buying plants in plastic trays, buy seeds and grow in open soil or in terracotta pots. If you reuse plastic seed trays each year you are still reducing your plastic consumption.
Buy second hand tools. During the pandemic garden centres experienced a shortage of tools and people bought second hand it is thought that it saved 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emmisions in 2020.
Use a mixture of annuals and perennials, annuals produce more but perennials with their strong root systems can withstand extremes of temperature, almost always produce a harvest and are low maintenance. Perennials are your long-term strategy.
Avoid peat-based compost. The Government wants to ban peat-based by 2024, B&Q has said the from 2023 they will no longer sell it.
Use plant labels made from natural materials such as hazel sticks, tiles, pebbles.
8,000 tonnes of plastic compost sacks are thought to be used by garderners every year. Look out for garden centres that will recycle thebags or offer refillable bags for life.
Cut down on the amount of potting soil you buy in plastic bags by making your own. You can adjust the recipe to suit the type of soil you have and the plants you wish to grow by using compost, worm castings, sand, leaf mould and composted manure. There are plenty of recipes online.
If buying compost consider buying in bulk or buying loose. This is especially good if you are growing in an allotment where you can share a delivery.
Compost for containers often contains artificial water gels and chemical ingredients. You can make your soil retain more water by using organic well rotted compost, well rotted manure and worm castings - worm poo- see Vermiculture
Cacti and succulents need excellent drainage instead of buying specific soil which often comes in small plastic bags make your own by adding sand and perlite or small gravel.
Water first thing in the morning to give the plants a chance to use the water before it evaporates in the heat of the day.
Collect rainwater. Greywater from baths and showers can be diverted for use in the garden.
Mulching thickly will help stop the water evaporating.
Be brave and pull up weak plants as these are usually attacked by insects first.
Plant perennial crops they require less nutrients than annual crops and tend to be harvested over a longer time period.