Photo above: Globe thistle, loved by pollinators. Picture taken on a neighbouring plot at my allotment.
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Last week I posted a blog inspired by the IPCC climate report, on what gardeners can do to help with the climate crisis. There are so many things gardeners can do that can make a huge impact, so this is the second of a two part series. If you missed the previous post and would like to catch up, you can find it here. If you are looking for more ways you can help make a positive impact in your garden, please read on.
Shop second hand
You’ll be surprised at how much for your garden you can get second hand. By shopping for second hand products you save a tonne of money and resources. It’s a win-win. The only drawback is that it can sometimes take a bit longer to source what you need. In today’s digital world, there are many sources to find what you’re looking for. Keep an eye out on Facebook Marketplace, sign up to Freecycle and make sure you set up alerts on Gumtree.
You wouldn’t believe the number of sheds that come up for free because people are happy for someone to take them off their hands. They may need a little repair work but a second hand shed can save you hundreds of pounds. Greenhouses are less frequently available but not too uncommon. Quite often you can find a 6ft x 8ft greenhouse for £50-£75. Good luck finding a new greenhouse that size for under £450. Meanwhile at your local car boot sale you will find lots of second hand tools for very little money.
Other items I’ve managed to find for free include compost bins, waterbutts, IBCs, and an electric propagator. It does involve some luck but if you aren’t in a rush, then second hand can be such a great way of sourcing what you need.
Instead of buying new all the time, keep an eye out for items and materials that you can repurpose. One great resource is wooden pallets. Once you start looking for them they pop up everywhere. Keep an eye out for neighbours having work done to their house, and ask them if you could take any pallets off their hands when they are finished. Pallets also often come up for free on the likes of Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree.
You can use pallets in many ways. You can keep them in pallet form and use them for creating A-frame arches for trailing plants such as squash, or you could join 3-4 to make a compost bin. You can also dismantle pallets to use the wooden slats for raised beds or anything else your heart desires. I’ve also used old decking to make beds in my greenhouse.
I’ve seen people use all sorts of items in the garden. From old, unwanted bedframes for plants to climb, to old net curtains to protect plants from pests. We have the legs of an old broken trampoline as hoops to put our netting over. We also have an old shelf unit for our seed trays instead of buying one specific for purpose.
The more rainwater you can save the better. But even having one waterbutt can make a difference. Did you know that rain water is much better for your plants and soil health than tap water? The chlorine in tap water can adversely affect the micro-organisms in the soil. So saving water is another win-win, both for the environment and your plants.
At our allotment we have no running water but have managed to source a mixture of second hand waterbutts, second hand IBC tanks and we’ve bought a couple of new waterbutts too. I strongly encourage you to store as much rain water as possible regardless of your situation. I understand that waterbutts can look unsightly in your own garden, so if this is a concern you could always hide a slimline waterbutt or two down the side of your house. Alternatively, I adore the look of these planter waterbutts.
There are many ways to encourage biodiversity in the garden. Plant trees, sow wild flowers, get a bird and/or bug house. Try to create a dedicated part of your garden where nature can thrive. Ponds are also a fantastic way to encourage biodiversity and they can be any size. You can even just dig a washing up bowl into the ground, just be sure that there is a way for creatures to get in and out.
In terms of growing your own, encourage biodiversity by growing a wide range of crops and different varieties. Growing heritage varieties is a great way to encourage biodiversity and also help keep varieties from going extinct. I have a subscription to the Heritage Seed Library, who do great work in trying to bring back varieties from the brink of extinction. It also gives me the chance to grow varieties I can’t find anywhere else.
By growing your own vegetables, you are already making a huge positive impact. Whilst growing heritage varieties are better for biodiversity, I do believe that F1 hybrid varieties still have their place. F1 varieties are great for beginner gardeners because they are generally more vigorous, uniform and easier to grow. I also believe they are a great option for more experienced gardeners who may struggle to grow certain crops due to ones that are specifically bred for their disease resistance. For more information on the pros and cons of F1 hybrids, read my previous post about it here.
Do not waste food
I know this is a really obvious one but it is all too easy to let some of your harvest go bad. Let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty of having a rotting courgette or two at the bottom of our veg drawer. Preserve as much food as you can by freezing, canning, dehydrating and fermenting. Give away any produce that you cannot preserve or use before it will go bad.
When it comes to offloading vegetables, friends, family and neighbours are a great place to start. If they have had their fill of courgettes then list produce on apps such as Olio. I’ve recently started taking my excess produce to a local zero waste shop, where customers can take some produce for free. You could even try selling excess produce using an honesty box. If you have an allotment however, you cannot use them for profit. One thing you can do though is to sell excess produce for charitable donations. Bonus points if you donate the money raised to an environmental charity.
There are many benefits of not digging your soil, for example a back that isn’t sore, healthy soil and therefore healthy plants. But did you know that tilling soil releases a tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere? By using the no-dig method, you are helping to keep the carbon in the ground where it belongs. I highly recommend watching the Netflix documentary Kiss the Ground. This has more information on this.
Save seed & seed swaps
Saving your own seed has many of the same effects as growing your own food. This also saves on money, transportation, packaging and any unwanted chemicals being used in their production. Home saved seeds are also fresher and better adapted to your local climate, which should result in stronger plants. Some seeds are easier to save than others due to cross pollination, but a good starting point for seed saving is peas, beans and tomatoes.
You could also participate in local seed swaps. This can be a great way to prevent wasting seeds and also help you discover new varieties. However, remember that you cannot save seed from F1 varieties.
This list is suggests just a few options gardeners can do to help the climate crisis. I’m sure that there are plenty of other things that I have missed, so I would love to hear if you have any other suggestions.
Even if you do not have a garden, getting involved by signing petitions and writing to your MP can help drive positive change. Call for change on the use of chemicals in gardens and agriculture, protecting our pollinators and anything that adversely effects biodiversity or the environment. A couple of petitions I’ve recently signed include a ban on artificial grass and banning urban pesticide use. There are many out there so just keep an eye out for them.
On a final note, since writing my last post which included composting, Subpod have kindly offered my readers 10% off with the voucher code ‘KGBK10’. Subpod offer a worm compost bin that goes in the ground and I have seen nothing but fantastic reviews of their product. It’s a great option for those who have a small garden because it is much more discreet than other options on the market, and it can turn your waste into compost in a very short timeframe. By using this code I will earn a commission from the sale (which will help in the running and improving of KGBK, yay!)