Bee Sustainable! Save money AND the planet with sustainable gardening

Sustainable gardening is about preserving the planet's resources while caring for your outside space. Find out how here.

10 MIN 11 Nov
Last update: 01 Feb 2023
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You might have heard that lawns are bad for the environment. However, it depends on your general gardening practices because — actually — lawns are often a boon for sustainability and biodiversity. Are you practising sustainable gardening?

Sustainable gardening can help combat climate change by focusing on reusing, recycling, and boosting biodiversity in our gardens. After all, we’re all responsible for using less and reusing more — and that includes living in harmony with the wildlife that thrives in and above the soil.

This article explores why sustainability is important in gardening and how you can incorporate good sustainable practices in your gardening methods and lawn care.  

What does sustainable mean in gardening?

Toy globe sitting on a lawn
Protecting the planet – Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

The Royal Horticultural Society defines sustainable gardening as:

Gardening practices that respect our natural resources without depleting them or causing ecological damage.  

So, that means:

  • Conserving water
  • Choosing natural solutions rather than chemical/pesticide over-use
  • Partner planting —for example, onions planted next to carrots repel carrot flies without the need for pesticides
  • Encouraging birds and other wildlife into your garden 
  • Saving peat bogs

How can I make my garden sustainable?

Banner with a planet and One World written on it.
Protect the planet – Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

We can improve our gardening sustainability in many ways, and we’ll be looking at each of these in this article. 

The principal sustainable methods you can incorporate are:

  • Reusing
  • Making your own compost
  • Greening your roof
  • Sustainable garden lighting
  • Growing your own veg
  • Choosing less thirsty grass types
  • Mulching
  • Attracting bees

Why is sustainability important in gardening?

We only have one planet, and we’ve done a pretty good job of destroying it over the past hundred-odd years. So, sustainability should be a priority in all facets of our lives. 

Let’s look at some ways that we can boost our sustainable gardening practices:

Sustainable gardening: Give Stuff a Second Life

Food tin flowerpots attached to a wall
Funky painted food tins reused as flower pots – Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

We live a particularly disposable existence in the West — we expect cheap clothes, furniture, food, and energy. And while nothing’s particularly cheap right now, we’ve — perhaps — got into the mindset that cheap things equate to disposable. 

The garden is the perfect place to offer a second life for things you might normally throw out. After all, one person’s trash is another’s gold! 

Tin cans

Old food cans make: 

  • Outdoor light features for candles or solar lights 
  • Plant pots
  • Seeding pots
  • Storage for gardening tools

Glass bottles and jars

Of course, glass is widely recycled in the UK, but you could also use it in the garden for:

  • Path edging — upturned bottles pushed into the ground
  • Light shades — fill large bottles with solar-powered lights for outside decor
  • Odds-n-sods — glass jars are great for storing nails, screwdrivers, tools, and gardening paraphernalia. 

Paper and cardboard

Again, widely recycled in the UK, paper and card are brilliant in the garden for:

  • Egg boxes — sewing and growing seedlings
  • Signs and labels
  • Composting
  • Mushroom substrate
  • Mulch

Old clothes

The trend for “fast fashion” means that £140m worth of old clothes go into landfill in the UK every year. That’s shocking!

Rather than dump them in landfill, use old clothes in the garden for:

  • Training ropes — use old shoelaces or rip old shirts and T-shirts into strips and plait ropes for plant training 
  • Old clothes are great in the summer for shielding delicate plants from the sun and helping insulate them during winter. 
  • Old wellies and shoes make perfect plant pots
  • Use old clothes to make a scarecrow to protect your crops and plants

Tyres

Vehicle tyres are particularly problematic for the environment, creating particle pollutants that pollute the water table and the air.

Reuse old tyres:

  • Naturally waterproof bird bath or feeder
  • Pile them on top of each other as a compost bin
  • Insect shelters
  • Mini veg patch
  • Veg patch edging

Miscellaneous

Old carpets could keep flowerbeds and veg patches warm over winter. Old cutlery could be used as plant markers. Broken plates and crockery help create drainage in pots and your soil. 

Sustainable gardening: homemade compost

Veg on a chopping board with a compost bin
Compost your food waste – Photo by Lenka Dzurendova on Unsplash

Did you realise that much of the potting soil you buy from DIY superstores and garden centres are up to 70% natural peat? 

Peat bogs are one of the planet’s natural carbon sinks, helping the earth absorb the CO2 that’s released into the air. And this precious natural resource releases that stored carbon whenever it’s disturbed. 

Peat isn’t particularly nutritious but provides excellent drainage, which is why it gets used in potting soils. 

But there is another way: collect your garden waste and (uncooked) waste food in a compost heap, and create natural (and free) soil improver/potting soil. 

Composting is the process of organic decomposition — worms, insects, bacteria and other organisms convert your waste fruit, veg, and garden waste into super-nutritious soil for your garden. 

Alternatively, collect autumnal leaves from your lawn and turn them into gardener’s gold: leaf mould.

Sustainable gardening: Greening Your Roof

Green roofs on top of a apartment block
Greening your roof – Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Flat roofs make excellent green spaces, offering succulents (such as sedum), herbs, and plants that help clean the air and boost your garden’s biodiversity. 

If your home has a flat roof (or you have a shed with a flat roof), consider the benefits of adding more green space in your garden:

  • Absorbs rainwater and noise
  • Excellent insulator in winter
  • Amazing heat repellor in summer
  • Helps purify the air and lowers the ambient temperature in your garden
  • Fire resistant
  • Lasts two to three times longer than a conventional roof

Sure, green roofs are relatively pricey to build, but the benefits for wildlife and the green spaces in and around your home are priceless. 

Sustainable gardening: Lighting

It’s lovely to have good garden lighting, which helps extend your garden’s usefulness during those balmy summer evenings. However, some lighting options are more sustainable than others. 

For example, old-school incandescent filament bulbs use at least five times the energy of LEDs. And the bulbs we used to refer to as “energy-saving bulbs” contained mercury, which is toxic to the environment. 

LEDs offer high illumination for little power consumption and last longer than traditional light bulbs. So, go LED to save money (and keep the planet from burning up!). 

Alternatively, of course, there’s solar lighting. And while solar lighting isn’t usually powerful enough for high-level lighting, it makes gorgeous ambient lighting without consuming mains electricity. 

Sustainable gardening: Grow Your Own Fruit and Veg

One of the best things bout growing your own fruit and veg is that you know precisely where it came from and what has been used to nurture the plants. 

And while growing your own fruit and veg is fun, it can also help bring down your food bills. 

Most gardens have limited space for fruit and veg, so consider the food items that are either expensive or difficult to get hold of in your local supermarket. And while it’s tempting to grow potatoes and tomatoes (because they’re relatively easy), perhaps consider growing more unusual crops that are expensive to buy and difficult to source, such as: 

  • Jerusalem artichokes — absolutely delicious and super easy to grow in abundance, requiring no-to-low maintenance
  • Courgettes — easy to grow and prolific fruiters
  • Horseradish — amazingly easy to grow once established
  • Broad beans — expensive to buy in the supermarkets, broad beans are super-simple to grow
  • Rocket — once established, allow the plant to go to seed at the end of the season, and it will grow year after year

Sustainable gardening: Water-Saving Grass Seed Varieties

Quick Repair Grass Seed
Front image of the Quick Repair Grass Seed product pouch with grass seed in front of the pouch
Quick Repair Grass Seed
Quick Repair Grass Seed
  • Rapid growth – results in 7-14 days
  • Stable over-wintering
  • AquaSaver coating helps use 34% less water
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One of the most significant objections to lawn growing is the water it takes to maintain grass plants. However, in the UK, we get plenty of rain throughout the year, so it’s possible to water your lawn from a water butt — just install a water butt pump and connect your sprinkler. 

Nonetheless, a newly sown lawn is very thirsty, requiring around an annual 1100 litres of water to thrive. 

And this is why MOOWY has introduced an AquaSaver coating on our Quick Repair grass seed. AquaSaver protects and nourishes the germinating seed, containing tons of micronutrients and humic acids while requiring 34% less water than standard seed. It also germinates up to 20% faster. 

Win-win. 

You can also find out AquaSaver coating in our Dry Lawn Restore Kit

Dry Lawn Restore Kit
Dry Lawn Restore Kit
Dry Lawn Restore Kit
  • Quick Repair lawn seed uses 34% less water than standard seed
  • All-Round Fertiliser with extra potassium for greater resistance
  • Restores your lawn after drought
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Sustainable gardening: Mulching

Mulching keeps your garden soil warm during winter and minimises water evaporation in hot weather, meaning you’ll need to water your plants less often. 

Additionally, mulching helps keep your flowerbeds tidy and suppresses those pesky weeds, so it’s an all-around great sustainable practice. 

So, rather than throwing out grass clippings, fallen leaves, wood chips, or tree bark, spread them across your flowerbeds to protect your plants while offering nutrition as it decomposes over the winter. 

Check out our expert’s guide to garden mulch

Sustainable gardening: Create a Bee-Friendly Garden

Bee hotel
Bee hotel – Photo by Martin Woortman on Unsplash

Things are looking pretty bleak for our valuable pollinators. According to Friends of the Earth, 13 bee species have disappeared since 1900, with another 35 under threat of extinction. And, across Europe, 10% of the bee population faces extinction. 

This is a disaster for the entire planet, as we’re losing our natural pollinators, which — of course — arable farming is almost entirely reliant upon. 

Fortunately, we can help our local bees survive by offering them food and a safe home. 

And this is what we can do:

Nourishment 

Bees look for food (pollen and nectar) all year round, so plant a range of plants that can feed them, including:

  • Campanula
  • Comfrey
  • Delphinium
  • Foxglove
  • Hardy geranium
  • Honesty
  • Hollyhock
  • Potentilla

And you might be surprised to discover that bees seek out food during the winter, so plant the following winter-flowering plants:

  • Mahonia
  • Heathers
  • Winter Honeysuckle
  • Winter Aconite
  • Hellebores
  • Snowdrop

Safety

Bees seek shelter in trees and shrubs and messy garden corners. So, before clearing up the mess from your garden, ensure that your local bees haven’t chosen the spot for shelter. 

Also, keeping your garden poison-free helps create a safe environment for the bees. 

How to Build your own Bee Hotel

Consider investing in a bee hotel. Don’t worry — they’re cheaper than a night in Claridges! And they’re straightforward to make. 

What you need:

  1. A thick wood stump or block
  2. A drill

How to build your bee hotel:

Drill holes of different widths (2-9mm) and depths (5-15mm) into the wood. This makes the hotel suitable for diverse species. Avoid drilling all the way through the wood.

Drill the holes at a slight upward angle so rainwater won’t drip into the holes. And then hang it or attach it to a tree — don’t put it on the ground; bees prefer to stay off the floor. 

And hey presto — your own bee hotel (and a plentiful supply of pollinators come summer. 

Do you have questions?

We hope you feel inspired to adopt sustainable gardening methods. If you have any questions, please get in touch

We love to hear from you and will reply as soon as we can. 

Thanks for reading. 

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