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For thirty years and more early environmentalists and scientists have been issuing warnings and raising fears about the relentless depletion of the earth’s natural resources including fossil fuels and the impending gloom of global warming. Often dismissed as early rants and ravings, today, most people are more than the familiar with the consequences of climate change, much of which can be directly attributable to earlier deeds. In a classic scenario of ‘think global but act local’ we all have a part or indeed a role in protecting the environment if not for our benefit but certainly for future generations. More and more of us are discovering (more through conscious decision making others through legislation) ‘green awareness’ and ‘carbon footprint’, recycling, organic, sustainability etc are an integral part of our vocabulary.

The gardening world is not surprisingly playing proactively responding to emerging green thinking and green trends. But what and how does one become a green gardener? Experienced gardeners may see much of this eco-friendly or green gardening as common sense? But what of new or novice gardeners, many who may aspire to become more green gardeners, where does one start? To help develop good green gardening principles and practices from the outset, here are some useful tips:

1. Water is precious: every effort should be made to conserve water and early planning is essential. Water butts should be used to collect run-off rainwater from roof tops, strategically placed water barrel(s) in garden can also be used to collect rain water. Also ‘grey water’ (water from kitchen sink, dishwasher and washing machine) may also be collected and used in garden. Lawns, plant borders and planters all require water but we can be more effective in how and when we use water. Watering is best done very early in the morning or late in evening. Not only are plants more likely to absorb more water, less water will also be loss to evaporation. Water retention in soil can also be improved by applying a generous top dressing (bark mulch or gravel) around plants.

2. Plant smart: select plants which have growing characteristics (height and spread) and site requirements (soil conditions and light levels) to suit the planting area. For example, avoid planting shrubs which prefer damp conditions in dry areas, otherwise they will require regular watering in order to survive.

3. Peat free: we all have a responsibility to protect endangered natural environments including boglands. One effective way to do so is to insist on buying and using peat free compost in our gardens. Peat free compost is perfect for re-potting and is an ideal soil conditioner.

4. Composting pays: a fundamental aspect of all gardening but especially green gardening is of course composting. Composting is easy to do and the end product is a very valuable ‘brown gold’ for your garden.

5. Avoid chemicals: unless you aspire to be a true organic gardener, avoiding using chemicals in gardening is much easier said than done. For example, gardeners where possible should be using natural/organic fertilisers. Although weeds may be physically controlled through ‘elbow grease’, chemical herbicides may be required to control or eradicate the more stubborn weed varieties.

6. Hard landscaping: when selecting the materials for use in our patio areas we should consider environmental impact. Avoid using railway sleepers, many of which contain dioxins and hazardous in gardens, instead use pressure treated new sleepers (typically pine) which are clean and originate from sustainable sources. Natural stone paving which not only look more beautiful but also have much impact than the concrete alternatives on the environment.

7. See the light: increasingly lighting is featuring in our garden. Early options frequently involved a choice of high energy spotlights or ineffective low voltage lamps. Now high output low energy LED lights are available and have overtaken CFL lamps a sthe preferred lighting solution for gardens. LED lights with good light output, low energy usage and very long working life will increasingly feature in our gardens.

The author is a leading Garden Designer and Landscaper based in Dublin, Ireland. Many of his ideas and advice have been tried and tested through many years of professional experience as owner manager of a well established and award winning garden design and landscaping company which provides Private and Commercial clients a complete landscaping service including Garden Design, Construction & Planting.

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How green do you grow?