HOW CAN I BE ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE IN THE GARDEN?
SUSTAINABILITY, CONSERVATION & RECYCLING
Natural gardening, conservation and recycling are activities which go hand in hand. Various ideas relating to these areas are discussed in this section.
Kitchen waste is generally the major part of what goes into our rubbish bins. By utilising or reducing kitchen waste we can have a number of benefits including:
- Adding valuable organic matter and nutrients to our garden.
- Reducing the amount of waste going to tips. The rapid filling of tips is a problem for most towns and cities.
- Recycling materials such as plastic, metals and glass means that valuable resources are not lost. In most cases the energy and other resources, such as water, required to process or convert these recycled materials into useable products is far less that required to obtain and process 'raw' materials. It also means that non‑renewable resources will last far longer, and by‑products of the manufacturing processes, i.e. pollution will be greatly reduced.
What to Reuse or Save
- Add all food scraps (peelings, off cuts & scraps, left overs, and tea leaves) to a compost heap or bin. Have a waterproof container near your "kitchen tidy" so kitchen waste can be separated out when cooking or cleaning up after a meal. When full empty the container into a compost bin. Tea leaves can be used directly as a mulch for some plants, particularly ones that like soils a little acid such as lemon trees, rhododendrons and azaleas. Many councils now sell compost bin made out of recycled plastic at a subsidised price to rate payers.
- Non‑compostable waste in the kitchen can be reduced by careful shopping. Many companies now sell refills so an original container can be used over and over again and the refill package can be squashed to minimal size to reduce rubbish. When shopping take your own bags such as plastic bags you've accumulated or old fashioned string bags or wicker baskets. Avoid products with excess packaging. There are some shops now which specialize in unpackaged products. Aim to get rubbish down to as little as possible.
- Most glass containers and bottles, many plastic containers (e.g. soft drink bottles), newspapers, and magazines can be recycled. Many local councils have regular collections of recyclable materials or have collection sites where you can easily deposit such materials. Contact them for further information.
SOME IDEAS FOR USING RECYCLABLE MATERIALS
Plastic drink containers can be turned into mini‑terrariums, or watering bottles for pot plants and establishing trees.
Glass bottles can be cut and turned into drinking vessels, or can be used as a building material (e.g. they can be mortared into a non‑structural part of a brick wall to allow more light into a room). Resealable glass containers, such as jam and honey jars, can be reused to store your own produce or other foods.
Newspaper and old carpet underlay can be used as a garden mulch.
WATER SAVING MEASURES
The watering requirements of your plants can be minimised in the following ways:
- By choosing plant species and varieties that best suit the local climate
- By maintaining a well balanced fertile soil (appropriate to the plants selected).
- By watering in the cool of the day
- By using micro‑irrigation systems e.g. trickle systems where possible. These are much more efficient in their use of water.
- By slow thorough watering. A thorough deep watering once or twice a week will be more effective than light watering every day or two.
- By avoiding spraying water on windy days.
- By considering soil type when selecting a watering system. Clay soils hold water well and will distribute it horizontally, so a drip system is suitable. Water runs quickly through sandy soil and a micro spray, which distributes water over a broader area than a trickle system would be more suitable.
- By reducing excess evaporation. This can be achieved by keeping bare soil covered. Mulches, as well as reducing weed growth will reduce evaporation. Compact ground covers will slow evaporation from the soil but they will use a lot of water themselves. Larger plants will shade the soil and limit evaporation but they can make getting water to the soil in the first place rather tricky.
- Rainwater tanks are an useful method of gaining extra water. The use of tanks in the city may require permission from your local government authority. Unfortunately some councils will not allow them at all, and some may require that they be of only a limited size and out of public sight. But if you can get one it can help save water rates as well as be a way of getting fresh rain water to drink. In some cities, however, it is not recommended to use rainwater for the household if there is any likelihood of pollutants being present in the rain water or collected off your roof as it passes across.
- By covering swimming pools and directing storm water into them (subject to the conditions set out in the point above. Have the pool surrounds sloping back a little towards the pool so that any splashed water will run back into it.
It is possible to use excess water from the house to water gardens, in particular water from showers, baths and washing machines. This will involve some plumbing to reduce the drudgery of bucketing water out onto the garden. The simplest method is to undo your drain pipes and let the water from sinks flow into a bucket for smaller amounts, or connect a hose to the drainpipes and let the water flow into a holding tank. This water is referred to as "greywater" and can contain soaps, food scraps, grease and bacteria.
Water with cleaning liquids and solvents that are harsh to the skin, or plants should be diluted before being used in the garden. Do not use water from the dishwasher. You should be careful to use biodegradable soaps and completely avoid detergents with boron. Such detergents when added to the soil may be toxic to plants.
Use trickle irrigation to apply greywater as wetting the leaves with it may cause leaf burn. A filter will be necessary to make sure any solid materials or residues in the greywater do not block the pipes and nozzles. Another method is simply to allow the water to run across the ground surface (flood irrigation) by pouring water out of a bucket or allowing it to run out of a hose. Remember to water different areas each time to get even coverage.
You should check with your local council to confirm that they allow the use of greywater.
RECYCLING PAPER ‑ Newspapers, Magazines, Cardboard
Newspapers can be used as a base for other mulch materials in your garden, or can be shredded and put in a compost heap or used as a bedding material for your pets after which it can be composted.
When laying newspaper mulch use four to six sheets and liberally overlap them. Cardboard cartons, opened out, make an excellent weed controlling base on which to build a garden.
MORE ENVIRONMENTALY FRIENDLY GARDENING
In these days of increasing environmental awareness there are a number of ways in which you can go about your gardening that are environmentally friendly.
Alternatives To Engines
The exhausts from engines used to propel machinery such as mowers, edgers, chainsaws, etc contribute to air pollution. The noise they create can be extremely annoying, especially to someone trying to sleep in on a sunday morning. Where possible try to gardening methods that don't require engines. For example:
- Instead of using a powered lawn mower use a hand pushed one.
- Instead of using a brushcutter or whipper snipper use a scythe.
- In place of a chainsaw use a hand saw or axe.
- Grazing animals such as sheep or goats can be used to keep grass and weeds under control. They can also be used as a source of manure for your garden, of raw fleece for spinning, goats milk, etc. It is important to ensure that such animals:
* Have adequate space.
* Are securely fenced or tethered to prevent them wandering onto roads or into other gardens, etc.
* Are kept safe from dogs, kids, etc.
* Have sufficient food supplies , water and shelter/shade.
* Are permitted by council by‑laws.
More Efficient Engines
Keep engine running well and clean, e.g. make sure wet grass or material that wraps around moving parts is regularly removed. Regularly carry out maintenance requirements, e.g. clean air filters, particularly in dusty conditions. Replace worn or damaged parts.
Make sure you use the right sized engine for the job. To small and it will be under strain causing the engine to run inefficiently, and to quickly wear out requiring it's repair or replacement. To large and you are wasting fuel and probably making a lot more noise than is necessary.
It is a good idea to get advice from a reputable distributor of power products.
Performance products such as corrosion inhibitors and friction modifiers will often improve engine efficiency.
Try to avoid using incinerators at anytime. As a general rule if you can burn it you can probably compost or recycle it. This means you don't waste useful material and you don't pollute the atmosphere, or upset your neighbour when the wind blows smoke or ashes into their garden or over their washing.
Utilizing Energy Produced in Your Garden
Try using the heat generated from compost/lawn clippings as bottom heat under trays of seeds or cuttings to promote their growth. Be careful not to have the composting material too close to the trays as the heat generated may be quite high. A little experimentation will help you determine the correct tray placement. As the heat produced by the compost decreases over time then the height the trays are above it can be reduced. The heat from composting materials can also be used to warm up a greenhouse or cold frame. Sawdust is a good material for this as it can be easily walked on while the composting is occurring without generally getting to slimy or slippery, or messy.
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