Our Sustainable Gardening Project: Case Study
Gardener Sylvia Todd leaves no stone unturned in her efforts to have a “green” garden and we could all take a leaf out of her gardening book.
Sylvia has a typical garden – with a family sized lawn, small paved area and a greenhouse-cum-shed.
But her garden is anything but typical in its use of power, lack of chemicals and the effort put in to do things the planet friendly way.
Problem PatioWhen Sylvia first moved into her house in County Durham in North East England, a large area of the garden had been concreted to provide a patio and sun-lounge area.
“I think the previous tenant probably did it to save on the amount of garden that would need looked after but hadn’t taken into account that water had nowhere to go so even in light rain it was like a paddling pool.
“Even without that, it was fairly ugly – and it had to go. It took some time to break it all up and get rid of it but we then turned over the garden and created a vegetable area.
“We save a lot of money by growing a lot of our own vegetables – and we’ve been bitten by the food gardening bug and now have an allotment as well!” said Sylvia.
Traditional MowerSylvia doesn’t have the usual electric mower to tend her patch – preferring to use an ancient cylinder mower instead.
“It does a wonderful job,” she said. “And it means there’s no power used, no leads to worry about – it’s perfect for a smallish flat lawn.”
She says it is also excellent exercise and in the summer at least, is a great alternative to the gym.
Next to the greenhouse, there’s a small plot that’s difficult to reach so she has let this grow wild – weeds like white dead nettle and clover provide food for butterflies and a Cotoneaster plant growing over the fence is popular with the local wild birds.
Saving Water“I couldn’t afford a water butt when we first moved in but I hated seeing all our north east rain going to waste. A local supermarket was giving away black buckets – the type they use to store their cut flowers and I lined them up like little soldiers and fairly soon I had more water than I could use,” said Sylvia.
“We’ve now got a waterbutt that someone didn’t want from a community recycling website but I still keep a few buckets tucked away for use in the summer when more water is needed.
“Any water that we don’t use for the plants goes to rinse down gardening tools and dirty shoes and that sort of thing.”
She’s since learned that her local water company offers water butts at a reduced price and she bought a compost bin at less than the usual shop price from a local council.
“I think councils and water authorities are now trying to encourage people to think about reducing waste so it’s always worth giving them a call or checking their website,” said Sylvia.
Plant SwapThis year, she’s planning to organise a swap session with neighbours and people at the allotments to cut down on the need to buy seeds and young plants.
“One woman with an allotment has been growing tomatoes for years and always has too many tomato plants and someone else usually has spare pansy plants. I always seem to have too many young fuschia plants so it seemed a good idea for us to get together and swap them,” she said.
Next on her agenda is covering her flowerbeds with a friendly mulch. “I don’t have a lot of time for weeding and in the summer, if you don’t lay down a mulch you also need to water the plants a lot more.
“I have been looking at a few options but haven’t made a decision yet. Ideally, it will be something that another person is just planning to throw away. That way we cut down on waste and it doesn’t cost me anything either!”