The sustainable garden – making leafmould

Leaves on lawnIt seems to be the case that more and more people are becoming concerned about the world around us – starting with their own garden.

Sustainable gardening has really taken off in the last twenty years and we are often asked to maintain gardens in an Eco-friendly way.

One of the most basic principles of sustainable gardening is reducing what ends up at the landfill by turning waste into compost or leafmould. A client of ours has recently finished a permaculture design course which has left her wanting to increase her gardens productivity as well reduce its impact on the environment in just about every way.

As clearing lawns, driveways and patios of leaves is one of gardeners’ biggest jobs in November, now seems an appropriate time to share how you can use your leafmould more quickly, while using less space to store your rotting leaves.

For this task you will need: a rake, a broom, a bag for collecting your leaves in, a lawn mower with a collection box, a lawn, plenty of leaves and somewhere to store your shredded leaves.

Raking leaves on lawnThe first thing you need to do is to collect leaves from your patio, drive, pathways and any other hard surfaces (don’t worry about clearing your lawn for now) and bag them up.

Now walk over to you lawn and empty your bag of leaves, spreading them out with a rake as much as you can (I know this seems counterproductive, but it will work!).

The next step is to mow your lawn – do this on your preferred setting as the high levels of nitrogen in the grass cuttings will encourage the leaves to break down more quickly – and then put cuttings in a container or on a heap for the process to begin (on this occasion we’ve used a disused wheelie bin but an area contained by chicken wire works well).

Putting shredded leaves into binOnce most of the leaves have been picked up by the mower – you may need to go over the lawn two or three times – (mowing in the opposite direction each time will pick up the leaves most effectively) what you do next depends entirely on your aesthetic preferences.

The remaining shredded leaves will not cause any harm to your lawn and they will have worked their way into the soil by the time spring arrives so they can be left as they are. However, if you want to keep your lawn looking beautiful, simply rake up the remaining leaves and add to your heap.

Your leafmould will work most effectively if left to break down for 1-2 years. Although this seems like a long time, your plants will thank you for it and within a few years you will have a constant supply.

To read more about two very popular gardening methods such as sustainable gardening and permaculture, click on these links back to previous posts.

5 Ways to conserve water for the UK hosepipe ban

With the driest 18 months in recorded history hosepipes bans are being put in place for the south east, parts of East Anglia and now parts of Yorkshire. The one place that will really feel the ban in the worst way are our gardens so I wanted to give you 5 ways to conserve water in your garden.

1. Water Butt

The is by far the most used of water storage systems and there’s a big choice of what to get. My favourites are the classic barrels connected to the downpipes collecting water off the roof. There is no better collecting surface than your roof. Ofcourse this all depends on ‘if it rains’ so this should be something you should get in place if you haven’t already.

You can find just about any water butt in the local garden centre but if you’re looking to upgrade i’ve got a suggestion for you.

Wall mounted boxes can be interconected enabling you to add or takeaway another, this is called ‘a rainwater hog’. Slightly pricier but great for limited space and convenience. You can find them at Rainwaterhog.com

Rainwater HogRainwater Hog under decking

2. Underground storage tank

Underwater storage tanks are without doubt the best way, if you have the money. Tanks can hold up to 10000 litres and more but they also come with a hefty price tag. A 10,000 litre tank will set you back around £2500 but it will save on water bills and you can just switch to the mains supply when it runs out.

Underground storage tankWater tank drawing

3. A Rainwater Pillow

I came across something I had never seen before when searching for a good solution to utilising space in the house for water conservation. I found this, ‘the rainwater pillow’. It looks amazing and i’d love to give one a go but I do like to stick with what I know, and I have a cat, a 3 year old and a baby..need i say more! A great invention and a perfect solution for those with awkward and otherwise unusable areas.

rainwater pillow1Rainwater pillow2

4. Permaculture Design

You may have heard raving on about permaculture before and it’s only because I believe so much in it. The main principles are to catch water in a way that will help rainwater to move slower over the landscape by means of trenches and swales . It doesn’t have to be a complex sculpting of the land, just think of the shape of an egg carton with water in it and the extended run off compared to a flat piece of cardboard. I’m probably not explaining it too well but there are so many ways you can implement permaculture at home and i’ve written a whole post about it here.

If you’re completley confused as to how the water harvesting part of permaculture actually works in its simplest and most effective form, here are a few images of swales that will hopefully help.

The ditches allow the water to seap through to the grounds and trickle over slowly when full.

Permaculture swaleVegetable garden swales

5. Aeroponics

This one may be a little bit out there for most but it’s a relatively new growing process, at least commercially, and it is mess free, more efficient and most of all it reduces the need for water. If you’re into growing your own food and think you’d benefit from having constant supplies of fruit and veg no matter how many droughts we have in the coming years, this might just be something you want to invest in.
I’ll let the real experts explain it to you but I personally use aeroponics and I’m confident it will be the future for restaurants and most of all, in agriculture.

Here is a short video of how it all works, albeit a little dated but it gives a good explanation!


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Sustainable Landscape Design – How we Can Save Water in our Own Gardens

Sustainable Landscape design needn’t be a cold and ‘practical’ process that should be used as a last resort. Designing in a natural way and using what we’re given naturally could very well be the answer to how we can save water in our own gardens.

This time around I felt it was time to approach a post a little bit differently. Usually I talk about how we do things on a day to day basis and generally write about garden design from my point of view. I just felt it was time to be a little but more open and talk about some things that i think are really important for the future when it comes to landscape design but also some things that interest me outside of my day job.

I started off in life on the beaches of Jersey where I was born, and from the first few years of my life knew that being outside and feeling the natural elements was when i felt most alive.

Like most people, I took some twists and turns to really find out what my calling was! In 2005 I qualified as a set designer from Central St Martins School of Art and Design, then went on to sell my natural textile artwork from a gallery i rented in WC1. In 2010, while running my previous landscape maintenance business I worked through the nights to qualify as a designer from the Garden Design School, Painshill Park in 2010 and haven’t look back since.

I love my job and working for myself still gives me the freedom to be creative both in design and with growing the business. To get here wasn’t so much a calling but more a process of elimination! Plants, nature and design are all subjects that interest me and garden design helps me to fulfill most of them.

Enough off my background, I just wanted to give you an insight into who i am and why sustainable landscaping, when possible is so important to me.

Everywhere we look there are statistics on climate change and I think it’s time to say that the stats aren’t looking in our favour climatically!! I’ve linked to a few below if you’re into the information like I am but either way we need to make some changes to our own immediate surroundings so we don’t have to rely so much on public systems.

Climate News: Texas Drought Kills Millions of Shade Trees; More US Water Shortages
UK gets water shortage warning

To rely on the mains water to be there everytime is not covering all of your bases, so why not design a beautiful garden that will do all of the work for you and thrive while doing it.

There a so many ways to improve you gardens’ sustainability and below are just a few:

Install a Water Butt or Tank

An easy and very effective way of collecting and storing water. You can get them as barrels or be a bit flashier with The Hog- A wall mounted modular system that will save space and allow you to connect as many as you like together.
Install drainage systems that will take your water run off from your drive, patio or roof and lead them back to an underwater storage tank. This amount of free water stored in your tank can then be pumped out when you need it for watering your plants during hosepipe bans and water shortages. Some will hold as much as 10000 litres so you will always have enough.

Shape the land

The main aim to getting the most from your water is to either slow its run off or to catch it completely. Through the spring and summer, watering can really get monotonous so one of the best ways to let the rain do the watering for you is to shape the land with slight ditches, terracing or even creating your own sculpted garden feature. These will slow the water down and catch it wherever it’s at its lowest, which is often where your plants will be!
Of course irrigation systems will water your plants and vegetables on a drip system but this doesn’t hide the fact that they’re most likely coming from a tap.

I’ve included a photo of a herb sprial- A spiral made from natural materials(e.g straw, soil) that is planted with herbs to enable passive gardening by slowing the water run off. These things are amazing and really are the answer to ‘hands free’ gardening. This is part of a larger movement called permaculture. I won’t go in depth for fear of losing you but here’s a link to a previous post where i wrote all about it!

Permaculture Design

Only today we’re hearing in the main news about possible water shortages in the UK and there’s no better time to start allowing for some changes should we need to. If you’re interested in exploring some sustainable landscaping ideas for your garden, just contact us to see how we can help you to stop wasting time on watering and start designing a sustainable garden for the future!

Permaculture Design

Permaculture is a merging of two words, permanent agriculture. Originally used as a systematic process in the 60’s by Austrian Farmer Sep Holzer but later founded, practiced and researched during the 70’s by Australian Bill Mollison.

This is a process that works in harmony with nature by reproducing the natural processes and elliminating wasted energy and resources.

Some of the simplest and most effective methods are to simply shape the land so that water run off is slowed down considerably allowing it to be absorbed slower and last longer. This can be in the form of terracing cut across hills or ditches (or swales) dug into surfaces to allow them to fill up and slowly trickle over. This water catchment is something that we use already in our homes in the shape of water barrels and water storage systems , but if incorporated into the land, it will essentially become self sufficient and work in it’s own natural way while offering us the fruits of our initial labour year after year!

Companion planting also comes under the umbrella of permaculture wherby giving a host plant for predator insects to elliminate pests helps to cancel out pesticides, genius!

The subject has been taught in many countries by a select few that live the permaculture design lifestyle and has since grown exponentially.

PERMACULTURE DESIGN PRINCIPLES

For residential use or to plan a sustainable permaculture design in any space, zones are used to record and design what will go where.

Zone 1 – The kitchen garden, plants that need regular maintenance.

Zone 2 – Compost bins, animals that will need regular feeding.

Zone 3 – Plants and shrubs grow with low maintenance but still producing

Zone 4 – A wilder part of woodland but still maintained.

Zone 5 – No management is needed for this area. This will be woodland and will be the most sustainable part of the whole process. Eventually this can spread allowing you to be as self sufficient and sustainable as you wish.

There are many more methods such as aquaponics that go hand in hand with these processes and can present anyone struggling financially, suffering health problems or even looking for a cleaner lifestyle with a whole world of new opportunities.

Parts of Africa, Australia and many other deserts in the world have been transformed by the methods used in permaculture by shaping the land to hold any water that may fall and green what was once sand. It has also showed people living in third world countries ways to make the most of their surroundings and sustain it to bring consistent promise to poverty stricken regions.

Not only is it the poor that are learning these beneficial methods but everyday city dwellers who are looking for ways to save money and water in an ever more populated city are using the process on a more contained form. Even if that is just a rainwater barrel, the benefits, no matter what the area, are endless.

Below is a video of the first part of the permaculture design course taught by one of the most influentual people in the education of permaculture, Geoff Lawton.

What’s New at RHS Tatton Park

Although there are some incredibly innovative ideas at the RHS Tatton Park show this year, what’s new is not whats exciting to me! The things that really get my heart racing are the traditional gardening methods brought into modern times which are also given the ability to adapt to the changing times. This is where the Gold Medal Award winning ‘When the Waters Rise’ definitely has my vote! This is a direct response to the increase in flooding across the world. It looks at ways of bringing homegrown food from ground level and putting them into containers to grow and move around at the growers discretion. This gives a mobile option to bring your food in the ever more likely event of flash and sustained floods without any disruption at all. Climate change is such an important factor of how a garden is designed and with more extreme droughts, floods and natural disasters it’s becoming more and more evident in the garden designs of today.

I talk a lot about Permaculture and have carried out environmentally friendly designs which have Permaculture aspects to them.

Check out the next post for a more in depth look into Permaculture and how it can change our gardens and potentially our whole world!

If you want to check out more about ‘When the Waters Rise’ I’ve provided a link here.

http://www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-Show-Tatton-Park/2011/Gardens/Garden-A-to-Z/When-the-Waters-Rise