Plot a greener future: Small steps can make all the difference to climate change
- UK-based gardening expert Nigel Colborn shares small changes you can make
- Looking ahead into the new year, Nigel’s tips aim to combat climate change
- His advice includes planting trees and leaving mown grass on your lawns
A happy New Year to all.
Let’s kick off 2022 with a plan to fight climate change and we can do that in our gardens by locking down carbon.
As individuals, the amount we capture will be tiny. But private gardens in the UK occupy roughly 10 million acres. So all our little plots add up to a whopping storage facility. Here are ten painless tips…
1. LOVE YOUR SOIL
Soil is a garden’s main carbon store. The healthier it is, the more it will hold. Deep digging releases CO2, so make that a last resort. Instead, keep soil healthy with shallow cultivation and regular composting.
2. GREENER LAWNS
Lawns and rough grass can build up soil carbon. To maximise that, don’t collect grass when mowing. Let it lie, so earthworms can return its borrowed carbon to the soil. If you must collect grass, compost it.
Ideal: Grass and plants trap carbon and provide food for wildlife, unlike paved areas
3. FRIENDLY FERTILISER
Mineral fertilisers, such as ammonium nitrate can be wasted by leeching into the subsoil.
Homemade compost should be nearly enough for feeding your soil. If you need extra nutrients, consider by-products such as pelleted poultry manure or bonemeal.
4. GO PEAT-FREE
Peat-free potting compost is less pleasant to handle. Yet peat bogs are important carbon stores and many underlie precious wildlife habitats. Peat composts will be banned for amateur gardeners by 2024.
5. HOTHOUSE BEDDING
Planting tender bedding out each May is not carbon friendly.
The plants are raised in artificial heat. So compromise: reduce the number of tender plants grown as annuals and increase hardy alternatives such as sweet Williams, pansies and foxgloves. Those, like spring wallflowers and forget-me-nots, are carbon friendly.
6. PLANT A TREE?
Trees are major carbon stores. But who has room for one big tree, let alone a wood? For small spaces, perennials, shrubs and dwarf trees store carbon. Annuals and temporary plants don’t. So plant trees if there’s room, but don’t spoil your garden.
7. MAKE COMPOST
Garden compost is a mishmash of carbon compounds. When recycled in a garden, earthworms pull compost into the soil. Microbes then convert it to humus, releasing mineral nutrients. When we make compost, we do what nature does unaided.
Untidiness in a garden is not a vice. Constant clipping, weeding, tidying and edge-cutting releases carbon
8. REDUCE PAVING
Most gardens need pathways, seating and hard standing for vehicles. But many have larger paved or decked areas than necessary. Hard surfaces don’t trap and store carbon. Grass or plant cover does.
9. DON’T BE PERNICKETY
Untidiness in a garden is not a vice. Constant clipping, weeding, tidying and edge-cutting releases carbon. So relax, enjoy the bees and butterflies next spring, and have a wonderful, carbon-trapping 2022.
10. PROTECT WILDLIFE
British nature is in deep crisis. Wildlife losses result from agriculture, urban development, carelessness, climate change and, above all, from lack of knowledge, concern or understanding. Carbon-friendly gardens are rich in nature both above and below ground, and that’s very good news.