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The Magic Of Compost
If you are not already creating your own compost in your garden, then this is one of the first things that you will want to think about doing. The trouble with having to buy compost all the time is that – apart from often being expensive – it is also not as ecological as simply creating your own from waste that your household produces. Clearly, it is better than sending that waste to the landfill, and for that reason alone you should consider this. But a lot of people struggle to really understand what is involved in creating a compost heap, and you need to have a little knowledge if you are to make sure it goes to plan. There are a few things to consider in particular on this front, which we will look into now.
First of all, your compost should mostly consist of scraps of food from your kitchen and trimmings from the garden. When it comes to the food scraps, however, you can’t just put in whatever you have. You should avoid, for instance, putting any cooked food in there, as well as any raw or cooked meats. Instead, focus on including mostly the peelings from fruit and vegetables, along with egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. From the garden, you can put pretty much any waste in there too – whether it is woody, grassy, or leaf-mulch.
As well as these ‘greens’, you will also need to make sure that you include plenty of ‘browns’, as these will help to neutralize the pH of the compost, allowing it to be more nutritious and to become compost quicker. These browns include corrugated cardboard, the boxes that eggs come in, and wood shavings. You can also put some ash in the compost, although not too much. If you get a good balance of these things, your compost will likely be a success, but you should also make sure that you are keeping it moist enough. It might sound a little unappetizing, but one of the best kinds of moisture for your compost is urine, so if you are happy to include some of that then do so.
Your compost should be situated somewhere away from the home, just in case it attracts rodents – although this is not as likely as you might think. It should be on a flat surface, and you can either use a plastic compost bin or just a pile in a wooden box. As long as you can provide cover for it and therefore control the moisture level, you should find it works. In around nine to twelve months, you will start to have crumbly, sweet-smelling compost, so be patient, and make sure that you turn it over – a little like stirring it – every six weeks or so.
One of the major considerations you will need to think about if you are trying to run your garden more ecologically is that of water. You obviously need to use a lot of water throughout the year to grow plants, especially if you are growing fruit and veg crops. But you should aim to do whatever you can to keep your usage of water to a minimum, and there are actually many ways in which you can hope to do this. Let’s take a look at some of the essentials of saving water in your gardening efforts.
First of all, be sure that you know how much water your plants need. An amateur gardener might find it hard to know this, but it is all researchable, and you will pick it up over time anyway. Some plants need more water than others, and it’s helpful to know which are which, so that you don’t end up overwatering your plants. Not only will this cause your plants to either die or bolt, but you will be using water you could instead be conserving, which is not really the idea. As well as taking care with how much you water your plants, be sure to know the correct method for doing so, as this will also help you to use less overall. You should apply water to the base of the plant, and avoid the leaves – this will not be effective anyway, so there is no use in doing so. Remember too that most plants prefer watering thoroughly twice a week to being watered a little every day, and if you use this method you can keep a closer eye on how much water you are using overall.
One of the most important things you should do here is to use a water butt or tank, as you can collect rainwater and use it when you have a drought. You will find that a good, large water tank well positioned in your garden collects a surprising amount of water, and over time you will collect enough to use that almost entirely, rather than the tap. Also, make a point of using a hose as little as possible, and going for a watering can instead. All of these methods, added up, will mean that you are absolutely going to use less water, and in time that will make a huge difference to how ecological your gardening is.
Something that you might want to consider too if you are really keen to make your garden eco-friendly is to use only native plants and flowers. By native, we merely mean anything which would normally, naturally grow in that part of the world where you happen to be situated. One of the benefits of sticking with native plants is that they will be easier to look after and thrive much more successfully, as they are in the habitat they are meant for. But for ecological purposes they are important too, as they require significantly less water and fertilizer. They also require less labour on your part, which is no bad thing. Using native plants will also help to encourage more of a diverse biological life into your garden, which will mean your garden is effectively helping along the local wildlife. Clearly, it is a good idea to stick to native as much as you can.
Combat Pests Naturally
Probably one area where most gardeners cause a lot of damage to the planet is in the use of pesticides. These are full of damaging chemicals which can kill plants and other life, and can be left in the soil to make the local natural habitat considerably less healthy on the whole. You should make a point of avoiding such products wherever possible, and instead going for some more natural ways to combat any pests you are likely to come across in your garden. As it happens, there are plenty such methods out there, so you should not find that this is too hard.
One of the best methods is to do what is known as companion planting. This is where you plant something next to your crops which is known to detract bugs and other pests, sometimes by deterring them through smell, and sometimes because the bugs prefer to eat those plants innstead. There are certain known pairings which you can make good use of by researching it – such as planting borage next to a strawberry plant, for instance – and if you do that, you will find you are dealing with the majority of the pests.
Another good method for dealing with creatures like slugs and snails is to use raised beds. These are considerably harder for such creatures to get over, and if you like you can even dig in a small moat around the beds so that they will not be able to get past it. This also helps to deter larger animals, such as cats, from nibbling away at your plants.
Take on board all of the above, and you will find that you can run your garden in a much more eco-friendly manner, thereby helping to do your bit for the planet while also improving your garden.
This is a collaborative post.