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Gardeners, climate change extremes and pollution

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Are gardeners a secret weapon against climate change?
Are gardeners a secret weapon against climate change?

A little individual effort from us means a lot to the planet

It seems that dire news about climate change and environmental catastrophe is hitting the headlines on almost a daily basis now.

Plastic in the oceans; global warming; weather extremes; sea temperature absorption – all topics that have been in the news this past week.

Unwelcome changes that will come as no surprise to those who manage the land and its environment on a micro level – the gardeners.

We can’t run around panicking like headless chickens and wringing our hands, hoping governments will act – we can do something NOW, as individuals.

Even the smallest act by a single person will make a difference – as will doing nothing.

Gardens cover an area the size of one-fifth of Wales in the UK
Gardens cover an area the size of one-fifth of Wales in the UK

Gardens cover a huge area of the UK

It’s amazing how much land gardeners actually control.

Researchers Ken Thompson and Steve Head worked out roughly how much UK land is given over to gardens in the report ‘Gardens as a resource for wildlife’ for the Wildlife Gardening Forum: “UK garden cover is 432,964 ha… one-fifth the size of Wales.

“Putting this in protected landscape terms, it is the area of the Norfolk Broads, and the Exmoor, Dartmoor and Lake District National Parks added together.

“One-quarter of the area of a typical city (and half its green space) is private gardens.”

That’s a lot of land. We can help to lessen the effects of climate change and adapt what we grow to survive the extremes in weather we now have to take for granted. Some of the things you can do:

Reduce or stop the use of plastic
Reduce or stop the use of plastic

Cut down on plastic usage

Stop, or cut down, on the use of plastic in the garden. Don’t use black plastic pots, as these can’t be recycled.

Stop using peat

Use peat-free compost mixes. Some, like Dalefoot Compost, use a mix of sheep’s wool and bracken, which holds water and feeds plants too. It’s more expensive but saves on feed and watering time.

Comfrey makes great plant food - but it stinks!
Comfrey makes great plant food – but it stinks!

Garden organically

Your crops will be better for you and so will your garden ecosystem.

Flowers on the whitebeam at the top of my garden
Flowers on the whitebeam at the top of my garden

Plant a tree

They battle pollution and provide a whole ecosystem for garden creatures.

Tulips in pots line the gravel path
Tulips in pots line the gravel path

Don’t concrete over gardens

This increases the chances of flooding in torrential rain. If you must park a car off-street, use gravel, which allows water to percolate away naturally.

One massive bowl of apricots from one small Kioto tree
One massive bowl of apricots from one small Kioto tree

Grow to suit your garden

Every garden has its own unique microclimate. Really pay attention to what thrives – and dies – in your garden. If a plant fails because of excess rainfall, grow something that will relish it.

July 31: Rudbeckia Goldsturm
Rudbeckia Goldsturm

Grow single flowers

Simple flowers make it easy for pollinators – avoid double flowers. The insects will pollinate your crops, too.

Compost bins
Compost bins

Make your own compost

Rich organic material will feed and store water. If you don’t have the room, use council garden recycling bins – don’t throw garden rubbish away for landfill.

Sempervivums
Various Sempervivums in old pots and pans

Reuse and recycle

If it will hold soil and can be made to have drainage holes, it’s a plant pot!

Tomatoes
Washing and de-stalking the tomatoes

Reduce your carbon footprint

The majority of supermarket tomatoes, etc, are grown abroad (notably southern Spain, which uses migrant labour from Africa – check out Simon Reeve’s Mediterranean programme – you’ll feel differently about buying cheap veg). Grow your own if you can, or buy from local growers.

These are just the issues that have sprung to mind – there are so many other things we can do. Don’t think it’s up to somebody else – it’s up to YOU. Earth is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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