How to fight climate change from the comfort of your own garden!

Feed the birds
Can an individual really make a difference

Can an individual really make a difference?

Planting a tree is a great way to help sequester carbon emissions. Through photosynthesis trees absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and wood. By ensuring that the trees planted are native broad leaf species you can help to preserve the UK’s environment and biodiversity. It doesn’t have to be a large tree but if everyone planted just one tree in their garden, just think of the difference it could make!

Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air, during the process of photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide diffuses through the small holes (stomata) present on the lower side of leaves. Owing to these loose-fitting cells on the lower side of a leaf, carbon dioxide can easily penetrate and reach other types of cells. The stomata open wider to let in more carbon dioxide when they are exposed to harsh, drying effects of direct sunlight. Aerosols and clouds scatter sunlight in the atmosphere; this scattered sunlight helps forests and vegetation to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide more efficiently. More leaves of trees are exposed to scattered sunlight, thereby increasing the rate of carbon dioxide absorption and photosynthesis.

Forests have become extremely important as they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of climate change in the environment.

During the process of photosynthesis, atmospheric carbon dioxide is converted into sugar and cellulose; this sugar is stored in the wood, leaves and roots of trees. Trees are 50 percent carbon by weight, so growing trees can help in reducing greenhouse effect of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

What else can i do

What else can i do?

Whether you live in a house or an apartment, planting some greens is a quick and easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.

We all know plants are beneficial for humans and that we should all be seeking to nurture them. Plant some bee friendly flowers, a few trees, or a vegetable garden. Balcony gardens are great for urban dwellings. Cities often need to reduce urban heat – basically, cities tend to be hotter than rural areas because of vast pavement areas, concrete buildings, and increased human activity.

Creating more spaces for plants, grasses, and trees can mitigate this effect and lead to better cooling, which will be a necessity with worsening climate change. Help avoid the “heat island” effect by planting trees or maybe try a green roof or community garden.

Manicured lawns are a desert for pollinators (and most wildlife), but you can make your garden a pollinator paradise! In spring, leave twig piles and bare ground. Come summer, let veggies bolt. Provide a source of water and don’t rake all the fallen leaves. Build homes where pollinators can lay eggs or overwinter.

Bees eat two things: nectar (loaded with sugar and a bee’s main source of energy) and pollen (which provides proteins and fats).

Choose a variety of plants that flower at different times so there’s always a snack available. As a rule, native plants attract native bees and exotic plants attract honeybees.
Flowers bred to please the human eye (for things like size and complexity) are sometimes sterile and of little use to pollinators. Native plants or heirloom varieties are best!

Bees have good colour vision. They especially like blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. Create floral bull’s eyes: Plant flowers of a single species in clumps about four feet in diameter instead of in scatterings so bees are more likely to find them.

Take care of the bees

Feed the birds..

Feeding birds allows you to get really close to some of our most amazing wildlife. You might think great tits, robins and finches are nothing to shout about, but the more you look, the more you see their fantastic colours and interesting behaviours. We can all benefit from sharing our lives a little bit more with wildlife.

Over the past 50 years the numbers of many so called ‘common’ birds have dramatically declined. We don’t know for certain why this is, but changing agricultural practices and a lack of food in the summer and winter are likely to have taken their toll.

Sometimes when we look out of the window, it is difficult to believe that song thrushes, sparrows and starlings are all struggling to survive in the countryside, but they are. These, among many others, are now red listed as birds of extreme conservation concern.

By supplementary feeding at the right times of year, you can make sure your garden supports lots of birds. If enough gardens provide food, water and shelter in a neighbourhood, it creates essential corridors for wildlife to move along and live in.

Feed the birds

Compost.

Do your bit to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. Even for households that are already composting, new research has found that almost half of the food waste in their rubbish bins could have been composted.

Did you know, composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, or your washing machine produces in three months?

We’re often asked “Why do I need to compost when my waste will break down in landfill anyway – and why should I worry when my local council does food waste collections?”

When waste is sent to landfill, air cannot get to the organic waste. Therefore as the waste breaks down it creates a harmful greenhouse gas, methane, which damages the Earth’s atmosphere, however, when this same waste is composted above ground at home, oxygen helps the waste to decompose aerobically which means hardly any methane is produced, which is good news for the planet. And what’s more, after nine to twelve months, you get a free fertiliser for your garden and plant pots to keep them looking beautiful.

organic composting

Pesticides. 

Pesticides impact nearly all life on earth. Pesticides are designed to kill pests. They include a wide range of compounds including herbicides (designed to kill plants), insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides, molluscicides and nematicides, but also include plant growth regulators, defoliants and desiccants.

Pesticides are mainly used in the growing of agricultural crops, but are also used in our towns, cities, homes and gardens.

Contemporary pesticide products consist of active and inert ingredients. The active ingredient is the chemical designed to kill the targeted pest. However, inert ingredients often make up the bulk of the product and include emulsifiers, solvents, carriers, aerosol propellants, fragrances and dyes.

Pesticides are toxic chemicals designed to be deliberately released into the environment. Although each pesticide is meant to kill a certain pest, a very large percentage of pesticides reach a destination other than their target. Pesticides easily contaminate the air, ground and water when they run off from fields, escape storage tanks, are not discarded properly, and especially when they are sprayed aerially.

More and more people are moving towards a more organic approach in growing flowers and food crops.

pesticides in your garden

These are just a few examples of the steps you can take to begin living a more environmentally- conscious, sustainable lifestyle using your garden. All of these steps benefit not only the environment but you as well, either through your health or your wallet!

With your garden, you really can help in the important fight against climate change.

Can compost be used as mulch? What is the purpose of compost?

Can I use compost as mulch what is the purpose of mulch

Here’s a question about mulch asked by Dexter Roona.

Can compost be used as mulch? What is the purpose of compost?

Mulch reduces moisture evaporation, moderates the temperature of the soil, reduces compaction of the soil, suppresses weeds and should eventually break down and become part of the soil.

So, in answer to your question of can compost be used as mulch, it depends on the type of compost. If the compost you wish to use is has the traits described above, then yes, you can use compost as mulch. However it’s unlikely that it will perform as well as mulch. I would recommend you staying away from chipped or shredded mulch and try using composted mulch.

Here’s an interesting article about composted mulch.
Which is better for plants, chipped mulch or shredded mulch? – Cowen Landscapes Landscaping & Gardening Services in Maidstone

Do YOU have a question for Cowen Landscapes? Send us a message, we’d love to hear it.

Which is better for plants, chipped mulch or shredded mulch?

Small Contemporary Urban Garden

Neither. Don’t use chipped mulch OR shredded mulch. Both of those will rob the precious nitrogen from the ground that your plants need.

Nitrogen is vital for healthy plants because it’s a major component of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the compound by which plants convert sunlight into sugars from water and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is also a major component of amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins.

Plants are unable to use or take nitrogen directly from the atmosphere. They must uptake it through nitrogen forms that include ammonium and nitrate.

So, what should you use instead of chipped or shredded mulch? Composted mulch!

This is from my Quora answer: https://www.quora.com/Which-is-better-for-plants-chipped-mulch-or-shredded-mulch/answer/Matt-Harvey-84

Which is better for plants, chipped mulch or shredded mulch

So what do professional gardeners do in the winter months?

winter gardening tips frozen leaves kent

So what do professional gardeners do in the winter months?

It’s a question I get asked all the time. A lot of people assume there’s not a lot that can be done in the garden during the winter, however this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact I have a little saying “what you don’t get done over winter, never gets done.”

The weather might be on the colder side, but it’s a great time to do some of the heavier tasks like digging over vegetable beds, as the ground will be a lot easier to work this time of year.

Don’t forget to protect your perennials during the cold winter months!

how to protect perennials during winter in the UK

Give all your borders a good mulch of compost at least 4 inches thick. This will protect your perennials from the worst of the winter frosts, feed the plants and enrich the soil. Best of all, when the weather eventually warms up, it will stop lots of the weeds. That’s got to be a winner.

garden tree in the winter maidstone kent

Tree work is always best done over winter, as the sap is down and the tree will be dormant. There’s also less disease floating around in the air that could get into fresh cuts and pass on diseases.

Also, with the leaves off of the trees you can better see the shape of the tree and what the branches are doing much easier.

Remember the three D’s: Dead, Diseased and Dying.

 Make sure to remove any branches that are rubbing together as this can also lead to disease and fungal infections.

winter frost berries on tree in maidstone

Lifting and dividing perennials is best left until the weather improves slightly however it’s a good idea to make notes, or take photos of your border in summer. Some perennials will be more dominant in the border than others and can take over if not kept in check. Simply dig them up and divide them. They can be moved to fill gaps in another part of the border or given away to friends and family. Who doesn’t love a free plant!

winter composting snow gardens.jpg

The compost bins will need looking at. Undoubtedly your good intentions of mixing them every few weeks and adding the right ratio of carbon and nitrogen have gone down the pan but don’t let that bother you. Just build a new bin and move the contents from the old one. Mix in equal measures of straw and grass clippings.

If you managed to make some decent compost last year now is the time to put all those lovely nutrients back into the beds. Your plants will thank you for it in the spring.

winter greenhouse cold weather agriculture

Another thing that tends to get forgotten about over winter is the greenhouse. I use mine to store all my tender plants that live in pots on the patio over summer. It’s important to remember fungus can thrive in warm moist conditions. The trick is to air it out on walmer days and give the glass a good clean with fungicidal wash before spring gets going.

If the winter isn’t  too cold you can use your greenhouse to grow winter salad, and to start seedlings.

Frosty cold fresh mornings in January and February are some of the best memories I have as a professional gardener. There is something magical about being out and about in the cold crisp air, and definitely a feeling of satisfaction when you eventually get home. There is plenty to be done over the winter months and a great deal of accomplishment knowing you have pushed the garden on to be even better when spring finally arrives.

Should I add diseased plants to my compost?

That’s a great question. According to gardenorganic.org.uk, some diseased plants can be added to your compost, however, plant materials suffering from soil-borne diseases such as clubroot and white rot should not be added to a compost heap.

Anything else can be safely composted in a hot heap. Diseases that don’t need living matter to survive, such as grey mould, mildews, and wilts, may survive in a cold heap.

But heat is not the only factor that will kill diseases: the intense microbial activity in a compost heap also helps to dispose of them. Some diseases, such as tomato and potato blight need living plant tissue to survive and will not last long without it. It is fine to add foliage suffering from these diseases to your hot or cold compost heap. If in doubt, leave it out. Problem materials can be sent to your local council green waste recycling facility where the composting methods are hot enough to kill any problem organisms.

that don’t need living plants to survive – grey mould, mildews, wilts – may survive in a slow, cool heap. But heat is not the only factor that will kill diseases – the intense microbial activity will also help to dispose of them.

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Can diseased plants be put in compost

Image courtesy of gardenseason.com