Planning an eco-garden
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Date: 28 February, 2008


'The internet is a glorious place for the garden planner – plants and seeds everywhere, in every shape, size and colour.'


As the days get longer and the bulbs begin to flower, it's time to start thinking about an eco-garden. Suzanne Elvidge explains

Click on the blue links to go to other websites with further information.

The spring has sprung, the grass is riz – however, according to the Woodland Trust, spring has sprung rather early this year.

Apart from the potential risk of a cold snap (also known as a blackberry winter or a dogwood winter) to all those little green shoots, what else does this mean? It’s time to plan your eco-garden.

Garden planning

Garden planning is great – it’s a chance to mess around with plants without getting cold, wet or muddy. Plan it out on paper or try a 3D virtual garden (sorry, Alan Titchmarsh not included) or a garden planner to place plants, buildings, walls, ponds and fences wherever you want them (moving sheds with your mouse doesn’t half give you a feeling of power!)

Or if you want someone to do the planning for you, buy a bespoke garden design or find a qualified garden designer. Places like the Chelsea Flower Show and Planet Under Pressure competition winners can give you ideas for your own eco-garden.

Sourcing the plants

The internet is a glorious place for the garden planner – plants and seeds everywhere, in every shape, size and colour.

There are specialist suppliers of organic vegetable seeds, herb seeds, vegetable plants, soft fruit plants and trees, even mushrooms. Garden Organic has a Heritage Seed Library so you could try Auntie Madge’s tomatoes or Dragon’s Tongue dwarf French beans.

If it all seems like too much hard work, buy mature trees and shrubs, or a Rocket Garden instant organic garden (there’s even a version for kids, and you could put them in these cool planters – the plants, not the kids, obviously…)

Other things to find a space for…

Once you’ve worked out where all the plants are going, what else do you need to find a spot for?

A compost bin or heap…

I know I go on (and on) about composting, but it really is great for the environment and for your garden. Compost bins range from the twee to the enormous, via plastic ones that look a bit like Daleks, flat-pack ones, DIY ones made out of pallets and ones powered by worms.

You can compost kitchen and garden waste (but cooked food should only go into a Bokashi bin or Green Cone, or a rather gadget-ish NatureMill). And if you really get into it, become a master composter!

A water butt…

Like compost bins, water butts also come in all shapes and sizes, from space-saving through wooden to enormous – even ones to go down the side of the house or under the lawn.

A wildlife garden…

Don’t forget the other residents of the garden. Birds might like a birdbath made out of plant saucers or dustbin lids, and recycled bird feeders. You could also provide houses for bees, ladybirds, toads, bats, even elephants (I might have lied about the elephants…)

What if you don’t have a garden?

If you don’t have a garden, you might have room for a few pots. You could always buy pots – but why not see what you can recycle instead? You could use old boots (there is a company that recycles wellies into plastic sheets), doll’s prams, watering cans, wheelbarrows, sinks and baths, old toilets, 4-pint milk containers, newspaper, toilet roll inners (or a combination of the two) – in fact anything that will hold enough compost.

And then there are pots made out of recycled plastic or seaweed, and ‘Hairy Pots’ made out of coir. Or you could use Freecycle to see if anyone is clearing out their stock of pots.

Christian Aid’s Global Gang website has some ideas for making planters out of rubbish.

Further reading

Growing an eco-garden

Trees are good

Water carry on

Preserving the harvest


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