Environmentally friendly gardening

News – 25 May 2022 Our Wellbeing Coordinator, Emma Dagless, has been delivering therapeutic gardening sessions for the past five years and is currently delivering Gardening for Wellbeing sessions in Milton Malsor, West Northants, on Monday afternoons and in Flitwick, Bedfordshire, on Tuesday mornings. Emma says: “I know how good gardening is for me, and the people I garden with. Then there’s the realisation that whatever I do to take care of my little patch of earth, I know that there are others out there, all doing the same. This always cheers me up. “At Ellenshaw Court in Flitwick, there are currently six gardeners attending our weekly sessions. There are a couple of more experienced gardeners and the other enthusiastic beginners are learning fast. It’s a large site, and we have a plan, but no overambitious, time-driven goals, just ideas to try and see how they work out. “I always try to garden with the environment in mind, and suggest checking the websites for the Royal Horticultural Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for some really useful advice. We’ve tested a lot of ideas over the past year; some we like, while others we’re still experimenting with.” Here are Emma’s top 10 tips for environmentally friendly gardening:
  1. We only use peat free compost. It can appear to dry out quickly, so we have found it always helps to check 1-2 cm below the surface before deciding to water.
  2. We try to select plants that have a reduced need for water. Apart from our young seedlings, we don’t water plants in between our weekly sessions, and then only water new plants as well as giving any pot/tubs a good soak.
  3. Although a few annual bedding plants slip through, we try to plant evergreens or perennial plants that are good for pollinators and come back each year. This is good for our budget as well as the environment.
  4. While we learn to make our own compost, we are using a commercial mulch to put around plants. This helps prevent weeds, retains water, and helps condition the soil. We are also planting quite densely for the same reasons – so we create healthy habits rather than single plants surrounded by bare soil.
  5. We are enjoying growing plants from seeds. Although we have bought some to get started, we are now looking forward to harvesting seeds from our own plants. We are also on the look out for good plants to take cuttings from and have some successful results in our small nursery area.
  6. The grass at Ellenshaw Court is not cut too regularly, and we are enjoying seeing the daisies, buttercups as well as some less common species.
  7. We have high hopes for our vegetables this year. Our potatoes are well established in a raised bed that has been prone to weeds. So next time we dig it to remove the roots of our most stubborn weeds, we’ll be rewarded with fresh new potatoes.
  8. We’re also growing a selection of herbs; these tend to be simple to grow and many are drought tolerant. This is a really good starting point for beginners and provide plenty of leaves to add to cooking over the summer months.
  9. We’re trying to appreciate nature for what it is and alter the way we think about a garden. This means that some weeds are allowed to stay and instead we’re appreciating their beauty. To keep our patio areas clear, instead of spraying we have agreed to remove five weeds every week instead. We don’t spray pests either and accept that although it may take a few seasons, we should eventually achieve a more natural balance
  10. We’re hoping that a good choice of flowering plants will increase the number of insects that visit the garden. We’ve started counting the number of butterflies and bees that we see each month, as an indicator of improving natural health.
Emma adds: “If I can give one extra piece of advice though, maybe the most important bit. We’re learning to really appreciate, understand and enjoy what we’ve created together. Each week, we sit in a space that is gradually becoming more beautiful and talk about our successes, failures and future plans over a cuppa.” If you think you’d benefit from joining a Gardening for Wellbeing session, please contact Emma Dagless emma.dagless@guhg.co.uk