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Landscaping and my Carbon Footprint

Have you ever thought about how we contribute to our own Carbon Footprint? The obvious spring to mind, driving to the shops or dropping the kids off at school, flying off on a family holiday or even the products we buy at shops. "Did you realise that your garden can also have an impact on our environment?".

5 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with Gardening

Whether you are an avid gardener, a weekend warrior or like to tinker with planters on your garden patio as many of us do - you have a number of opportunities to make a change, benefiting your own health and that of the planet.

We are living in a time when extraordinary amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are being pumped into our atmosphere, by burning of fossil fuels, natural gas in power plants, motor vehicles, homes and factories-which has been happening for the past 250 years. Sadly, humans create 15 million tons of CO2 per day, which is more than any other time in history to date. With this in mind Mid Cornwall Landscaping feel it's important to find ways to counter some of these global warming effects by taking things into each and everyone's own hands.

A wise woman once said, "Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love". I'm not sure this quote was meant with gardening in mind but it seems like as good as any place to start. So, how can gardening have an impact on my carbon footprint I here you ask? One suggestion would be growing our own food, this would reduce the miles it takes for the food to get to your plate, in turn reducing carbon emissions through transportation, packaging and storage. With approximately 27 million of us in the UK engaging in gardening and lawn activities, it makes total sense that gardeners make for the perfect environmental stewards in creating positive change.

home grown vegetables
Home grown produce - Reducing Carbon miles in delivery

1. Reduce Fertilizer Usage

What is the best way to start an environmentally friendly garden? Answer: Reduce or replace nitrogen fertilizer. Professor Wolfe (professor of plant and soil ecology) from Cornell University suggests, this is the simplest way to reduce your garden carbon footprint or the lowest hanging fruit of greenhouse gas mitigation. In other words, using synthetic fertilizers increase a garden's carbon footprint because they are energy intensive to manufacture. The tip here is to use organic fertilizer sparingly, as the over use of either synthetic or organic fertilizer releases some nitrogen into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, which results in 300 times more warming potential then CO2.

Top Tip: Apply fertilizers to your garden strategically and sparingly - ideally only twice per year, once in early summer and again in late autumn. When applying fertilizer limit to 1kg to every 100 square feet. Try and use organic fertilizer sources, such as locally sourced farm manure and other composts.

Cycling Matter and Energy Flow
Cycling Matter and Energy Flow

2. Rethink Your Garden Tools  

Another practical change that can be made is to reduce and/or avoid using petrol powered equipment in maintaining the garden. The argument for leaving the lawn to grow and or using manual or battery-operated equipment is twofold; Conservationists are urging people to leave their mowers in the shed and encourage the wildflowers instead. As these wildflower studded lawns are an increasingly important source of nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Moreover, millions of UK residents mow their lawns of a weekend, using millions of litres of petrol in the process. In fact People Powered Machines reports, "one petrol mower running for an hour emits the same amount of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55mph for the same amount of time".

Top Tip: Seek an alternative, use battery powered or human powered tools like the traditional push lawn mowers, rakes and hand shears are the way to go. If that sounds like too much hard work, replacing areas of lawn with ground cover or planting beds is a great low maintenance option.

3. Turn Your Garden into a Carbon Sponge

Not the typical sponge we use in the bath! but a new way of using the garden in a manner of doing some global good. What is a carbon sponge? As plants die and decompose, much of their carbon becomes part of the soil’s organic matter, depositing carbon there instead of releasing it in the atmosphere as CO2, thus turning gardens into natural sponges that soak up and store carbon dioxide keeping it from the atmosphere.

Top Tip: We suggest tilling less because the act of tilling breaks up connections in the soil and releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Zero tillage is a great way of growing vegetables and plants from year to year without disturbing the soil. Leaving the ground undisturbed supports the hardworking earthworms in moving 20 to 30 tons of soil per acre per year. This is a natural tilling process that does not cause rapid carbon release. You can also use cover crops—a crop planted for nourishment and protection of soil—that have deep root systems and can crowd out weeds while moving organic matter deep into the soil. 

4. Reduce Water Consumption

This one is a no brainer! and you might save a fortune in the process. In the UK the average household uses around 360 litres of water each day. And about 21% of the typical gas heated household heating bill is from heating water for showers, baths and hot water from the tap. This, according to the Energy Saving Trust, costs on average about £140 a year.

Top Tip: The use rainwater harvesting is the best solution here, our suggestion is to use a ground mounted rain water butt. The rain water can be collected directly into the butt or captured from your property roof and funnelled into the butt. Depending on the size of your garden or your rain water needs, you may want to consider an underground water storage system. Another couple of tips to consider are mulching to conserve soil moisture and using drip irrigation systems that run on timers while watering during the coolest times of the day.

Any of these actions will help your plants get the moisture they need without wasting water.

Drip irrigation system
Drip irrigation system

5. Compost Food Scraps and Garden Trimmings 

Composting can keep materials such as food scraps and garden waste from taking up space in landfills, where they mix with other waste and release powerful greenhouse gas and methane, a heat trapping gas that is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The Fundamental rule of thumb should be to recycle everything from the garden back to the garden, except of course for the goodies you are harvesting. Compost is essential, not just for recycling trace elements but also for giving back organic matter to the soil.

Top Tips: Composting basics can be broken down as follows; All composting requires three basic ingredients. Browns - This includes materials such as dead leaves, branches and twigs. Greens - Materials such as grass cuttings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps and coffee grounds. Water - Having the right amount of water mixed with greens and browns is important. You should have alternate layers, greens providing nitrogen and browns carbon, mixing with water will help break them down into organic matter. This now nutrient rich compost will serve as a soil conditioner, providing vital humus or humic acids whilst acting as a natural pesticide for your soil.

"Remember, gardeners are not going to solve the problem of global warming and climate change but we have the unique opportunity to be part of the solution".

Please get in touch if you would like help with establishing an organic and sustainable garden.

01726 884040 or email us

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