This week I hosted another 'Coffee Talk' this time on the subject of sustainable gardening. Giving the talk were the wonderful Tara Lissner and Hester MacDonald. Together they run courses on gardening through their company, 'The Swiss Gardening School' (https://swissgardeningschool.com). Separately, Hester hosts a gardening show on 'World Radio Switzerland' while Tara runs 'The Herb and Petal Box' and writes a blog 'My Swiss garden' (http://www.myswissgarden.com). They indulged us with some fantastic tips and tricks on how to tend to our gardens with the least impact on the environment as well as how to get the most out of our outdoor space. Below, I've listed some of the main points we learnt and discussed.
Plants and products to bring into your garden
Avoid annuals if possible. These are the plants that last one season and then die. So much energy goes into growing them, going to the shops to buy them, tending to them and then throwing them away means that they are very bad for the environment. Especially, as the process has to be repeated each year.
Plant bulbs. These are a fantastic, cheaper option for repeated blooms every year. The best examples are Daffodils, Crocusses, Tulips and Aliums. Plant them in the Autumn and mark where you’ve put them so you don’t dig them up!
‘Heuchara’ is a great option for ground cover giving wonderful colour and structure. They come in all colours from dark burgundy to lime green and brighten up a shady corner.
Use trees and shrubs to add structure and colour to the garden all year around. ‘Cornus’ is a wonderful example with it’s green foliage in the summer and bright red branches in the winter. Japanese maple also can give a shot of colour and fabulous form to a border.
Look for plastic pot alternatives when buying plants. If you are unsuccessful, take the plastic pot back to the garden centre and get them to deal with it. They may re-use or they might be encouraged to use alternatives. There are good alternatives on the market made from renewable and sustainable plant by-products such as coconut husk.
Buy plants without pots i.e bare roots. However, these need to be planted straight away so this may not be so practical for everybody.
Avoid harmful pesticides. There are lots of wonderful, natural alternatives to chemical pesticides that help you care for your garden without harming the earth! I’ve been using a mix of black soap, milk and water (an equal measure of each). This has been fantastic for removing aphids from my lemon tree. Another idea is an oil-based insecticide which is made from 1 cup vegetable oil and one tablespoon soap. Shake well and when ready to use, add 2 teaspoons to a litre of water and spray onto the plants. This covers the pests and effectively suffocates them.
Use washed, broken eggs shells to keep slugs away.
Feed your garden with natural home-made compost (see my compost blog)
Always buy good quality tools that will last.
Grow your own
Grow what you know you will use or you could end up with a glut! As wonderful as this sounds, you could be in danger of quite literally wasting the fruits of your labour!
‘Cut and come again’ varieties are fabulous. They grow brilliantly and keep growing even after you have been harvesting!
Chard, Spinach and Kale grow well and can easily be dotted about your flower beds.
Use all types of containers. Tara brought a variety of ideas, from empty Tropicana cartons to cheese boxes and tin cans as well as her very own wine boxes filled with green and flowering herbs. These are available to order from ‘The Herb and Petal Box’.
For my Swiss friends, both Tara and Hester will be at the 'Jardins en Fete' at the Chateau de Coppet 11th,12th and 13th May 2018.