23 C
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
23 C
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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    It’s all about the little things

    ANN/THE STAR – Even if you have a wonderfully green garden, it’s not quite the same thing as nature. However, you can take steps toward sustainable action right in your own backyard, and in the process become very aware of the way nature works.

    “While in nature the substances involved in the growth and decay of plant and animal life are in balance. In the course of the industrialisation of agriculture, a lot more was taken than given back,” said Marja Rottleb of the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU).

    Nowadays it’s not just leaves, flowers and fruits that are harvested: cuttings and leaves are also taken out of the natural cycle.

    For Rottleb, a good way to start giving back in your own garden is to create a compost heap.

    “Collect the healthy plant remains in the garden, let them rot and then reintroduce them into the cycle as fertiliser,” she recommended. At the same time, compost helps improve the soil structure for worms and the many insects living in the earth.

    In addition, compost helps store water in the soil.


    A good alternative is to use the remnants of old plants as mulch between new plants. The advantage of mulching is that the cover protects the top layer of soil.

    “A soil cover also maintains soil life and ensures that a natural loosening and aeration of the soil occurs,” Rottleb said.

    As the mulch gradually decays, valuable nutrients also return to the soil. ”If you don’t have plant remains to use, sow a green manure,” Rottleb recommended.

    Plants such as mustard, buckwheat and lamb’s lettuce are not harvested or are only partially harvested and so are incorporated into the soil.


    Gardening can be made more sustainable in incremental steps, one of which is when selecting and buying plants.

    For Technical University of Braunschweig’s Technical Director of the Medicinal Plant Garden Burkhard Bohne, native plants play an important role. He advises choosing regional varieties, especially in vegetable gardens.

    After all, these regional plants cope well with local conditions, their cultivation has proven successful, and there are no long transport routes for these seeds and plants. This reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions – which helps protect the climate.

    The best way to ensure sustainability for perennial beds is to choose wild varieties, which usually require less water and nutrients than the more fashionable perennials. In addition, you can easily grow them yourself from seeds. This is also better for the environment as, again, it eliminates the need for the transport and complex packaging of plants.

    In Europe, for example, evergreen shrubs that age can be replaced with vigorous native deciduous shrubs such as field maple, cornelian cherry or beech.

    Plastic pots end up as microplastics

    Try to avoid buying or growing your own plants in plastic pots.

    The material – even if only splinters – can get into the soil and become microplastics, which are notoriously hard to remove from the environment and unhealthy.

    But there are alternatives available: At markets, for example, young plants are often sold in paper bags, and in garden centres it is not at all rare to find compostable pots.

    The latter are placed in the garden soil together with the root ball.

    Bohne also recommended creating small containers out of newspaper or egg cartons to cultivate seeds.

    There are also long-lasting alternatives such as wooden seed trays and clay pots.

    And sometimes it’s the little things in the garden that can be changed most easily: Instead of using plastic signs when labelling the seedlings opt for metal or wooden signs.

    You can make these at home, for example by collecting wooden ice cream sticks.

    Or you can put the empty seed bag over a stick and protect it from moisture with an empty jam jar.


    Plastic waste also accumulates when you buy potting soil, Bohne pointed out. An alternative is to simply use the normal garden soil for potting, by mixing it with sand and compost.

    For the cultivation of new plants from seeds it’s better to avoid fertiliser altogether. And another tip: growing soil can be recycled after it has been sterilised by heating it in the oven.

    Full-grown plants in containers and tubs need more nutrients.

    “These can be added by using appropriately generous amounts of compost,” said Rottleb.

    Alternatively, used tea leaves and coffee grounds can be used as fertiliser.

    “I recommend trying out a so-called worm box,” as an alternative to fertiliser, the Nabu consultant said.

    In the box, worms decompose vegetable kitchen waste into a nutrient-rich humus. At the same time, a watery solution is created that can be added to water to provide the soil with nutrients.


    With these small adjustments, the garden can gradually become more sustainable and also offer a more welcoming space for animals. They are regulators.

    And here again, it’s the same as with the soil: If you give them nesting opportunities, hibernation sites and food, they also give something back.

    Hedgehogs and ground beetles, for example, eat slugs that would otherwise nibble away at many favourite plants in the garden. Birds such as tits reduce aphids and bats feed on mosquitoes.

    And most importantly, “Of course, you also need insects and birds for pollination, as well as ants for natural seed dispersal,” Rottleb said, adding, “It’s really important to take a circular thinking approach to gardening.”

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