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Carbon footprint and gardening

10/03/2021 – by Roger Cole

As we start to emerge from the pandemic and the Brexit separation from the EU is completed it is to be hoped that the government will take note of the demands to take the climate emergency into account and 'build back green'. At a minor level we may be able to take some personal actions to help by reducing our carbon footprint and maybe the garden would be a good starting point. Many of us have found the garden to be a great sanity protector through the multiple lockdowns and there are things that we can do to reduce our carbon footprint in the garden – some suggestions:

Make a pond; not only will this attract wildlife and increase biodiversity but the sediment that will accumulate at the bottom of your pond will hold carbon at a higher rate than grassland or woodland.

Plant a tree: a well known way to capture carbon and if you choose a fruit tree there is the added benefit of a crop to eat (but remember that if there is not room for two a self-pollinating type will be best).

Compost all of your garden and vegetable waste. This provides a great soil improver for feeding back into the garden and reduces the amount of methane produced by the waste compared with sending it to landfill (the council green bin collection will also go for composting but that can't be applied on your garden). Leaf mould is a bit slower to produce than compost to but makes a fantastic mulch. The UN has highlighted that worldwide our soil is being degraded and polluted and there is concern that without correction to this there is are a limited number of crop cycles remaining. We cannot affect commercial soil quality but we can ensure that our small patch remains of the highest quality.

Think about using hand tools for many garden jobs; will help your fitness regime as well as reducing that carbon footprint.

Avoid using Peat. Peat bogs store vast amounts of carbon but are being depleted everywhere with much of the peat being used in growing compost mixes despite all the claims that this will be phased out. If we don't ask for peat free compost the garden centres will not stock it.

Grow more plants; the more plants, the more carbon is absorbed. Many plants climb so can be trained to a frame or a wall or fence to increase the effective area of the garden. Some climbing plants will also give edible crops – think runner beans and squashes.

Grow more plants from seed; you can make sure that no peat is used in the growing, and there are no transport costs if the plants start in your garden. Vegetable growing is very rewarding and the home grown veg always taste far better (the time from cutting to eating can be almost zero).

Do less digging; digging turns the soil and exposes more to the air and in doing this more of the stored CO2 is able to escape back into the atmosphere; using mulches and garden compost prevents this, improves the soil and the worms do a lot of the hard work for you.

Make your own plant food; nettles and comfrey can be steeped in water to give a nitrogen rich plant food – needs diluting before application.

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