1. Look at your microclimate
If your outdoor space faces south, it’s ideal for vegetables and Mediterranean plants which require full sun. East is best for sun-loving and shade-enduring plants, west gets a lot of sunlight so plants must be able to endure high temperatures (you could even grow orange and lemon trees) and north-facing spaces are better for shade-loving varieties. If it’s too sunny or windy, it might be necessary to erect a barrier to protect your plants.
2. Protect from the elements
Protect permanent plantings from freeze/thaw cycles by lining the bottom with a layer of polystyrene peanuts or foam and the sides with foam insulation. During the winter, plants may need to be protected from frost, snow and cold weather with hessian blankets. Consider the view from inside before you start planting and use vertical space as well as horizontal.
3. Saving energy
Ownership of patio heaters is set to double to 2.3 million in the near future, but the patio heater emits around 50kg of CO2 per year (the same as would be emitted by driving from Lands End to John O’Groats 200,000 times). One of the best steps you can take to green up is to get rid of your patio heater and stick on a jumper.
4. Helpful Pots
Away a lot? Choose bigger containers which won’t dry out so quickly in wood, recycled plastic and rubber (terracotta dries out fast). Put a piece of broken pottery or small stone over the pot’s drainage hole or add rocks or pebbles to the bottom, choose containers at least 30cm deep.
5. Saving water
Rain water is better for gardens than tap water and most container plants need watering every day. The apple green wall water butt with watering can (£65) from Natural Collection collects rain water for dry days. The Harcostar rain water tank (£229.95) from Crocus collects and stores 150 gallons.
Shop carefully; choose eco-friendly garden kit like this FSC hand tool set (£22) from Biome Lifestyle. If you’re barbequeing, make sure you buy sustainable FSC charcoal. How about planting with biodegradable pots and pot labels?
Solar lighting kits are now cheaply available from most garden stores. They save energy by generating all their own power during the day.
Adding kitchen scraps and grass clippings to a compost bin significantly decreases your waste, plus compost makes plants stronger and healthier, reducing the need for artificial fertilisers and pesticides. Invest in a wormery.
Hanging a bird feeder or put in a bird bath to attract more birds which will feast on plant-damaging pests. Visit the RSPB for more information.
10. …and the bees
Nectar-rich plants in blues and purples, like buddleia, attract bees and butterflies, and why not create a home for useful insects by piling up a few rocks or logs. Get to know the little mites with a microscope.