What is sustainable gardening?

Sustainable gardening is a combination of organic gardening methods which preserve natural resources. The object of sustainable gardening is to reduce waste wherever possible in order to reduce our impact on earth.

How can gardening be sustainable?

There are a variety of ways you can make you garden more sustainable and environmentally friendly including

  1. Reduce watering & collecting rainwater
  2. Make your own compost
  3. Use peat free compost
  4. Use kitchen waste as organic fertiliser
  5. Use natural mulch 
  6. Protect plants from pests without the use of chemicals
  7. Grow your own food and save or swap seeds
  8. Plant native plants
  9. Try companion planting
  10. Reducing the use of plastic products in the garden

    1) Water less and use a water butt

    A fantastic way to reduce you carbon footprint is to water less or to collect rainwater by introducing a garden butt to your garden. Water butts have a multitude of benefits including: 

    • Reducing your water bill
    • Rainwater is good for plants as it is slightly acidic and contains nitrates and other organic matter beneficial to your plants
    • Rainwater is free from salts and other chemicals usually found in treated tap water; it is particularly good for houseplants.

    When is the best time to water plants?

    It is best to water plants in the morning as opposed to the evening, as it tends to be much cooler. Cooler temperatures mean that less water is wasted via evaporation. Watering at evening causes plants stay damp overnight which can increase risk of diseases and make it easier for slugs to attack!

    2) Make your own compost

    Making your own compost is a great sustainable gardening method.  It is super easy to do by recycling organic materials and household waste. For a successful compost you need a good mix of 'greens' and 'browns'.

    Brown materials can include things like paper, cardboard straw, sticks, wood cuttings, eggshells and leaves which add fibre and carbon to create air pockets.

    Green materials include raw fruit and vegetable peelings and grass clippings which add nitrogen which help to generate heat.

    A handful of soil or organic composter accelerator as it contains the microorganisms needed to kickstart the composting process.

    It is important to remember not to use contaminated substances such as diseased plant parts, garden waste that has been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals, pet waste or any foodstuffs, which may attract pests or rodents.

    There are many compost bins available on the market including the unique Haxnicks Rollamix Composter which because of its rolling requirement is one of the more fun available on the market. The polyethylene fabric of the composting barrel traps heat, and by adding water and rolling, it is possible to make your own rich and nutritious compost within 6 weeks which can be used to top up raised beds, add to the base of plants, and even use as a peat-free potting compost. It also features innovative doors allowing ventilation whilst simultaneously preventing pests and rodents. Another feature of this composter is that it can be folded flat when not required.

    3) Use peat free compost

    Go peat free and keep peat where it belongs, in bogs. When peat is dug up, not only is carbon released but habitats are damaged. Haxnicks developed its own peat free growing medium 5 years ago which is one of the best peat free composts. 

    It is called Growlite and is made from a precise and consistent composition of coir pith, fibres and chips; a blend which ensures optimum drainage, balanced water retention and excellent oxygenation for a healthy root system. It also has a unique Haxnicks premium formula of organically derived soil constituents added to it for faster growth & healthier plants.

    For more information read our earlier blog ‘What is peat & why is the UK changing to peat free compost’.

    4) Use kitchen waste as organic fertilizers

    Reduce the use of harmful chemicals by making your own environmentally organic fertilizers from household materials which you would usually discard.


    These are super useful for around the garden. Not only can they be used as part of your compost ingredients, but they can also be dried, crushed and sprinkled around plants to deter slugs. They can also be ground down to a powder form, sprinkled around plants and used as a fertilizer because they are made up of calcium carbonate which is a key ingredient of agricultural lime. particularly helpful for avoiding blossom end rot in tomatoes.

    Dried coffee grounds

    Coffee grounds are a fantastic source of nitrogen, magnesium and potassium. Coffee is great for acid loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and roses.

    Banana Peel

    Save banana peels from the kitchen bin and bury them in a hole next to roses. They can compost naturally whilst providing much needed potassium.

    5) Use natural mulch

    Mulching is basically covering the ground around plants.  This is extremely important for a garden as it retains the moisture in soil which means you don’t have to water as often. It can also help to regulate the temperature of plants keeping them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. In addition, mulching also suppresses weeds.

    There are several different mulches available each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The most popular usually includes bark mulch, pine straw and old hay.

    Control weeds organically

    Keep on top of weeds before any heavy infestations cultivate. The best way to do this is to dig them up by their roots and 

    if you don’t fancy getting down and dirty on your knees, look at Speedweed; It is a tool which will top the weeds with ease with a simple push on the foot bar the cutting scoop will slice through the weed below ground.

    6) Protect plants without the use of chemicals

    the number one way of protecting plants without using chemicals is to put a barrier between the pest and the plant but timing of when you plant and when you harvest can also play its part.  

    There are lots of protective nets and covers on the market which eliminates the use of pesticides. Micromesh Pest & Wind Barrier is ideal for protecting anything in the plant family such as parsnips, carrots and celery. In addition, use a growing space like a Grower Frame or Compact Grower to keep your crops safe from pesky visitors.

    When sowing seeds consider the best growing time of year for them as this can help avoid insect infestation. For example, sow swedes after May which is renowned for being the optimum egg laying season for cabbage root fly. Consider companion planting, a technique used to manage pests for example, planting chives and onions next to border rose plants can help prevent black spot disease.

    7) Grow your own food then save and swap seeds

    Growing your own food reduces not only tastes better but saves you money and reduces your carbon footprint by eradicating the need long-distance transportation of produce which is harmful for the environment. 

    Then rather than eat the last few - let them stay on the plant and run to seed.  You can then store to plant the following year or you can find your local Seed Swap and swap it for varieties that you want to try.

    8) Plant Native plants

    This is so obvious but - when choosing plants for the garden select sustainable varieties which are native or local to your area. Not only can they help control weeds they require less work, water and grow better because they are already suited to your climate and soil types.

    Consider turning part of your lawn or garden into a wild flower meadow. Besides their beautiful display wildflowers encourage bees and other important pollinators to the area which is crucial for the production of fruit and vegetables. Wild flowers also improve soil health and water quality.

    9) Try Companion Planing

    Companion planting can be a great way of organically protecting your crops from pests as well as improving pollination. Common plant combinations includes planting mint by carrots as the scent of mint confuses and deters carrot fly and planting chives by your tomatoes deters aphids. Learn more here 

    10) Reduce the amount of plastics in gardening

    Use gardening products that are made from natural and recycled materials. There are several sustainable gardening products now available including the Haxnicks range of pots and trays made from bamboo fibre.

    Bamboo is not only a sustainable material by promoting the cultivation of it we can reduce Carbon dioxide emissions as it is one of the most effective plants on the planet at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. To find out more about Haxnicks and sustainability watch this video: How to Garden Sustainably 
    We hope you feel inspired and have found at least one change you could make to get a more sustainable garden!