Emma Sleep

Sustainable practices for Australian gardens

You would have heard us say it often that a garden makes a house a home. A beautifully landscaped garden creates a positive first impression and can add value to your house. And there’s no greater satisfaction than harvesting homegrown produce from your own veggie garden. But a thriving garden shouldn’t be at the cost of the environment. From ditching pesticides to selecting the best mulch, such as from Narellan Sand, and creating a water-efficient garden, we’re covering off the best sustainable practices for Australian gardens.

Get your gardening tools and landscaping supplies at the ready, we’re unearthing sustainable gardening practices to achieve a vibrant garden without harming the environment.

Related article: In the garden: Summer gardening guide
Related article: How to choose the right mulch for your garden: One that looks good and plants will love

Making a natural pest repellent is a simple sustainable gardening swap to help the environment
Making a natural pest repellent is a simple sustainable gardening swap to help the environment

Get your weeds under control — naturally!

We can hear your audible sigh from here! Keeping weeds under control is the biggest gardening challenge for many and it can lead many of us to reach for toxic chemicals. There’s no denying weeds can be harmful to your garden — and depending on the weed, also dangerous to humans — but so too are chemicals.

It’s important to remove invasive weeds as they can stress your plants, taking their precious nutrients, water and sunlight. This can leave your plants weak and prone to diseases, which can kill your plants.

Best ways to remove weeds without chemicals:

  • manually remove the weeds: it’s a tedious task but a weeding tool will help. Tip: tackle the weeds after it rains as the soil will be softened and make removing the weeds easier
  • cover the area with plastic: if it’s an area of garden that doesn’t have plants, such as an old veggie patch that has been taken over with weeds, you can cover the whole area with thick, dark plastic (available from the hardware store). Weigh the sheet down and leave it for 3-6 months and it will eventually kill anything that was growing underneath
  • use a natural weed killer: for weeds growing between footpaths or in limited amounts directly onto weeds in the garden, a natural weed killer is an effective solution. Find our tutorial to make your own weed killer at home here. However, it’s important to remember that salt can also harm plants so avoid using this near your precious plants.

Once you’ve removed the weeds, you can prevent or limit their return by adding a barrier like cardboard, sheets of newspaper, weed matting or mulch.

Close up of weeds in footpath crack
You can make your own natural weed killer | Find the tutorial here

Create healthier soil — for your plants and the environment

We all know plants need good quality soil to thrive and an essential ingredient is carbon. But did you know carbon-rich soil can have a wider environmental benefit? Yep, increasing carbon in your soil can restore degraded soils, benefiting your garden and possibly helping to combat climate change.

The technical term is called soil sequestration or carbon farming and it’s a practice of managing land so that soil absorbs and holds more carbon. Although generally used in farming, you can do this on a smaller scale in your own garden. How? With a humble compost! Composting plant and food waste at home will not only reduce methane emissions from landfills but also improves your garden’s soil and helps it sequester carbon from the atmosphere. You can also incorporate animal manures for an extra carbon boost.

Benefits of carbon in soil include:

  • more nutrient rich for healthier plants and crops
  • boosts the proliferation of fungi that further sequesters carbon from the atmosphere
  • helps to aggregate soil particles (ie improves soil structure)
  • holds more water making it more resistant to drought
  • is better resistant to erosion.

So starting your own compost heap is no longer just good for thriving plants and veggies in your garden, it can have a wider environmental benefit. And if you don’t have space for a compost, a worm farm could be a good alternative.

compost bin idea
Now there’s even more reason to start a compost at home | Image via Product Review

Make considered plant choices

Have you seen the ‘Considered’ badge on clothing when shopping online? Plants should come with a similar label!

In Australian gardens, the most environmentally considered plants are natives. Native plants attract insects and birds that help the ecological diversity in your area. Naturally, they’re also adapted to our environment, making them more resilient and drought tolerant. This means growing native plants can also help save you money in the long-term as you’ll save on water bills… or replacing plants that don’t survive our hot summers.

You can also add an insect house in your garden to attract beneficial insects, and they’ll reward you by fertilising plants and keeping pests away. Position the bug hotel in a warm, dry place that’s protected from the wind and rain but has exposure to plenty of sunlight.

Limit your use of fertilisers and pesticides

Whether you want to promote your home grown crops or eradicate a pest infestation, there are times we’ll reach for chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Although effective, they can also cause harm to plants, affect soil quality, seep into waterways and lead to other environmental issues.

If you want to boost plant growth, improving soil quality — such as using nutrient rich soil from your compost — is best. And if you find yourself with a pest problem, look to natural remedies first. Like did you know a simple way to keep snails and slugs away is to make a solution of 20 drops cedarwood oil and water?

Make your own natural snail spray
You only need cedarwood oil and water to make your own natural snail repellent

Mulch your garden beds

We mentioned earlier that mulching your garden beds can be an effective way of minimising weeds but there are many other benefits.

Benefits of mulching your garden can:

  • reduce watering by 70%
  • insulate your soil for happier plants
  • add nutrients to your soil
  • slow rain run off (helping to capture rainfall)
  • reduce weed-seed germination.

A more water-wise garden is always beneficial for the environment and you can find expert tips on selecting the best mulch for your garden here.

Use reclaimed materials for building structures

Another sustainable gardening idea is to upcycle old materials where possible. For example, have you spied the DIY greenhouse trend on social media? Using reclaimed windows, many people are creating the most ah-mazing structures to grow plants or create a quiet space in their garden.

Upcycled window greenhouse
Love this greenhouse by Chelsea Bird using reclaimed windows

Have you picked up some sustainable ideas for your garden? Or do you have more to share? We’d love to keep expanding on this article and sharing all the best ways to be more sustainable in the garden. Post a comment below so we can include your ideas.

More gardening ideas

Gina Beschorner Style Curator

Welcome to Style Curator, your destination for daily interiors inspiration, styling tips, reno advice, home tours and DIY projects!

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I’m Gina, Founder and Interior Designer, and you can read more about Style Curator here.

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