Nine Sustainable Gardening Tips For You

Model sits with arms stretched out behind her, surrounded by nature. She wears Saywood's Etta Oversized Shirtdress in Japanese denim, with the signature embroidered flower on the pocket. Worn with the red check Heidi Headband in her hair.

Have you been out in the garden yet?! Following the big frost and snowy week we had at the end of last year, a lot of our garden features have died off. Our Staghorn has survived - originally grown from a seedling when we first moved here all the way from my partner’s parent’s house -, our Eucalyptus is thriving, and the black bamboo is out of control, but much else didn’t take kindly to the low bout of snow. Lots of folks have said much the same, so this year is likely set for a garden revamp.

As the Spring gardening jobs start, it got me thinking about really gardening for nature! Whilst the hydrangeas, blueberries and box plants (I know, we can’t believe the box caterpillars haven’t discovered them yet either) are budding and newness growing, it makes sense to start really considering what is going into the ground.

Saywood founder Harriet in the garden wearing the Garden Tool Belt around her waist in Japanese Denim. Worn with the Zadie Boyfriend Shirt in olive, jeans, and the Japanese Denim Reversible Bucket Hat

Now that it's gardening season, and we have hope of the Spring weather coming through, it’s time to get sowing the seeds and planting. What can we do in our gardens to be mindful of nature, the natural habitats and to create a sustainable foundation for our local visiting wildlife? Can we actually nurture our gardens more sustainably for a positive impact on the environment?

With that in mind, I've put together a few handy tips and sustainable gardening practices to help us care for nature in our gardens in a more environmentally friendly way.

Saywood's Garden Tool Belt in Japanese Denim, with Earthsong Seeds lying on the grass

Saywood's Garden Tool Belt in Japanese Denim

1) Go peat free.

Make sure any compost you are using is peat free: Peatlands are highly valuable for natural carbon storage, but peat-bogs have been depleting. Peated compost is not a necessity in our gardens, so going peat free is a great way to support the restoration of this valuable ecosystem. Peat free is also great for water retention in the soil for thirsty plants, especially in the summer. Just add extra drainage into the mix where plants require it.

Plum heuchera in foreground with a tall green yucca in the background

Alternatively, making your own compost is a great way to utilise your own food and garden waste, reduces plastic by not buying compost in bags, and saves on carbon emissions. Bought compost has to be produced on mass, packaged and shipped, then collected from the store. By making compost at home, you save on all that travel and carbon emissions. Multiply that by every gardener and that’s a huge reduction in carbon emissions. Coffee granules are also great to add to your compost or sprinkle round your plants.

2) Adopt native species.

Research native plants, and get rewilding. Creating a patch in your garden of native wild flowers provides natural nutrients for the soil and encourages native wildlife back into our gardens supporting nature’s circle through sustainable garden design.

Pink hydrangea with hand reaching out to touch the flowers, wearing the pink and lilac Jules Utility Shirt by Saywood, with sleeve and contrast cuff just visiblePink and red gladiolus with salvia leeves in the background against a wooden fence.

3) Avoid faux grass (and too much paving where possible).

Removing natural grass and replacing it with fake grass reduces natural habitats for our pollinators to live. Fake lawn is on the rise and a growing issue for nature, removing habitats and scapes these insects thrive on, plus it depletes the earth beneath should this later be removed.

4) Plant with pollinators in mind.

Plants produce oxygen. Plants breed through pollinators. Without these pollinators - our bees and many other insects - plant reproduction slows and stops. We need to allow pollinator numbers to rebuild and reverse the decline.

5) Limit the use of pesticides, and use organic or natural solutions.

Pesticides are harmful to wildlife and animals. By using organic and natural solutions, you can look to protect your plants, whilst giving the same wildlife a chance to survive elsewhere. Slugs and snails can feel pesky, but you can protect delicate plants by creating plant barriers using sharper natural materials, such as crushing eggshells, thorny cuttings or sharp sand. Or plant smart, with more woody plants or thick leaved species that the slugs struggle to much on.


Freshly picked blueberries and strawberries from the garden
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6) Grow your own.

Space to grow a whole veg box is a privilege which not everyone has, but even herbs and window sill edibles are a great way to grow your own and connect with nature. It also helps reduce plastic waste as we so often see fruit, veg and herbs packed in plastic in the supermarkets. Earthsong Seeds supply edible and medicinal herb seeds for planting, as well as a seed selection the bees are keen on!

Basil and chives in terracotta pots against and brick wall. Grow your own.Leafy tomato plants in a large copper pot growing in the garden, with a brick wall and other smaller plants behind

This can also include growing your own flowers for your kitchen table. Much of the flowers found in supermarkets are imported from across the globe. Snipping a few stems and foliage from your garden can be a great way to fill a vase and reduce the carbon footprint of a table bunch. Don't forget to leave enough for the plant to regrow. Alternatively, buying flowers from a UK supplier is a good way to support local and reduce the carbon footprint or a pretty bouquet.

Flowers picked from the garden, held in front of wearer, wearing the Saywood Jules Utility shirt in pink and lilac with the flower embroidery above the chest pocket

7) Let the rain water.

In the summer we know our plants can get super thirsty, but droughts are becoming more frequent. A great way to reduce the use of mains water is to use rain water and (clean) waste water as much as possible. If you don’t have space for a water butt to collect rainwater, you can set out buckets to collect what you can. And you can utilise waste water from the home too; make sure it’s not particularly dirty or soapy, but if you have some left over water from rinsing or light washing up this can be great for your plants to enjoy.

8) The more trees the merrier.

Trees absorb a large amount of carbon; between 10 and 40kg of carbon dioxide per year, according to EcoTree, depending on the tree species and many other factors. Planting a tree in our own gardens and nurturing it to full maturity would have a huge impact on the amount of carbon absorbed. Plus trees sequester water, so when we have heavy rainfall and flooding (which is getting worse due to the climate crisis) this helps to protect against flooding. Hence, the more trees, the merrier.Staghorn tree providing vital shade in the corner of the garden, with a string bench in green underneath

In our garden, we have a Staghorn tree, which we planted when we moved in. It came from my partner’s parent’s garden; a baby stag from a tree seedling, carefully nurtured to be later planted to mature in our garden. It is not yet fully grown, but at about 5 years old it is a tall healthy tree providing a canopy and shaded area, perfect for plants requiring dappled light and a bit of shade, and a lovely patch to read or have lunch under the tree in the summertime.

9) Use your plant pots.

Often left over from a fresh plant are the plastic plant pots most common to the nurseries and garden centres. Reuse these as much as you can. Most garden centres don't take these back as they often have no use for them, but they are great for planting seedlings and new cuttings. If you can, find plants with natural biodegradable pots, but you can even reuse any plastic plant pots for seedlings, or see if your neighbours would like any for planting seedlings, saving them from waste.

Designing our gardens for nature and wildlife will help our gardens to thrive, become more easily manageable, and help protect and restore our Earth, reduce carbon emissions, as well as creating beautiful sanctuaries to enjoy ourselves. So let’s get rewilding.

Model sits on a tree log surrounded by nature and echinacea flowers, wearing Saywood's Zadie Japanese Denim Oversized Shirt with beige trousers.

Zadie Boyfriend Shirt in Japanese Denim, dyed with natural indigo

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