When you planned and constructed your home or workplace, did you research ways of reducing energy consumption and cutting down the reliance on fossil fuels? Did you use locally sourced materials from sustainable sources? Did you look at ways of saving or recycling water? And did you also consider using plants outdoors to help achieve your goals?
Terrifyingly, statistics published by the Earth Day Network suggest that adults and children now spend 90% of their time indoors. As a consequence, the majority of us have any affinity with the natural world and so when it comes to thinking of ways to harness the power of nature (as our ancestors did), we tend to look towards science and technology and disregard the services that are provided by Mother Nature for free.
Think about the landscaped features around your building; do they (or will they):
- Make the most of existing natural features such as boggy wet areas, mature trees, aspect (north facing vs. south facing), outlook and views across the surrounding area? Or are you planning major ground works to re-shape and mould it?
- Help cool the building either by shading or insulating?
- Provide wildlife habitat?
- Reduce Stormwater runoff?
- Depend on lots of irrigation?
- Rely on chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides to keep them looking good?
A sustainable garden is designed to will work with the building to embrace existing land contours, soil types and features and incorporate local native plant species. This doesn’t just cut the cost of creating the garden; it makes maintenance a whole lot easier (and cheaper).
Three important ways of using the great outdoors to improve the environmental credentials of your building without making a lot of on-going maintenance are:
- Green roofs
- Natural Lawns
- Wildflower meadows
A living green roof will insulate your building against heat, cold and noise; maximise the performance of PV panels, help manage Stormwater, thus helping to prevent flooding; provide a source of food for pollinating insects and covert a lot of Carbon Dioxide into oxygen by way of photosynthesis.
Plants are one of our best defences against the effects of global warming and the more we have, the more sustainable our lives will be. The main plus point of a green roof is that it allows a householder to bring more plants on to the plot, without affecting the way in which the garden can be used. In some cases, an extra 25% planting space can be gained by fitting a green roof on to a flat roofed extension, a garage, a porch and/or a garden shed.
Enviromat sedum matting provides one method of establishing plants on a roof. It is easy to install and can be retrofitted onto most sturdy buildings. Enviromat is based on sedum plants, which are very drought tolerant, don’t normally demand lots of expensive irrigation and will put up with the temperature extremes encountered on a roof. The green roof build up will also protect the waterproof membrane from UV light, thus vastly extending its lifespan. An Enviromat green roof is low maintenance but also very beautiful and if you have any of the matting left over it makes great ground cover. Sedums are renowned for their attractiveness to butterflies and bees and in fact, Enviromat has been awarded the RHS Perfect for Pollinators logo.
The lawn has been an essential component of the English Garden for centuries and with good reason. A natural lawn is brilliant at slurping up excess rainwater, pumping out oxygen and cooling the surrounding area. It’s also a favourite foraging ground for blackbirds and starlings and a great place to play…..maybe encourage the family to spend more time out of doors.
The prospect of mowing a lawn and keeping it weed free may have driven some householders to put down patios and build decks but in doing so they are inadvertently upsetting natural drainage systems and increasing the risk of flooding. Modern varieties of lawn grass are hardwearing and easy to care for and should be considered before reaching for the hard landscaping catalogues.
Turf is one of the cheapest and most instant of all groundcover materials and it’s surprisingly environmentally friendly. Buy from a reputable supplier to make sure you’re getting freshly cut turf and lay it on the day of delivery and you’ll be very happy with the results. Plus, if in the future, you want to change the layout of your garden, a lawn can easily be dug up and composted whereas a deck or a patio may well end up going to landfill.
If you buy turf from Q Lawns turf growers during May 2013 and find a lucky golden ticket tucked inside one of the rolls, you will have won a £500 lawn mower.
If you really don’t want to mow the lawn every weekend, there is a low maintenance alternative that will turn your garden into a haven for wildlife. Since the 1930’s, around 95% of our species rich grassland has disappeared as a combined result of building development and intensive agriculture. These ecosystems were vitally important to the beneficial insects that help to pollinate our food crops and control crop pests and it’s only now that we’re realising how the loss of wildlife habitat could impacted upon food prices, and our own wellbeing.
Meadowmat wild flower matting is an amazing landscaping material that literally allows you to unroll a wildflower meadow in your garden. The seedmix contains 34 species of native grasses and flowering plants that work together to look beautiful and provide food and shelter for a vast array of wild creatures. Bees feed upon the summer flowers, butterflies lay eggs among the grasses, ladybirds and other pest-eating insects will overwinter in the sward, other creatures visit to feed in the meadow and in turn, become food for frogs, toads, birds, bats – all manner of things.
The best thing about a wildflower meadow is that it’s easy to maintain. Simply allow it to grow and flower during the spring and summer months, then cut it all down in one fell swoop, remove the clippings and leave it to grow again. It may need mowing once or twice during the autumn and winter but it really won’t need to be fussed over.