The ‘Attenborough effect’: a guide to eco-friendly gardening

Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres, shares his tips for eco-friendly gardening.

Gardening is a great hobby for anyone to have. It’s good exercise, it gets you interacting with nature, and it can even support the local eco-system when you do it right.

No doubt you’ll have seen or heard about the ‘Attenborough effect’, a term used to describe how David Attenborough’s documentaries for the BBC and Netflix, Blue Planet and Our Planet, have caused the public to start rethinking their eco-friendliness on a massive scale. As a result, you’re probably wondering how you can take better care of the planet, including cutting down on single-use plastics.

So, I’ll be sharing some Attenborough effect-inspired tips for how to make your gardening methods greener.

How to support the eco-system

If your garden is full of exotic, non-native plants then you might want to consider seeking some native alternatives, as the lack of native plants in our gardens could explain why we’re seeing a decline in wildlife populations. There’s already a lot of buzz around saving the bees, but British songbird numbers have also crashed. This is significant because songbirds are bio-indicators so the decline in their population can tell us that the rest of the UK’s wildlife is suffering, too (Songbird Survival).

Next time you’re at your local garden centre, look for trees and bushes like crab apple and juniper, and consider having a wildflower meadow in your garden full of poppies, yarrow, and cornflowers. These native plants are natural food sources and habitats that can help support local insects, birds, and animals, all of which play important roles in the delicate eco-system.

How to avoid plastics

When you think about it, you use quite a lot of plastic when you’re gardening. Packaging, containers, and even plant labels all contribute to the plastic waste that we’ve seen on our TV screens, so it’s best to limit your use of plastic where you can. Aim to buy plastic-free containers and accessories made from wood and terracotta, as these alternatives can have less of an environmental impact.

With plastic products, it’s best to reuse and recycle as much as you can to avoid them going to landfill. You can use old plastic compost sacks as growing bags for tomato and pepper plants or use old spray bottles as misters for plants that like lightly damp soil. While you’re at it, why not recycle old household items? Ice lolly sticks and loo rolls can be used to label and support seedlings, and old newspapers can be a handy alternative to plastic wrap.

How to be more sustainable

It’s a good idea to start composting if you haven’t already. Not only does this allow you to reuse a lot of kitchen and garden waste, but your plants will thrive from the nutrient rich compost you produce. Use a wooden compost bin and keep adding old eggshells, vegetable peelings, and grass cuttings to it, along with compost maker to help the process along, and stir the mixture about once a week or so. You should start seeing compost within a few months.

Another good idea is to conserve water by only watering your plants if they need it: you can usually check by poking a figure into the soil to see if it’s damp. Better still, collecting rainwater can cut down on your water usage, allowing you to water your plants for free. It can also come in handy if you live in an area that’s prone to drought. So, try to collect rainwater in a butt to use in your garden rather than filling up your watering can from the tap.

The tips in this guide can help you garden in a way that is eco-friendly and supports local wildlife. Focus on growing native plants, finding alternatives to plastics, and finding sustainable methods of gardening to help reduce your impact on the planet.