Eco-friendly gardening: Is it worth the effort?
We all want to be sustainable gardeners, but can our individual contributions actually make a difference to the environment? Yes! Here, we explore how our green gardening efforts are absolutely critical in the fight to offset greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and tackle climate change.
Carbon isn’t all bad
Carbon gets a bad rap these days but let’s not forget that for plants, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is an essential part of photosynthesis – the process of converting CO2, water, and sunlight to create vital sugars that plants live off. This process ends with releasing Oxygen into our atmosphere – and Oxygen is pretty important, we’re sure you’ll agree.
Plants use some of the sugars they create through photosynthesis to grow. The rest are sent down stems into roots feeding fungi and other microbes in soil. The more sugars the soil microbes get, the more nutrients can be delivered back to growing plants. Healthy soil means healthy plants.
Plus, the process of the fungi and microbes in soil feeding away at these sugars produces rich, fertile, organic matter as a waste product. Plants depend on this organic matter just as much as they depend on photosynthesis. Given that humanity depends on plants to breathe, you could say we depend on the soil microbiome just as much.
If the natural environment is left undisturbed, this process works perfectly. It’s a positive feedback loop – nearly all the carbon that plants take from the atmosphere ends up in the soil, thus making it even more fertile.
When carbon becomes a problem
This process falls down when it is artificially exploited through industrial agriculture, intent on growing as many of the exact same plants as possible, as quickly as possible.
Carbon Dioxide is our biggest greenhouse gas and the majority of it is emitted when carbon-rich organic matter in soil is broken down by farming and lost to the atmosphere as a polluting gas. In fact, nearly half the increase in global greenhouse gas levels in the past two centuries has come from agriculture and food production.
Of course, we want industrial farming to rethink its ways and approach agriculture and food production in a more sustainable way. With carbon pricing on the horizon, many farmers are starting to change their ways.
But there are ways that we gardeners can help things too.
How home gardeners can help
One way for gardeners to planet-proof their outside spaces is by rebuilding organic matter into soil as a means to capture carbon.
To better understand this, let’s do some maths. The total garden area of the UK is 433,000 hectares. With the right approach, a gardener can sequester 12 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year. So, if all our gardens were managed with carbon as a priority, then gardeners could contribute an annual greenhouse gas reduction of more than 5 million tonnes. That’s 4% of Britain’s annual net emissions!
And wait – there’s more. A gardener that follows sustainable gardening practices will also be stopping carbon losses. This includes using alternatives to peat, not using chemicals, mowing less frequently, and adding biochar to the soil to increase its organic matter and promote greater biodiversity.
With the right guidance and effort, gardeners can become part of the solution to tackling greenhouse gas emissions.
Getting stuck in
Enlightened gardening can make a difference in a very tangible way. Tackling climate change is a very real benefit when it comes to eco-conscious gardening. So, is it worth the effort? Absolutely!
Why not get yourself started with our climate change savvy gardening tips?
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