The globe is feeling the enormous effects caused by climate change. There are dwindling glaciers, ice on rivers is breaking up earlier than it should, animals are having to relocate, and trees are beginning to flower sooner. This is causing scientists to predict that global temperatures are likely to keep rising for a number decades because of greenhouse gases that are produced by human activity.
But, is there something we can do to help battle the climate change crisis? While there are many ways for us to cut our carbon footprint, there are several ways in which the urban garden can benefit our environment. After all, according to the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS), with more than 85% of the British population living in towns and cities, our gardens make up a quarter of total urban areas in many cities.
Increasing the amount of plants in our gardens
Domestic gardens can work like air-conditioning systems in cities and towns. Did you know that the shelter of trees and hedges can act as insulation in the winter to help bring down energy consumption and heating costs? Place your shrubs and bushes carefully around your property to reduce the speed of the air movement reaching your building. However, make sure you don’t create any unwanted wind tunnels directed towards your house.
It’s also possible for vegetation to provide aerial cooling thanks to the shade it offers. It’s predicted that If we increased our vegetated surfaces in urban areas by as little as 10% then we could help control the summer air temperatures that climate change is bringing. This would also help reduce CO2 emissions. While larger plants and trees can clearly have benefits, concerning figures released by the RHS, (The Royal Horticultural Society), found that nearly one in four UK front gardens are entirely paved, and over five million don’t have a single plant growing in it. London was the worst culprit and the impact of this is raising urban temperatures and the loss of biodiversity.
All plant forms can be vital in increasing the quality of air because they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. With vehicle usage ever increasing, plants are playing a vital part in offsetting some of the emissions automobiles are releasing.
Monitoring water use
We might enjoy the hotter, drier summers that we’re currently experiencing. However, this could have a knock-on effect for our gardens — which in turn will continue to affect our environment. So, what should you do? If you don’t already have one, get a water butt. If you do have one, add another! Catching rain water to use on your floral displays and lawn will help you minimise your mains water usage, thus helping the environment and aiding self-sufficiency.
When temperatures rise, the proportion of household water used in our gardens increases by over 30%. This is where a water butt can be an effective tool — especially with hosepipe bans becoming more regular. Another way to cut your water usage is by re-using any ‘grey water’ which has previously been used to wash dishes or have a bath.
Adding compost to your soil
An essential way we can combat change is eco-gardening. Adding compost to your soil can provide crucial nutrients and microorganisms to the earth. If you want to cut costs too, instead of buying compost, you can also use kitchen scraps, so long as it’s not meat or fish. This will also reduce the waste transported to landfill.
By composting correctly, we can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane. To do this, we should reduce the need to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides. It also helps soils hold any carbon dioxide and improves tilth and workability of soils. However, it’s important to carefully maintain your composting or it may reverse the desired effect.
Producing your own veg
Many of us are ambitious gardeners. Our personal outdoor space is a way we can to replace up to 20% of all bought food, reducing our carbon footprint by up to 68lbs of C02 each year. This would be thanks to several factors, including the time it takes to get your food to your plate being cut considerably. It’s estimated that the average distance your food travels before it’s consumed is a staggering 1,500 miles, meaning that transportation of the goods is burning fossil fuels.
Not only this, but growing your own food using vegetable seeds lets you know that your produce is free of chemicals, avoids any unnecessary packaging, and saves you money from your shopping list.
So, of course there are many factors to consider regarding climate change, but we can definitely contribute from our own homes. If we all sorted our gardens, we could have a positive effect and help protect our planet.