Two bees taking nectar from orange ball shaped flowered Buddleia globosa

Gardening for the Climate

There is lots in the news about the Climate Crisis, it can feel quite overwhelming, and while big changes will need to be made, we can start by taking some positive climate actions in our own lives and gardens.

The amazing fact is that plants take in carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and with sunshine and water (and a few minerals) use it to grow into bigger plants. All the wood in the world is made from air!

Soil is also really, really good at storing carbon, under the right conditions. Using plants and soil -you can help turn your garden into a store for some of the carbon currently in the air. Plants make sugars out of some of the carbon dioxide they take out of the air and push it out of their roots to feed the soil microorganisms (fungi and tiny creatures) which help them to grow. Feeding your soil by growing plants in it and mulching it and making sure not to disturb it too much, you can increase the amount of carbon your soil can store.

Go Peat Free and No Dig Peat bogs are an amazing store of carbon, in fact Peat bogs store quarter of all the world’s soil carbon stores, but they can only do that in an intact peat bog. As soon as the peat bog is drained and the peat harvested, the carbon stored starts to return to the air. And that’s before you consider the ecosystem destruction wreaked by draining the bogs. We are able to choose Peat Free Compost and should always do so. Ask if the plants you buy are grown peat free.

By not digging your soil (any more that you have to) you are leaving the soil systems in place that hold the carbon in the soil and protect it from erosion. You might still have to use a fork to lift your potatoes, but the less disturbance you can manage the healthier your soil will be. If you need to you can always use the sheet mulching technique to convert your lawn or weedy area into more growing space.

Mulch your soil– adding a layer of home made or peat free compost, well rotted wood chips or autumn leaves on top of your soil will help it hold onto water (and keep your plants happier and more able to grow between rain showers) as well as feeding the soil as the mulch is broken down by the worms.

Biodiverse planting– all this means is a variety of types of plants, different plants have different lengths of roots and will store carbon in the soil at different levels, by choosing different plants you will be able to use all the soil under your plants to act like a sponge taking up carbon.

Soil amendments like Rock dust or biochar can actually store the carbon in your soil for longer than if the carbon is just in the soil. This is because the carbon in the soil binds to the rockdust or biochar in a way that makes it difficult to break apart, meaning the soil is storing the carbon for hundreds of years.

Grow (some of) your own food. Even a pot of herbs will help reduce the amount of food that has to be grown elsewhere, processed, wrapped and shipped to a shop. All of those steps use energy and inputs that can be avoided by growing your own. Not wasting food also helps reduce the greenhouse gas output of the food we buy, and always use the brown bin or compost your food waste to avoid your waste food turning into methane (another, even stronger, greenhouse gas) in landfill.

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