It’s pretty easy, being green
1. Choose the right plants
Finding suitable plants in different species is one way to get your eco-friendly garden going.
Anthony Kachenko, environmental policy manager for Nursery and Garden Industry Australia, said getting the combination right ensured plants could act as energy savers as well as purifiers. “Simply having non-invasive plants like bottlebrushes, grevilleas and English lavender in your backyard could result in big energy savings from both cooling and heating, ” he said.
“Plants in your garden are also constantly purifying the air because pollutants can be absorbed by leaves, reducing the level of pollutants in the environment and reducing the incidence of respiratory illness such as asthma.”
Planting water-wise native plants is another step towards an eco-friendly garden, according to environmental consultant Chris Ferreira. “Not only are they tough and hardy but, given a couple of years, they should need little or no more fertilising, ” he said.
Landscape architect Andrew Harvey recommended planting native rosemary (Westringia fruticosa), callistemon Little John, Ollearia axillaris, Acacia cognate, Acacia lasiocarpa, kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos), Melaleuca nesophila and Cycas revoluta.
For groundcovers he recommended Grevillea thelemanniana and Eremophila glabra, and grasses such as Isolepis nodosa and carex.
2. Look after your soil
Healthy soil equals healthy plants that need a lot less water, fertiliser and pest or disease control, according to Mr Ferreira.
“If you build up your soil and choose tough, waterwise plants you can overcome so many of the problems and expense that plagues the traditional gardener, ” he said.
One way to improve soil was to use good quality compost and/or manure or soil conditioner. “These plus soil amendments like zeolite, spongolite and bentonite clay for sandy soils and gypsum for heavy clays will turn your soil into an amazing living and productive base for your plants, ” Mr Ferreira said.
Landscape designer Kerri Russell said whether changing the whole garden or just putting in a few plants, it was essential to add a good quality soil improver, preferably with organic matter.
3. Plant more trees
Trees are a must in green gardens. Ms Russell said there was a big variety of trees available so finding the right one for your garden did not have to be difficult.
“Trees provide scale to a garden and can help anchor the house into the landscape, ” she said. “They also provide shade, privacy, shelter from wind, and often simply their intrinsic beauty.”
When it comes to selecting a tree, Mr Harvey recommends choosing WA varieties such as grass trees (Xanthorrhoea preissii), woolly bush (Adenanthos cunninghamii) and banksia. You could then incorporate exotic trees and succulents, which would not need a lot of water, to serve as focal points for the garden. “Try frangipani, Dracaena marginata, Dracaena draco, Yucca elephantipes, Agave attenuata, aeoniums, sansevierias and echeverias, to name a few.”
Zanthorrea Nursery owner Jackie Hooper suggested these trees because they will not invade other species: small gum trees such as Eucalyptus caesia Silver Princess and Eucalyptus torquata, Hakea laurina, Banksia prionotes and Callistemon Kings Park Special.
4. Green design
Ms Russell said it was important to start with design. “Planning the best position for plants, trees, water features and alfresco areas means you will have a well-performing garden in the long term, ” she said.
“Having the correct plants in the best locations is also essential for those plants to perform well — a plant shouldn’t be put in a position just because you like the look of it.”
Mr Ferreira agreed, adding that a garden should be treated like the biggest room of a home.
“When designing a garden you should carefully chose where to put your trees, shrubs and groundcovers because they will naturally keep your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter, ” he said.
“Basically, if there are deciduous plants to the north of the garden it will let the winter sun in and keep the summer sun out.
“Evergreen plants to the east and west will also reduce the impact of morning and afternoon sun in summer.”
5. Create wildlife corridors
Sue Dempster, of Everlasting Concepts, said incorporating “the locals” into the garden resulted in an environmentally friendly garden.
“You want an eco-garden because you want to live in it, you want fauna to live in it and you want plants to live in it, ” she said.
“It’s a nice surprise when you are visited by the local insects and small birds that will pollinate your colourful flowers.”
Mrs Hooper said to maintain biodiversity homeowners should select plants that would provide food, shelter, perches and nesting places for birds. “Plant a small tree or two for birds and lizards to use as perches to escape predators, ” she said.
6. Controlling pests
For a pest-free garden Mrs Hooper recommends choosing low-impact methods of control.
“When pests are present in large numbers, we are tempted to spray them with chemicals, ” she said. “However, when we spray the baddies, it is likely that we kill the beneficials, too.
“Insects in our gardens are necessary to supply food for birds, lizards and frogs, so instead use repellent sprays like garlic and chilli to protect precious plants under attack.”
Sue Torlach, owner of Wild About Gardens, said drip or sub-surface was the most efficient form of irrigation. “Gardens use just under half of our urban water so there are massive savings to be made if you can cut back on water use in the garden, ” she said.
Mr Harvey said composting was a great way to recycle all the waste food and garden vegetation from the home. “It’s a free and effective way to give your garden crucial nutrients to sustain healthy growth, ” he said.
He suggested designing composting areas so they blended into or became a feature of the garden. “There are so many ways to integrate composting into your garden, they can even be hidden away using timer screening or a custom-built compost bin.”
9. Reduce pruning
Mrs Hooper said although pruning was fun and helped create neat gardens, most prunings usually ended up dumped in landfill or burnt on site. She suggested visiting the local garden centre to choose plants that required minimal pruning.
10. Use water wisely
Most plants require less than 10ml per “drink”, according to Mr Ferreira. “More than this only flushed precious nutrients beyond the reach of your plants to become a groundwater pollutant, ” he said.
Mr Harvey said another way to combat water wastage was to use grey water in the garden.
“Using an irrigation drip line system, this water can be dispersed in your garden and lawn area, ” he said.
“Rainwater tanks are also becoming more and more popular in residential homes.
“New rainwater tanks can be hidden, slimline, and even underground so they won’t take up you whole backyard any more. These can be attached to your existing reticulation system to cut down water use.”
© The West Australian
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