Hooray for the immense impact that the #noplastic wave - largely initiated by Sir David Attenborough - has caused. It fills me with hope, inspiration and motivation to do more. Not adding further to the ridiculous amount of pollution we accumulate is one thing, but what else? Wouldn't it be amazing if we can go as far as to restore, at least partly, the damage that has been done to our topsoil, our forests and to species habitat.
Going beyond sustainability brings us to the world of regeneration. Most of my design principles are influenced by regenerative agriculture, which focusses on restoring topsoil so we can improve the environment and human health and wellbeing. Healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy people and animals. Yet looking down on our tiny patch of garden next to the masses of agricultural fields that are ploughed and sprayed so frequently makes me question. Can I actually make such a difference through changes in my garden? Or even by designing gardens for a larger customers base?
First let's look at sustainable rather than regenerative gardening. Applying organic gardening, which foregoes the need for chemicals, seems to be a good choice if you don't want to contribute to further pollution. Growing your own food organically is an effort often driven by personal health choices besides environmental ones. And for those concerned about wildlife, creating habitat for different species is important. And this is exactly what the UK as a nation is doing. An estimated 48% of gardens have one or more trees, 26% have nesting boxes for birds and 14% have wildlife ponds. Collectively this is an enormous resource. What is more, Britain is a forerunner when it comes to feeding garden birds. People do want to do good things by the looks of it.
Even better, the trend for sustainable gardening seems to be growing throughout the UK with gardening magazines and designers talking more and more about gardening for wildlife, growing your own food and sustainable design. Also academia shows an increasing interest in our gardens as a potential resource to tackle a variety of issues surrounding the environment and human health and well-being.
Here are some more numbers. Within cities where 90% of us live, gardens make up 22-36% of the total space. More importantly, roughly a third of the total green space are gardens. About 87% of us have access to a garden with an average size of 190 m2. All very promising.
Want to know more about land use in your specific area? Check out this fantastic interactive resource by the BBC.
Sadly, despite the fact that a lot of people are willing to help the environment by feeding birds and making ponds, there is an overall decline in vegetation in gardens. Plants are making space for hard landscaping such as decking and off-road parking areas. The issue for policy makers and planners when trying to use gardens for the best is that these gardens are owned by individuals. There is no way to control what people do in their own garden, leaving this potential resource largely underutilised up until now.
Luckily for you though, you are in charge of your own garden and you can make a change. Besides the fact that every little helps, it is also accepted that trends in gardening are influenced by neighbours. Garden design ideas and plant choices are more often than not based by the norm set in surrounding gardens. So why not be a trendsetter and influence your neighbours to make positive changes and help your local wildlife flourish. Regenerative gardens can still look the part, whether you prefer a modern style, cottage style or Japanese style garden.
But what is it that you can and should do? I am going to write a series of blog posts about my research journey. I want to find out which changed have the biggest effect. Which methods are proven and tested - be it by science or by practice. And which methods are still just theories. And perhaps most importantly, which things should be a priority. Don't miss a thing and get simple tips on how to make regenerative changes in your own garden by following my blog, my instagram account or my facebook account.
Let's bring life into our gardens!
I design gardens, make planting plans and I give tailored advice. In all I do and all I design I apply regenerative gardening techniques.
Not sure what you can do to make a difference? Why not have a planting plan designed by me for an unloved part of your garden.
Through a detailed questionnaire and an online chat with you, I can make a border that suits your garden, your style, your specific wishes and that helps regenerate soil and biodiversity. Just give me a shout and I will provide you with more information.