Gardening sustainably just makes sense in this fragile world of climate change and environmental damage. Actually doing it in your own backyard takes a little effort, but in Albury and surrounds more and more gardeners are finding that every step is worth it to create a sustainable garden that not only looks after your plants, and you, but also helps the whole planet.
Reducing Your Environmental Footprint in the Garden
Switching over to sustainable gardening practices goes a long way to building a garden that you can enjoy, admire and even eat. At the same time, you reduce your environmental footprint, by increasing carbon storage, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing to plant and animal biodiversity. Here are a few tips to create your sustainable garden:
- Plant trees. Planting trees helps to store carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. Trees can also cool your home in summer and let in the winter sun. If you don’t have room for trees at your place, volunteer with a local landcare group.
- Grow your own organic food. Not only does this help to reduce the distance your food travels before it hits your plate, but it also helps to save water and fossil fuels.
- Compost your waste. The less green garden waste and food scraps going into landfill the better, and you get to use the compost in your sustainable garden.
- Take responsibility for your gardening practices. Think very carefully before you reach for the bug spray or synthetic fertiliser! So many good, sustainable alternatives exist — use your compost to help feed your plants, and get worms and insects working for you.
- Help stop the spread of environmental weeds. Find out what plants have become weeds in your area and, if you have them or they pop up, either get rid of them safely or contain them.
- Minimise your use of powered tools. Mowers, blowers and brush-cutters can make life easier, but think about their environmental impact. Buy an energy-efficient mower, mow less often and keep the grass height to about 4 to 5 centimetres — it’s better for your sustainable lawn as well.
- Get the kids into sustainable gardening. At home, at school or in the community, if kids learn the right way from the beginning, they’re sure to keep gardening sustainably into the future.
- Only use renewable resources in the garden. Check the source of gardening materials, and make sure you reuse, recycle and renew. Think about where your pavers, sleepers and mulch come from and how they’re manufactured.
- Create a haven with a diverse range of plants. Not only do you help increase plant biodiversity, but you also provide a habitat for animals, beneficial insects and birds.
- Build your garden for the future, not for fashion. Make your garden climate-friendly and water-wise. Understand your environment, weather patterns and the plants that thrive where you live, not what the magazines dictate.
A Few Essential Tools for Your Sustainable Garden
To create your sustainable garden, some things are just too good to pass up. Compost, mulch and worms all help to condition your soil and retain moisture, and you can get beneficial insects to work with you to keep your plants healthy, sustainably.
- A compost heap or bin: Choose whatever type suits your garden — a three-bay heap for a large property, a classic upside-down-bin style to place in an average garden, a tumble-type bin that neatly sits on a paved area or a bokashi bucket to keep in your kitchen. Mature compost ends up as a delightful humus to use as a soil conditioner in your sustainable garden, or, for the bokashi method, a delicious pickle your plants love.
- An insectary: A garden plot, or even a series of pots on a balcony, with at least seven different plant species of varying heights attracts various beneficial bugs to your sustainable garden. Good candidates to plant include amaranthus, coriander, cosmos, dill, lemon balm, parsley, tansy and yarrow.
- Mulch: To help keep in precious moisture, cover the soil around your plants with the finished humus from your compost or an organic mulch, such as matured manure, pea straw, pine bark, seaweed or sugar cane. Inorganic mulch, such as pebbles or granitic sand, should be use sparingly in a sustainable garden.
- Worms: You can buy or build a worm farm or simply attract earthworms to your soil. Either way, worms produce a fantastic by-product, commonly known as worm castings, or vermicasts, that attracts microorganisms, such as good bacteria and fungi, to your soil so your plants thrive. If you have a worm farm, the worm wee, actually the liquid that accumulates at the bottom, is an added bonus for your garden.
Some Sustainable Plants for Albury's Climate
- Homestead Purple (Verbena Homestead Purple): Verbenas are showy, colourful groundcovers that thrive in full sun and well-drained positions. There are many short and long lived varieties available. Cultivate between plants to destroy weeds in their early stages, but the bushy plants will soon cover the ground to form a dense mat. Prune regularly to promote flowering.
- Hedge Saltbush (Rhagodia spinescens): Striking contrast plant with grey foliage and red berries after flowering. Versatile and can be used effectively as a specimen plant or as low screen. Long-lived, very hardy and drought tolerant. Good habitat, attracting native birds and lizards.
- Sticky Everlasting (Xerochrysum viscous): This plant has long lasting, yellow papery flowers. Spectacular in mass plantings. Good habitat. Native butterflies and moths feed on flower nectar. For best results prune late in winter when new growth is coming from the base.
- Tall Sedge (Carex appressa): This plant will grow well in moist areas and poorly drained soils. It is important food plant for the caterpillars of native butterflies. It also provides excellent habitat for frogs and various insects when planted around ponds. This is a good structural plant.
- Ivy-leaf Violet (Viola hederacea): Fast growing and excellent for establishing cover. White and purple flowers are long lasting. Grows in most soil types, however prefers moist soil with some shade. Excellent rockery plant, between pavers or in a hanging basket.
- Creeping Boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium): An extremely hardy and fast growing groundcover which will quickly form a dense cover to stop weed growth and retain soil moisture. The small, star-like flowers appear in spring and summer. Suitable for sloping banks, cover between trees and shrubs, between paths or along driveways.
- Smooth Flax Lily (Dianella longifolia): Hardy, tufted perennial herb with strappy leaves. Long lived and frost tolerant, it prefers well drained soil. Produces pale blue flowers and blue berries. Good habitat, seed eating birds are attracted to the berries.
- Spiny headed Mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia): Striking foliage plant with honey scented flowers in spring. Versatile and effective as a specimen plant, near ponds, under trees, as a border and in containers. Very hardy and tolerates drought and water logging, good habitat and attracts seed eating native birds, butterflies and moths.
- Clustered Everlasting (Chrysocephalum semipapposum): Attractive contrast plant with a woolly grey appearance and clusters of bright yellow flowers. Can be used in rockeries, on slopes, in containers and in hanging baskets. Mass plant (60-70cm apart) for best results. Good fauna habitat. Food source for native butterflies, which in turn attract insect eating birds.
- Hop Bitter-pea (Daviesia latifolia): Unusual ornamental with showy, orange-yellow and dark red flowers. Can achieve a pleasing effect by planting in clumps. Tolerates frost and full sun. Good habitat. Attracts insects and small native birds which feed on pollen. Tip prune in Autumn to remove old flower heads.
- Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa): Useful ornamental with pretty cream flowers in summer and eye-catching bronze capsules over Autumn. Tolerates drought, frost and wind. Prickly habitat provides excellent refuge and nest sites for small birds. Fragrant flowers attract butterflies, and other insects which in turn attract insect-eating birds. For best results prune each year in early winter
- Varnish Wattle (Acacia verniciflua): Fast growing with glistening foliage and bright yellow flowers. Can be pruned into a graceful weeping shape or a dense shrub. Tolerates drought and moderate frost. Good habitat, attracting native butterflies and other insects which feed on flower pollen. Attracts insects eating birds. Excellent screening plant and fantastic for filling gaps in the shrub layer of your garden.
- Austral indigo (Indigofera australis): A fast growing showy ornamental with pretty mauve to purple (sometimes white) pea-like flowers. Best effects achieved by group plantings. After the first year, cut straggly branches back at base in winter to promote dense growth and many flowers. Tolerates moderate frost and extended wet periods in well periods in well drained soil. Good fauna habitat. Attracts native insects which fed on pollen.
- Smooth Darling-pea (Swainsona galegifolia): This plant has showy orange-red pea-like, long lasting flowers. Tolerates drought and some frost. Good habitat. Looks great as a single specimen plant or in mass plantings (1m apart). For best results, cut back stems each year in mid winter. Keep an eye on snail and slug numbers when new growth starts in late winter. Attractive addition to a rockery.
- Handsome flat-pea (Platylobium formosum): Fast growing low shrub with showy yellow and red flowers. Tolerates drought and frost. Attracts butterflies and other insects. Birds feed on the insects and seeds. A great shrub for providing different leaf shape and habitat in a garden.
- Box leaf wattle (Acacia buxifolia): Attractive contrast plant with blue-grey foliage and a spectacular display of flowers. Very hardy and tolerates drought and frost. Good habitat, attracting butterflies and other insect eating birds. Regular pruning will keep plant vigorous and to the desired size.
- Hop Bush (Dodonaea spp): A versatile shrub, this plant can be used as a hedge, in screening, in rock gardens and under trees. It has attractive reddish fruit in summer. Prune lightly to promote bushiness. Tolerates drought and provides habitat and pollen for butterflies and other insects. Its foliage, fruit and seeds provide habitat and forage for small birds.
- Burgan/Kanuka (Kunzea ericoides): Striking when in flower, this plant has numerous heads of tiny cream flowers. It is fast growing and great for getting a new garden started. It tolerates drought and frost. Burgan provides good habitat, refuge and nectar for small birds, lizards and insects.
- Grevillea (Grevillea sp): Grevilleas are very popular and often have ornamental foliage and a variety of flower colours. They are fast growing, drought tolerant and very tolerant of clay soils. Good habitat, attracting many native birds. There is a species suitable for practically every position in the garden.
- Native Fuchsia (Correa reflexa): Fast growing with beautiful flossy green leaves and bell-shaped flowers in a variety of colours. This plant is suited to almost any situation. Reasonably hardly and will tolerate dry periods. Prefers some shade. For the best results plant in clusters (2m apart). Tip prune to promote bushiness. Attracts native birds.
- Emu-bush (Eremophila glabra): Useful contrast plant with silver-green foliage. It has a variety of coloured flowers that bloom over a long period. Very hardy and tolerates drought and frost. Versatile and can be grown in the garden or in a tub. For the best results, grow in a sunny, well drained position and prune each year. Good habitat, attracting native birds.
- River Bottle Brush (Callistemon sieberi): Callistemons can be a good screening plant when pruned as a hedge. There are many varieties to suit different site conditions from small trees to low shrubs. This shrub is fast growing and attracts birds. It is hardy in most soils and conditions, but prefers moist areas. A beautiful specimen plant.
- Happy Wanderer (Hardenbergia violacea): Fast growing climbers or scrambler with purple or white flowers. Tolerates drought and frost. Good habitat and attracts native insects which provide food for insect eating birds. Provides cover for native reptiles. Needs little or no pruning. Old plants can be rejuvenated by hard pruning.
- Twining Glycine (Glycine clandestine): Delicate climber with mauve to rose-purple or white flowers. Tolerates drought and most frosts. Good habitat. It attracts native insects that feed on nectar. Looks great growing on fences, logs and in pots. Improves soil fertility by fixing nitrogen.
- Traveller’s Joy (Clematis microphylla): Fast growing and well behaved climber. Can be trained to cover fences and pergolas. Tolerates drought and full sun or semi-shade. Prefers good drainage. Old growth may need to be thinned.
- Bower Climber (Pandorea jasminoides): Robust, fast growing climber with pink, long-lasting flowers. Grows well in shady areas. Tolerates dry periods and light frost. Tip pruning promotes lateral growth. May need to be pruned to curb spread. Suitable for trellises and pergolas.
- Hickory Wattle (Acacia implexa): This is a long-lived acacia with sickle-shaped leaves and cream, ball-shaped flowers. It prefers well drained soil in an open situation. It is frost resistant. Excellent habitat for insects and birds. Improves soil fertility through nitrogen fixation.
- Manchurian Pear (Pyrus ussuriensis): A popular deciduous tree for urban backyards that now boasts many cultivars with different plant growth characteristics. It is a relatively fast growing, hardy tree with beautiful white blossoms in early spring and colourful foliage in autumn. This species does not bear edible fruit. This is a very versatile shade tree in summer and tolerates local conditions well.
- Dwarf Apple (Angophora hispida): Fast growing native ornamental tree. Stunning with clusters of large, creamy flowers against olive-green foliage. Very hardy and tolerates drought. Good habitat with the flowers attracting native birds and insects.
- Gungurru (Eucalyptus caesia): Fast growing, bird attracting, drought tolerant, beautiful specimen tree with weeping habitat. The cultivar ‘Silver Princess’ is more upright. Great for floral decoration. It has deep, blue-green foliage with pink- red flowers. Attracts birds and insects.
- Yellow Bloodwood (Corymbia eximia ‘Nana’): Spectacular in flower with clusters of large, cream perfumed blossoms against a dense canopy of bluish foliage. Very hardy and tolerates drought. This tree is fast growing and will grow in poor soil. Can be frost sensitive when young. Good habitat, attracting native birds and insects.
- Native Frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum): This tree will suit a large or small garden due to its slender form. It has highly perfumed creamy, yellow flowers and deep green leaves. It is striking as a feature plant or in a small grouping. It is reasonably hardy and will tolerate dry periods. It is frost sensitive when young.
- White Cypress-Pine (Callitris glaucophylla): This tree is a local conifer. Makes a great shade and specimen tree. It is slender with fine grey-green foliage and spreading branches. It will tolerate extended dry conditions. Requires good drainage. Good habitat, attracting insect eating birds.
- Tussock Grass (Poa labillardieri): Attractive ornamental that can be used in gardens and rockeries. Frost and drought tolerant. Good habitat, attracting native birds which eat its seed and use it for cover. Attracts native reptiles.
- Foxtail speargrass (Austrostipa elegantissima): Attractive ornamental which grows well in rockeries or under trees. Frost and drought tolerant. Good habitat, attracting native birds which eat its seed. Also attracts moths and native butterflies.
- Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra): Versatile grass is often tinged red providing contrast in gardens and rockeries. Drought tolerant and has low to moderate frost tolerance. Good habitat, attracting birds which eat its seed. Attracts lizards, frogs, insects and small mammals which use it for cover.
- Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia spp.): Hardy ornamental providing contrast in gardens and rockeries. Frost and drought tolerant. Good habitat, attracting native birds which eat its seeds. Some small birds nest in it. Attracts native reptiles which use it for cover. Old plants may be pruned to encourage growth