Welcome to the very first official Paw the Love of Earth blog post! We spent a lot of time deliberating what we should share first. In the end, the coming of the new season seemed too symbolic to pass up on.
As you may know, the first official day of Spring is now just one week away. With the nights becoming lighter and a little warmer, now is the perfect time to finish clearing away the remnants of winter and preparing your garden for the year to come. But please be careful and think reuse before refuse – a lot of what you might be tempted to throw away can give some fantastic benefits to your plot with a little repurposing and elbow grease. Below are some eco-friendly, animal (wild and pet) safe suggestions to help you prepare for your very own blooming good garden!
Clear up on aisle 1, and 2…. and all the rest.
Exactly as simple as it sounds. Start the season as you mean to go on, by having a good spring clean. Sweep any patios, collect any foliage, and clear up any debris or leftover fruit fall. For ultimate satisfaction, save all compostables as well as anything timber, or interesting, for later use. We found the promise of a hot cocoa afterwards to be a great incentive for hard workers, so no reason not to get everyone involved.
[Re]Build the barricades – and borders
2015 was particularly bad for rough winds and unpleasant weather. Welcome Spring to its own sanctuary in your garden by repairing any damage fence panels or posts, making sure any damaged trees and plants are safely and correctly taken care of. Next, it makes sense to follow all good generals and draw up your plan for 2016. Design and mark out any new borders and flowerbeds you wish to develop, making sure to leave space for any sustainable projects (more on these to come). Finally, take the time to reset all of your existing features, but bear in mind that nature’s little critters will be grateful for a few extra weeks of dead growth cover.
We like big butts and we cannot lie
Yup, you heard us. But of course we mean water butts, a wonderfully thoughtful and environmentally friendly solution to your garden’s water needs. These can be readily purchased from gardening centres, or constructed at home from repurposed materials. We recommend plastic bins, as they are more robust, and the plastic is much better repurposed than sent to landfill or a recycling centre. If you don’t have one, lined and sealed wooden units or old barrels can also make great solutions. If plastic is too ugly, or unnatural for the garden look you want, then get creative and consider cladding your plastic bin with some fallen branches. Similarly, if you prefer a modern or unique look, customise your plastic bin with whatever works for you!
We suggest that butts with lids are safest for gardens with pets, children, or regular visitors, and find that taps are a convenience that more than make up for the small hassle of installation. Making your own agree, and also recommend steam cleaning your butt before use, and obviously avoiding any plastics that have had heavy contact with chemicals.
Again, it’s your garden and your rules, so if you prefer to go lidless, or tapless, then get creative, and feel free to share your photos here. Near empty butts can be difficult to use without a tap, but a well-style bucket lift would certainly bring some ingenuity and original character to your build.
Pay your doos
Though we don’t mean this literally, unless you are confident and have thoroughly researched how to do this safely. Much of your natural garden, and vegetable food waste however, can be paid back to the earth, for your garden to reap the benefits throughout the year. Yes, we are talking about the gardeners equivalent of a magic elixir; compost!
Compost bins can be purchased as kits or complete units, but its oftentimes more fun and environmentally pleasing to build your own. This is also a great opportunity to take care of the leftovers from your cleanup. The scale of your leftovers – and your compost project – will of course be determined by the size of your plot, but any materials from large rocks, bricks and sleepers, through to branches and old pallets can all be useful in construction.
As a general rule of thumb, any non-toxic plant life and vegetable waste is suitable for recycling in a compost bin. Equally, without special treatment, most pet waste should be considered NOT suitable for composting. Research is still being conducted on pet waste safety, and in any case, special chemicals and additives are needed to add to the bin to create a usable compost. The biggest exception we are aware of is chicken or other domestic poultry waste. Too toxic and harsh to be applied straight to plant or vegetable beds, poultry litter is actually a wonderful natural activator and works well when added to your other organic composting waste. If ever in doubt, consult a legitimate expert or authority, such as the Royal Horticultural Society, and remember to use compost you are unsure about solely on plant beds rather than your vegetables.
There are all manner of critters and crawlers that can be unwelcome in your plant life. Here at PtLoE we respect your right to a beautiful garden, but we also respect the balance of nature, and all creatures’ right to life. As a result, all of our solutions are non-harmful to your garden or your slugs, snails, and minibeasts. We heartily implore you to at least give them a try before your resort to anything more drastic. Our favourite solutions include:
- Seaweed – layer this around your precious plants and vegetable beds, as slugs and snails won’t cross such a salty surface. In summer, the seaweed dries out and creates an abrasive obstacle that acts as its own deterrent.
- Coffee grounds – fairly pH neutral and rich in nitrogen, coffee grounds deter slugs, fertilise the soil, and are a common kitchen waste product that should always be recycled.
- Good old collection, plain, simple, or complicated – repeatedly moving offenders can protect your plants over time and discourage repeat offenders. This can be done by hand at night when they are most active, or over a period of time using a variety of safe traps and collection tools. Grapefruit halves (food) and cardboard (shelter) are just two effective collection traps that are safe and friendly.
- Garden management – this can be twofold. The first stage involves keeping them away from your plants, by watering in the day so the soil is less moist after dark, when garden pests are most active. The second and less published option, is to divert unwanted visitors by instead creating a safe space for them, away from plants you want to protect.
Please let us urge you away from salt, beer, and nematodes. Not only are these a lethal solution that are literally overkill to the problem, but these substances are so strong that they present a danger to your plants and can damage the soil.
Not an heir to Gondor? Never fear, Steward over your garden instead
Spring is a great time to start planning and creating houses for desirable critters. We find the best source for helpful tips and support to be the RSPB, who’s ‘make a home for wildlife’ campaign is brilliant and deserves more support. With a little information on what you’d like to build a home for (bugs, bees, birds, insects oh my) the most basic of waste becomes a fantastic asset, limited only by your imagination.
Our particular favourite project is the bee hotel. Poor bees are cute, full of energy with their buzzing, and come equipped with stylish and cuddly little fuzzy jackets. Unfortunately, they are also vital to our ecosystem, overworked and in decline. We recommend leftover wood from delivery pallets, or old birdhouses and drawers, and a mix of bamboo and drilled wood.
And there it is, our first blog post has come to an end. All comments are deeply appreciated; any photos or stories of your own projects are eagerly anticipated. As always, if you would like to request any further information or get in touch with the paws behind this blog directly, we can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope this article helps you to take a positive step towards a happier planet.
Thank you for your time!