Grow more, use less – a step-by-step guide to creating a sustainable garden

These days we live in such a ‘now’ culture of instant gratification that we can forget to think ahead to future generations and understand how what we do today will have repercussions for them. All of us play a part in ensuring that we enrich the world in some way and leave it better than we found it. Sometimes, this can feel overwhelming or near impossible, but even small steps can make a meaningful difference.

Gardening naturally lends itself to sustainable practices such as reducing, reusing, repurposing and recycling.

Nature embodies the concepts of renewal and reinvention, breaking down and building up again. Almost all of us have the opportunity to have a garden in some shape or form, be it a backyard plot or some potted herbs. Here are some simple and practical ways to be sustainable in your own garden:


You could either buy a compost bin or make a compost heap. This is a great way to reuse organic waste such as kitchen scraps, old leaves, grass clippings and cardboard. Once ready, it can then be used to fertilise your garden.

Create a pallet garden

There are a number of ways to create a garden with old pallets. Be sure that the pallet you’re going to use is made with untreated wood. One method is to simply wash and paint the pallet once dry, stand the pallet upright and place the right sized plants in their existing containers between the slats. Salad greens, herbs, and small varieties of flowers such as geranium could work well.

Here’s another way of creating a vertical pallet planter, you will need:

  • A pallet
  • Paint (or you could keep it natural)
  • Screws
  • Extra pieces of wood such as decking timber
  • Some sheets of food-grade plastic for lining (this is optional but will help the wood last longer)
  • Organic potting soil
  • Staple gun, if using lining
  • A selection of plants (varieties that don’t require a lot of water will work best)

Step 1: Find a pallet in good condition. Measure and cut pieces of wood to create planter boxes at each level and screw them on.

Step 2: Paint your pallet in the colour of your choice (optional). Don’t worry about painting the areas you will plant in.

Step 3: Once dry, cut your plastic to size and staple it to the inside of each planter pocket. Cut off any excess pieces of plastic. If you’re planning to hang your pallet planter onto an outside wall, this is the best time to do this, before you plant in it.

Incorporate household items in your garden

Items such as drawers, an old ladder or old ceramics can be used to add charm in a cottage-style garden. Drawers can be used to plant in while a ladder creates the perfect frame for climbing or trailing plants.

You could use it either as a trellis structure up against a wall or even as an overhanging pergola structure secured to supported wooden poles. Old ceramics or pots can be used to plant in – think a bunch of flowers sprouting out of your grandmother’s old teapot.

Reuse Bricks

If you’ve got any bricks lying around these are perfect for making a path through your garden. Another option if you have an abundance is to make planter boxes out of them.

Go organic

When you choose organic products for your garden, you’re helping beneficial insects (as well as the people eating the produce), and you won’t be adding any unnecessary chemicals to your soil either. There are organic versions of almost everything from snail and slug control to fertiliser and soil conditioner.

Grow veggies in hessian bags

With the amount of coffee people drink there’s often an excess of hessian coffee bean sacks. They have lots of uses in the garden, from storing root vegetables to soil receptacles for seasonal crops such as greens and herbs.

Reuse cereal boxes and envelopes – cut up cereal boxes or cardboard to create little organisers/labels for seed packs and use old envelopes to collect seeds in.

Reuse Glass jars

Use these to store seeds. Jars are great as they are airtight, moisture-resistant and offer excellent visibility. They are also non-reactive, which means they won’t react with seeds.

It’s important to avoid placing your jars in direct sunlight, as UV rays can damage the seeds.

Egg cartons

You can grow seeds in these – they can then be torn off and planted. Because egg cartons are small, already compartmentalised and easy to handle and use, they are ideal. The shape of an egg carton also makes it easy to pop on a sunny windowsill.

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