The low-carbon The garden

Kitchen Garden|June 2020

The low-carbon The garden
Gardeners are green-minded folk, but even our seemingly innocuous pastime has its impacts. With more of us looking to be planet-friendly and lower our carbon footprints, Benedict Vanheems asks: how can kitchen gardening play its part?

Over the past year, climate change– perhaps more appropriately termed the ‘climate crisis’ in the wake of its urgency – has been hitting the headlines. Recent wildfires in Australia and floods closer to home bring the shocking reality of the situation to life. No longer is it a distant threat; the climate is changing now, with the weather turning ever more extreme and global temperatures already up a full degree Celsius over the past century. The rate of change is gathering pace too.

At first glance, gardening isn’t a huge contributor, but every aspect of our life contributes to our carbon footprint: from what we wear, to how we travel, the way we heat our homes, and, yes, how we garden. The good news is gardens can be a powerful force for good, helping to chip away at our impact and shining a light on the positive ways we can push back at this very grave threat.

This article concentrates on ways to lower the carbon footprint of how we garden, but many of the principles will also help to give wildlife a helping hand while making our neighbourhoods happier, healthier places to be.


Talk of banning peat from compost and growing bags has been around for decades, so I’m unsure why it’s still available! Peatlands are an important store of carbon because they remove it from the atmosphere to sequester it (lock it up), frozen in time, as organic matter. Estimates put the carbon locked up in UK peat bogs as equivalent to eight years of the country’s entire carbon emissions. Draining and extracting peat releases prodigious quantities of carbon, while compromising the peatland’s ability to continue locking it up.

As gardeners, the solution’s simple: avoid peat! Buy carefully – if it doesn’t explicitly say ‘peat-free’ on the packaging it most likely isn’t. Peat-free composts give excellent results and are used by professional growers up and down the country, so you really aren’t missing out. Even better, make your own potting compost by mixing garden-made compost and leaf mould – two parts of the former to one part of the latter – then add some slow-release organic fertiliser or worm compost for a boost of nutrients.



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June 2020