What can I do about climate change in my garden?

However small or large your garden is, there's lots you can do to help combat the causes and effects of climate breakdown

Gardens are set to become increasingly important in the future. They're great for human health and wellbeing, they can help maintain biodiversity and they can even remove carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

As the impacts of climate change make themselves ever more apparent, the positive impacts of gardens will become ever more important. Here are 9 ways you can maximise the benefits.

Trees and plants help tackle climate change by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. They can reduce the risk of flooding by slowing down rainwater runoff. Planting climbers on your house will help keep it cool during summer heatwaves and reduce heating costs in winter. Growing a hedge in your front garden can even capture particulate pollution, such as exhaust from cars and lorries.

Growing a range of different plants in your garden is great for building resilience. If extreme weather such as flooding or drought damages some plants, others will be fine. As weather patterns shift, some insects that depend on particular flowers might suffer, so plant a diverse variety of pollinator friendly plants with different flowering times.

Green roofs and walls can result in year–round home energy savings due to a cooling effect in summer and an insulating effect in winter. Improve energy efficiency through use of technologies and try to reduce the use of petrol–powered tools. Hiring or sharing tools is the most environmentally friendly option; choose corded electric tools where possible.

Water butts are a brilliant solution to some of the problems being created by climate change. They help prevent flooding by reducing the load on drains during rainstorms, and help conserve water during droughts. Look for water butts with a larger than standard capacity to ensure a sufficient water supply over the summer. Select plants and design strategies better suited to your local conditions.

Peatlands store huge amounts of carbon. Harvesting the peat to use for composts is an environmental disaster, both for the area which is harvested and on a global climate scale. Look, ask for and use peat–free composts. There are now some high quality products out there that work.

Compost as much garden and kitchen waste as you can. Adding home-made compost to your soil improves its structure and provides excellent nutrients for the garden. If you throw the material away as household waste, it can end up on landfill and produces potent greenhouse gases.

Adopt the 4R’s. Reduce – the use of resources in your garden wherever possible, Reuse – household materials and seasonal items year on year, Recycle – your garden waste, plastic, glass and metals and Reinvest – help stimulate demand for recycled products by buying recycled items.

As a first choice, avoid the use of chemicals in the garden. If required, use products with a lower carbon footprint, such as organic fertilisers. Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Adopt a combination of good plant biosecurity, biological, cultural and chemical controls in order to minimise the spread of pests and diseases.
Please – never bring plants back from your holidays, and only buy from reputable suppliers (this means both online and at plant nurseries). Otherwise you risk introducing new pests and diseases into the UK.

Also, please make sure that you dispose of garden waste in a responsible manner. Genenerally this means either by composting at home or in municipal composting schemes. The exception is if you have Japanese knotweed or other invasive non-native plants on your property, in which case seek specialist advice.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.