Sustainable Gardening … Looking Toward a Sustainable Future

One of the most important questions we face today is: what sort of Australia do we want to leave to our children? What sort of planet will they bring their children into? The future is not somewhere we are going, but something we are creating right here, right now with every decision, action and choice we make.

In Australia, we have a beautiful and unique environment and many aspects of it are in good condition by international standards.

Sustainable landscaping is extremely important now and all gardens should be drought tolerant and the majority of planting should be indigenous and native species – our Australian native plants are so rich in textural beauty.

Our country is blessed with great climatic diversity, but up until quite recently our gardening ideals were those imported by our founders, and largely inappropriate for our conditions.

In the 1940s, it was the influential landscape designer Edna Walling who said that Australia should look to Spain and Italy for gardening inspiration, not England. Walling’s philosophy was not simply to copy from other countries, but to start appreciating our own unique indigenous flora and weave it into our gardens. She encouraged Australians to see the beauty of our native species and stop the indiscriminate clearing of natural vegetation. She urged us in her book The Australian Roadside to ‘not continue to view the roadside plants as so much “scrub” but as the very interesting, fitting and invaluable plants they really are’.

We should be using more and more natives incorporating them into planting schemes along with exotics to create more natural-style landscaping that unites the Australian house with its garden. Local grasses have become an attractive and more textural alternative to lawns as landscape designers use them in architectural ways. Australia is developing a gardening language of our own and native plants are very much a part of it. We’re using them in interesting ways more suited to our conditions, which is making people look at natives in a new light.

It’s a trend that’s happening all over the world and with good reason. Intelligent gardening is about choosing plants that can deliver the structure, the intimacy, the colour, the texture, the shapes and the shelter that we need. Because it’s a living, growing landscape, we should invest in suitable plants for the conditions, improvement to the soil where necessary, and critically, how we use water.

With severe water restrictions in place throughout many parts of the country we should all be thinking about what we can do to save water around the home. The cool green lawn, once an icon of the great Australian dream home, has become something of a nightmare in today’s climate of drought. Long out of step with the landscape that wraps around much of Australia, they’ve become a luxury that most simply cannot afford.

Placement of plants within the garden is important as you can save water by grouping plants with similar water requirements together.

Make sure your garden is mulched and water crystals are used to help the soil retain moisture, install a trigger nozzle on your hose and install a water tank.

By installing a water tank, you can reduce your water consumption quite significantly. If you think about it, only a small percentage of water is actually used for human consumption, the majority of it we don’t even come into contact with! This is where a water tank can really help save. The tank will collect all the water runoff from your roof and store it to use on the garden or for clothes washing or toilet flushing.

Water features have to be chosen carefully to reduce surface area and splash to minimise water lost to evaporation.

By composting green garden waste and feeding kitchen scraps to worms in a worm farm, you not only reduce the amount of rubbish in your bin but at the same time improve the health of your garden soil and plants because it creates a fertile mixture that can be used to enhance the healthy growth of plants. You could think of a worm farm as a kind of factory, where you provide the raw materials and the worms process them into an excellent organic fertiliser, wasting nothing. Worm farms introduce another wonderful way to reduce landfill.

Sustainability and the green revolution cannot be a fad, trend or fashion. Sustainable Gardening should just be part of our natural evolution and what we do from this moment onwards. We won’t achieve a sustainable future unless we embrace new values. Rather than the inevitably futile path of trying to dominate nature, we need to connect with her, we need to understand the limits of natural systems and live within those limits.