Skip to content Skip to navigation

Durstons’ Top Tips to Make Your Garden Eco-Friendly This Summer

The sun has finally put his hat on and – hopefully having survived the recent cold snaps – gardens and allotments around the UK are bursting to life and approaching their peak season of growth and abundance. As growers steal their pitchforks to contend with the inevitable army of garden pests, weeds and predators, we look at ways to maintain an environmentally friendly plot without sacrificing your flowers and vegetables to the wildlife.

Root Causes

Soil is at the root of all plant life, and those who are serious about sustainable gardening need to embrace peat-free growing media to ensure their efforts are working in harmony with nature. Peatlands not only provide over a quarter of our drinking water, but also store a significant amount of carbon.  The preservation of our native peatlands is crucial for the all-round biodiversity and environmental health of Britain, putting the onus on gardeners to choose sustainable, peat-free growing media for all their growing needs, from fruit, vegetables and herbs to flowers, shrubs and trees. By choosing organic and peat-free soils you can play your part in helping to preserve our unique natural landscapes, but without compromising on the quality essential to successful growing.


Pest Control

The government’s recent ban on metaldehyde-based slug pellet is welcome news for Britain’s precious native wildlife, including the songbirds and hedgehogs which eat slugs and snails and were frequently poisoned by extension.

Sadly for gardeners, slugs are not going away. In fact they’re hatching as we speak! So what can you do to control these mighty menaces? If you have access to raw wool, try packing it around the roots of your tender young vegetables and other vulnerable plants like sunflowers and strawberries. Not only will the wool prevent slugs and snails from crawling to their preferred destination, it will also help to keep moisture in the soil, drip-feed nutrition via the lanolin oils in the sheep’s wool and also provide insulation against unseasonable cold snaps!


The Weather

Speaking of cold snaps… this is Britain, after all, and our temperamental islands have been known to experience ground frost as late as June. Fingers crossed that we won’t experience that this year, but the weather can still get very chilly at night and in the early mornings. You can protect tender shoots in a non-polluting way by covering them with large and mature rhubarb leaves. These are especially good at keeping late frost off fresh potato leaves.

You can also stand greenhouse plant pots in old cardboard boxes to ward off any night-time chills, and raise them off the floor to keep them at a higher temperature. If frost is forecast, build make-shift cloches out of folded newspapers or old sheets and pillowcases, but take care to remove them ahead of rain.

Come July or August, when drought is a more likely problem than frost, beat the dreaded hosepipe ban by ensuring you have a supply of rainwater tanked-up from the spring.

Never water in full sun, but leave it until late afternoon or early evening - when the heat won’t evaporate vital moisture from leaves and soil and waste your precious supply.

Tape newspaper or old cotton sheets to the inside of your greenhouse to prevent plants inside getting scorched, or coat lightly with eco-friendly white paint that will help protect leaves from the glare of the sun.



You can be sure that the one thing the frost won’t touch is weeds and, although drought can be their downfall, the combination of spring showers and sunshine can often leave you with a flourishing bed of weeds to contend with. The silver lining is that there is a variety of so-called ‘weeds’ which might present themselves as your enemy but are very good friends to pollinating insects including bees and butterflies.

As people become more environmentally aware, the benefits of plants like dandelions, which are actually very nutritious as well as being great for insects, are coming to their awareness. Dandelions are strong, however, and can easily outperform grass if left to their own devices. If you want to encourage pollinators whilst also having a lawn fit for personal use, you can designate certain patches for wilding and mow around them. The rest of your flowers and other plants will certainly thank you, as will the rest of mother nature.

Nettles are another frequently despised garden hero which are actually highly beneficial, with country dwellers still using young nettles to make nutritious soups and teas. Once they’re past their tender peak, you can use nettle cuttings – and equally ubiquitous comfrey-leaves - to make a potassium-rich fertilizer by soaking the leaves into a bucket or tank of water until it goes rotten and creates a fantastic (but very smelly!) soup for your fruit bushes and trees.

Now we’ve mentioned comfrey, we can’t ignore the fact that this extremely hardy plant is difficult to kills for a reason! Not only will it help you create fantastic natural fertiliser for allotments and gardens, it’s also one of the most bee-friendly plants that’s native to the UK. Around this time of year, when comfrey starts to bloom, bees will be buzzing around their delicate bell-shaped flowers in a state of ecstasy! This is one of the most heroic plants to encourage pollinators, and its myriad benefits mean it’s not to be shunned or excavated out of the ground.


To mow or not to mow

Ok, we realise that metre-high grass in your back garden is hardly conducive to either spring-summer outdoor entertaining or good neighbourly relations, but it IS the best thing you can do for wildlife! Perennial green wisdom says you should forego lawn-mowing in May, as this is the peak time for wildflower growth and the early food this provides for essential pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. So if you can tolerate the untidiness that little bit longer, mother nature will certainly thank you in the long run. All good gardeners and allotment holders should try to cultivate a ’wild’ patch in their plot which is totally given over to nature. Giant nettles might look menacing to your eyes, but to red admiral butterflies they look like the perfect place to lay their eggs, and what could be more wonderful than a cloud of beautiful and colourful butterflies come August?