A sustainable garden not only looks great and is fun to be in, but can also enhance the passive design features of the house, improve air quality and water management and assist with food production. Sustainable gardens can also provide habitat and are important links for biodiversity.
Whatever your favourite style of garden, here are some tips to make your patch of paradise more sustainable:
- Collect and retain stormwater on site. Including rainwater tanks, rain gardens, swales and berms in strategic positions will help keep water away from your house, neighbouring properties and the street, mean less manual watering and healthier plants.
- Use natural and untreated landscaping materials. Chemicals and dyes from treated wood, paving, concrete and mulch can leach into the soil and into our waterways. If you are growing food in your garden, try to eliminate any treated material in the garden bed to prevent absorption into the plants.
- Use sustainably grown and managed timber for decking and garden features. Commonly used hardwoods, such as merbau, are imported from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia and are currently listed as threatened species.
- Retain soil from your property. The soil from your property is the best for your garden, retain as much topsoil from your land as possible to re-use in your new landscape. The topsoil contains lots of good bacteria, worms and nutrients that help your garden stay healthy
- Choose your pest control wisely. There are many eco-friendly pest control products available for both insects and weeds. If you have pets, consider carefully the effect any pest control product could have on your animals.
- Use indigenous plant species to improve the survival rate and reduce maintenance requirements. Indigenous plants have become accustomed to local conditions over many years and will tolerate the soil conditions, longer periods of drought and the temperature range better than plants that come from different parts of Australia.
- Grow some of your food. You don’t have to start with a large dedicated vegetable patch. Start small and try using existing garden beds. Inter-planting with ornamental plants with similar food and water requirements can look great and it confuses the insects that might want to feast on your food.
- Compost your food waste in either a compost bin or a worm farm. Homemade compost or worm tea is easy to make and it's full of nutrients and free food for your plants.
Feeding birds and animals
Feeding birds and animals is discouraged as it eventually makes them dependent upon humans for their food supply. We often unintentionally feed them the wrong foods or only part of what they need in their diets and it makes them sick. When they gather in large numbers it is an ideal situation for diseases to be passed on and the problem just spreads.
You can assist birds and animals on really hot days by leaving large dishes of clean water around the garden. Make sure some are elevated so birds are safe from other animals.
Indigenous species and vegetable seedlings propagated locally are available at:
Edendale Indigenous Plant Nursery
30 Gastons Road, Eltham 3095
Vertical gardens for small spaces:
Enter Energy and Water Saving Shop
105 Ryans Road, Eltham 3095
We are working with Melbourne Water to identify ways to use stormwater more efficiently and adopt water sensitive urban design measures.
One way we’ve been doing this is by building raingardens in our local environment, such as the one at Edendale. It was created in 2006 and can be found in front of the outdoor shelter near the nursery.
We are working towards implementing the Integrated Water Management Plan, which provides a strategic direction for improved water management throughout Council operations and the Nillumbik community.
Raingardens are just as important at home as they are in our streets. They are an attractive, low-cost and easy-to-maintain way to keep cleaner, healthier rivers and creeks. For this reason Council has partnered with Melbourne Water to encourage homeowners to build their own raingarden to effectively manage stormwater at home.
For more information about the benefits of raingardens and how to build one, visit Melbourne Water’s raingardens website. Help Melbourne Water reach their target of 10,000 raingardens by registering your raingarden today.
What is a raingarden?
Raingardens help contribute to cleaner, healthier rivers and creeks, by removing contaminants from stormwater before it reaches our waterways. They can be built in private yards or public spaces such as streets, parks and schools.
Raingardens work by using layers of soil and gravel to filter out pollutants such as litter, oil, excess nutrients, chemicals and sediment. These normally build up on hard surfaces (such as roads, car parks, roofs and driveways) and are washed into drains and into our rivers, creeks and bays where they have a detrimental effect on waterway health and the animals, plants and fish that rely on them for their survival.
Interested in doing more to help your local rivers and creeks? Find out more about Waterwatch - a network of people committed to improving and protecting the health of our waterways.
Council runs a number of information sessions and workshops to assist residents, including how to improve soil, composting and worm farming, seed saving, rabbit control, weed management and many other topics. Check out the current Environmental Activities Program for the next session.