Whether you have a little tiny yard or a bigger space, creating an eco garden sanctuary is something that you can spend time perfecting, if you are feeling stressed or dream of growing your own food. In fact, a smaller space is likely easier, as you can get creative to include all kinds of lovely stuff, on a smaller budget. Here are some nice ideas.
Garden Retreat by Lady McElroy
Sage Green Garden Tin & Twine Holder Set is perfect for a spot of gardening, and includes a vintage-style storage canister tin and matching garden twine dispenser. Made from sturdy metal, the caddy has a removable lid with rubber seal and handle to easily open and fill. There is a blanket label slot to the front, use the caddy to hold seeds, twine and scissors, plant markers or vegan gardening gloves. The antique-style Fleur de Lys motif is ideal to keep in the potting shed. Complete with a handy pair of scissors and roll of natural eco jute twine to help secure plants, and for other gardening odd jobs. Made to order, from little workshop in the heart of West Yorkshire.
Books to Help Create an Eco Garden Sanctuary
The Ecological Gardener is a book to show how to transform your garden into a self-sustaining haven for nature and wildlife. Matt shares inspirational design ideas and practical projects, to create a garden that is both beautiful today, and sustainable tomorrow. See make your garden safe for pets to know toxic plants and other items to avoid.
Learn how to build a garden that welcomes birds and bees, and allows native planting and wildflowers to flourish, with minimal carbon impact or need for fresh water. Ideal for novice or experienced gardens, you’ll learn how to:
- Find the right design for your space
- Create a wildflower meadow
- Build rainwater catchments
- Conserve water
- Make compost from kitchen waste
- Make leaf mould & compost tea
- Create a hedgehog-friendly garden
- Find beauty in your garden, in winter
Matt Rees-Warren is an ecological gardener, designer and writer. He has designed gardens for private clients in south west England and also worked for the National Trust and Kilver Court Gardens. He is an advocate of organic gardening, permaculture, no-dig gardening and wildlife gardening.
The Grove is a book by landscape historian and gardener Ben Dark, who has been called ‘the Millennial Monty!’ and the future of horticulture. After graduating with a degree in history from Bristol University, he studied horitculture and has helped to build award-winning gardens across the country, as well as writing on gardening in major newspapers and magazines.
In this book, he visits the wilderness of London’s remarkable front gardens, with his infant son in tow, as he visits a typical South London street. Each tree or flower tells a tale, and each species was seen from one pavement over 12 months, something that could be discovered on any road in any town. Find renewed interest in the nature on your doorstep, as you learn to identify wildflowers and become an amateur botanist yourself.
Find remarkable secrets from Ben Dark on 20 common species including rose, wisteria, buddleja (the ‘butterfly bush’, box and tulip. So more than a single street, find stories of ambition, envy, hope and failure. A book on gardens, and why they matter.
Creating a Garden Retreat is an artist’s guide to creating a sanctuary with a heart. Virginia is a textile designer and has transformed a small narrow city lot into a garden that is personal, wild and welcoming. It began with a fence to let her children play freely but safely and now is a city-dweller’s secret garden. Bringing her ideas to life with words and illustrations, readers are encouraged and empowered to start their own garden journeys, organised through trees and shrubs, vines, flowers, seasons and edibles.
Planting with Nature: A Guide to Sustainable Gardening is a book on how we can imagine the design of our gardens in new ways, to support local wildlife, tackle the climate crisis and improve our health. If we all take small positive steps, we can really make a difference. Although this book focuses mostly on the Scottish climate, the information is relevant for gardeners further south (especially in northern England, which has similar climate and wildlife).
If you garden alongside animals, make your garden safe for pets to avoid toxic plants and other items (also learn toxic houseplants to avoid – don’t display foliage facing windows, to help stop birds flying into windows).
The practical information includes:
- Planting nectar-rich borders
- Wildflower meadows
- Hedgerows, shrubs & trees
- Building bird boxes and ponds
- Growing fruit and vegetables
- Building rain gardens & green roofs
- Making your own compost
- Creating new plants through propagation
- Attracting birds, bees, butterflies & insects
Although the book focuses on bug boxes and feeders, many experts say it’s better to focus on planting for wildlife for two reasons; firstly so wildlife does not come to rely on humans, and secondly because building bee houses in excess etc can lead to disease and being targeted by predators, as too many are ‘easy pickings’ in the same spot.
Kirsty Wilson is Garden Manager at Royal Botanica Gardens in Edinburgh and a regular panellist on Radio 4 BBC Question Time. The book is illustrated by horticulturalist Hazel France.
Prairie Up is a beautiful guide and invaluable reference to creating a natural garden, landscaped with native plants. Create plant communities that support wildlife and please the eye, rather than use traditional planting and maintenance. Richly photographed to inspire.
The Climate Change Garden is a book on how to grow a garden that is resilient against a rapidly-changing world of weather extremes. It’s no longer gardening as usual, due to heat waves, droughts, floods and violent storms. The weather caused by climate change is now on our doorstep, and gardeners worldwide are feeling the effect, not to mention pets that have to deal with finding cool shaded areas.
Many plants (including all bulbs) and other items (like some mulch and fresh compost) are toxic to pets. See how to make your garden safe for pets and toxic houseplants to avoid, if gardening alongside animal friends. Never send floral bouquets (or plantable cards) to households with pets, to keep them safe. Never display foliage near garden windows, to help stop birds flying into windows.
Certain unwelcome garden visitors are now staying active until much later in the season, yet many plants are blooming earlier, soils are eroding and degrading, and unpredictable rainfall is water-logging our gardens. And fiercer storms are uprooting trees and snapping branches. And the effects of prolonged drought means water rationing is often practiced. So what’s a gardener to do?
This book shows how to protect your garden against climate extremes, invasive weeds and more. It looks at which types of gardeners are better to deal with what, and offers tips on how to temper the issues. Learn how to:
- Adapt plant selections and maintenance techniques
- Select vegetables and fruits that adapt to weather extremes
- Manage storm water runoff & minimise heat island effect
- Foster wildlife and create safe havens in a changing world
- Use season extenders (cold frames, high tunnels, row covers)
- Reduce carbon footprint (no-till, green roofs, composting)
- Limit risks from wind, frost and snow (planting wind breaks etc)
- Plant the right trees (cool homes, slow water & hold soil in place)
I love this book. It’s the savvy guide to future-proofing your garden against weather extremes through climate change. Frances Tophill
Sally Morgan is a botanist with a lifelong interest in gardening. She owns an organic farm where she teaches courses and gives talks on gardening and farming. Kim Stoddart writes on climate change and resilient gardening.
Books to Help You Be a Greener Gardener
These books to help you be a greener gardener are specifically about saving energy and water, to help protect the planet as you grow your fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. No matter how small your plot, you can make a big difference.
See plants & trees to avoid near pets (avoid cocoa/pine/rubber mulch & fresh compost near pets). Use humane safe slug/snail deterrents and no-dig methods to protect earthworms. See safer alternatives to netting for wildlife. Many plants (inc. yew & oak trees) are toxic to equines.
- Grow Green: Tips for Gardening with Intention is a guide to help you grow sustainable food and flowers, adjust your outdoor space to create a wildlife haven, reduce your impact on the planet and make fertiliser from leftovers. Learn how to plant in pots, reduce energy, conserve water and remove the stress of gardening.
- Gardening with Less Water is packed with ideas for low-tech ways to use up to 90% less water in your garden, for the same results. Learn how to install buried clay pots and pipes, wicking systems and other porous containers that deliver water direct to a plant’s roots, with little to no evaporation.
- Sustainable Gardening shows how to grow more plants with fewer resources, conserve water through plant choices and proper landscape, help prevent climate change through intelligent landscaping and create a garden that supports garden wildlife. Learn how to harvest rainwater, grow a sustainable lawn and include ornamental grasses in your landscape.
- Climate-Wise Landscaping offers expert tips on how to landscape your garden to help prevent climate change. Based on decades of experience, this book is packed with simple, practical steps anyone can take to beautify any landscape or garden, while helping protect the planet and the species that call it home. Topics include working actively to shrink your carbon footprint through mindful landscaping, creating cleaner air and water, increasing physical comfort during hotter seasons and supporting native wildlife.
How to Garden the Low-Carbon Way shows how a few changes can help to grow plants that reduce your carbon footprint, create a garden that considers local wildlife and set up a garden with low-impact plants and fertilisers. Use hedges instead of fences and grow shrubs to support wildlife and explore the benefits of no-dig gardening. Learn how to create:
- A reclaimed timber shed
- Paths without the paving
- A low-carbon meadow
- How to deal with weeds
- A rain garden
- Plants for pollinators
A Guide to Climate-Wise Landscaping
Climate-Wise Landscaping offers expert tips on how to landscape your garden to help prevent climate change. Based on decades of experience, this book is packed with simple, practical steps anyone can take to beautify any landscape or garden, while helping protect the planet and the species that call it home. Topics include working actively to shrink your carbon footprint through mindful landscaping, creating cleaner air and water, increasing physical comfort during hotter seasons and supporting native wildlife.
Make your garden safe for pets by knowing plants and other items to avoid, along with avoiding toxic houseplants (brushing a tail against a sago palm, lily or cheese plant can harm). Avoid facing indoor plants to outside foliage, to help stop birds flying into windows.
Sue & Ginny’s Tips on Climate Landscaping
Determine your local climate, before you plant. Most temperate zones (all of England!) get 30 inches of rain through the year, so you don’t have to limit yourself to cactus plants! It’s good to choose plants that can cope with water periods of hot weather or hosepipe bans. Look for native drought-tolerant plants, which thrive on local rainfall patterns.
Perennial and woody plants have good root systems that are good when planted in groups that make them more drought-tolerant, especially if they have similar water needs. If possible, plant them where they get good run-off from rainwater dropping from roofs and overflows from water-butts (or plant in swales).
Lawns are great for dogs, children and older people (and far better than artificial lawns which also get too hot in summer and don’t support any native wildlife). However if you live in an area with 20 inches or less of annual rainfall, a small easy-to-manage lawn is likely better than a massive thirsty one, and you may be able to afford to replace some of it with say a kitchen garden to grow your own food. Or plant an easy-to-maintain wildflower meadow, anything to avoid extensive artificial irrigation (sprinklers etc).
The book includes ten chapters covering the basics (lawns, trees, shrubs, soil) plus sections on ecosystems, planning and design, herbaceious plants, food and urban issues. You’ll also find fiver primers explaining the science of climate change, landscape chemicals, irrigation, native plants and soil ecosystems.
Tackling the lawn, trees, shrubs, soil, herbaceious and edible plants, tips include to stop using pesticides, reduce irrigation and replace plants that no longer favour your region with those adaptable to changing conditions. Suggestions also aim to minimise potential damage from fire, flood and store. Ann Heidemann
A positive and hopeful story of how people can use their imagination and ingenuity, to help craft more resilient landscapes. Dr Peter Robinson
Beautiful photos and pleasing graphics illustrate key ideas and actions, while informative sidebars and inspiring quotes provide clarity. Julie Richburg
This is no vapid coffee-table garden book to be flipped through and set aside. It’s filled with practical design advice to inspire you to get up and get working to make a better home landscape, for yourself and the planet. Paul Cawood Hellmund
Sue Reed is a registered landscape architect with 30 years experience designing ecologically rich and sustainable landscapes. She lives in Massachussets, USA. Ginny Stibolt has a degree in botany, and writes about sustainable gardening and landscaping from her Florida home.