Category Archives: water butts

Is RHS Chelsea Flower Show more eco-friendly than your Garden?

Giant Scabious and spider

Giant Scabious and spider

Answer: in all honesty, probably not. Why? Think of all those mature trees transported in from the continent; all that hard landscaping; all those thirsty plants that need gallons of water as they’ve just been transplanted (if you remember, last year we had the added problem of being in a drought situation); all the lawns that will need re-turfing after the show.

But maybe you don’t think your own garden is very ecofriendly either? You could be surprised, read through ‘The Ten Commandments of Ecofriendly Gardening’ and then you can decide for yourself.

One: Water conservation Parts of the UK have less rain than southern Spain; difficult to believe sometimes, but true. So a water butt is an essential part of your eco-friendly garden. You could also use the grey water from washing up bowls, showers and baths on ornamental plants. Water generously but less often to encourage deep rooting rather than shallow surface roots. Watering in the evening or early morning minimises evaporation, and direct the water at the soil not the plant. You could read one of our water or drought blogs from last year for more ideas.



Two: Right plant; right place This is partly about planting acid loving plants in acidic soil, but also about choosing drought tolerant plants for hot, sunny borders; and shade lovers for under trees. Most plants, once established, will manage with very little attention if they’re in the right location or habitat – easy maintenance gardening!  Right plant; right place is one of the starting points when we’re designing a planting scheme for a client, for it to work we need to know our plants and our soils.

Three: Use alternatives to peat Peat bogs are important ecosystems that took thousands of years to establish; when they’re gone, they’re gone forever. There won’t be peat used at Chelsea Flower Show as the RHS has been among those gardening organisations that now use alternatives. There are some good quality alternatives available, including those based on bark and sheep’s wool.

compost bin made of resycled plastic

compost bin made of resycled plastic

Four: Composting Definitely a holy grail of ecofriendly gardening; this is now actively supported by many local authorities, who collect your food and garden waste if you don’t want to or don’t have the space to.  I would encourage everyone who can to compost; there are different methods so there should be one to suit you, your family and your garden. We’ve talked about different composting systems in other blogs and in the eBooks, if you’d like to know more.

Five: Re-use non-biodegradable products This includes plastic plant pots, plastic bottles and plastic trays which can be used many times before being recycled. It also means, for example, using rubber car tyres as a soft surface under children’s play equipment.

Six: Exclude or at least minimise the use of unfriendly chemicals Is it acceptable in an otherwise organic and ecofriendly garden to use a glyphosate based weed killer to clear the weeds initially? I would say not, but I can understand why people prefer this as a quicker method.

crazy paving path

crazy paving path

Seven: Hard landscaping should be minimised Or to be more precise non-permeable hard landscaping such as pavers set in concrete should be minimised. Purists may be against even decking, but so long as there is plenty of planting as well, there’s nothing wrong and much that is practical and right with permeable hard landscaping. You could use re-cycled pavers for example, rather than letting them go to landfill.

Eight: Lighting is evil Light pollution confuses bats and birds, and can be irritating for your neighbours if it’s overdone. But we need some outdoor lighting, whether for security, for street lighting or because we’d like to enjoy our garden when we come home from work. See if solar lighting would be suitable to reduce electricity usage; and ask your garden designer and electrician to plan the lighting so that every day (or night!) lights are kept to the essentials only; but with plenty of scope for party fun.

Nine: Messy bits Also known as wildlife areas, bug hotels, nettle beds and log piles. These provide habitats for all those essential beasties that eat many of the garden pests. Some endangered species such as stag beetles need those log piles in domestic gardens in order to survive at all. Wildlife areas don’t need to be large so most gardens can find a small corner for a messy bit. You could for example, leave a pile of leaves at the back of a border behind the shrubs; perfect for a hedgehog to hibernate in.

bug hotel

bug hotel

Ten: Grow your own and buy local Growing some of your own food, whether this is a few salad leaves in a shallow tray, some herbs on the windowsill, an espalier apple tree along the fence or a fully fledged ornamental kitchen garden is very satisfying. Plews offers lessons in your own garden which can help a novice gardener learn the right way to hold a spade and to transplant seedlings, and there are plenty of evening courses at colleges around the country too.

raised beds with vegetables

raised beds with vegetables

With ‘buy local’ I’m thinking not so much about the salads as about the trees and other imported plants. We have many excellent nurseries in this country capable of growing most of the ornamental plants we want for our gardens, but sometimes we need to bring in trees or shrubs from elsewhere. If all plants coming into the country were properly quarantined we would not be in the situation that we are in where many of our native species – Ash, Oak, Horse Chestnut for example – are under major threat and may disappear like the English Elm did as a result of the 1980s Dutch Elm disease.

A cautionary note to finish on perhaps, but there is a positive, as if you were to start following only one or two of ‘The Ten Commandments of Ecofriendly Gardening’ you would be making a difference. After all, even oak trees start as acorns…

Marie, Senior Partmer, Plews Garden Design

If you’d like an ecofriendly garden designed,  gardening lessons or gardening advice on any of the topics covered, please get in touch:
Or ring us: 020 8289 8086




Water & watering


Even small alterations in domestic gardens can make a big difference to the planet. This is one of an occasional series that will give you tips to make being a ‘green gardener’ a lot easier than achieving a gold medal. Last Saturday’s blog was water–orientated and this week continues the theme.

I know we’ve had more rain than we could care for in Britain this summer, but we should be grateful as it’s filling up the reservoirs and underground aquifers that were dangerously low. However much water falls from the sky, fresh, as distinct from salted, water is a finite resource. It is constantly recycled, not just by humans, but by raining on the ground, thence into streams, then taken back up into clouds to fall again as rain. It is a resource which we can easily reduce our use of and recycle ourselves without too much effort.

Water conservation – if you have room for a water butt then you should have one – or two. They come in various shapes and sizes from huge below ground tanks to slim wall hung versions so there should be one to fit your garden. You can also use ‘grey water’ for watering any thirsty non-edible plants. It may be too complicated for you to have a pipe system from your bath/shower, but it’s easy to have a bowl in the basin and use the water from washing dishes and hands. Grey water doesn’t store without treatment so use within a day.

Before you water your garden, ask yourself: is that plant really thirsty?

Established plants and lawns tend not to need extra watering by us humans. There will be some exceptions, flowering herbaceous perennials under the shade of a tree, for example, plus fruit bushes and trees at key times such as pollination & fruit setting. Make sure the water gets down to the roots, which is where it’s needed. Check the soil at root level by gently digging down. If it’s damp then the plant doesn’t need watering.

Dry soil on the surface is fine, so long as it’s not crusting over. This would cause rain to bounce off the surface rather than be absorbed. Break it up with a hoe if necessary. Make a note to add more organic matter in the autumn, as this will reduce the crust effect. Plants in a rain shadow – under trees, against fences, in a porch will possibly need watering even when it rains, so do check. Water thoroughly but not often to encourage the plants to send their roots deep into the soil where there’s more likely to be stored water. Exceptions would be annual vegetables and some annual bedding.

Watering in the evening or early morning reduces evaporation (water loss) so the plants get maximum benefit. If slugs and snails are a problem, which they probably are for most of us as the wet spring sent their population soaring, then you may find watering in the morning rather than the evening is better. This reduces the moistness around the plants overnight, when those gastropods are most active.

If you’re giving your tomatoes, beans or other plants a feed, water them first, they then absorb the feed more efficiently. And on that note, I’m off to water my own tomatoes and sugar snap peas; and hopefully pick a few – if those blinking snails haven’t eaten them…

If you would like some design advice, or a consultancy on how to manage the water – or lack of it – in your garden, we have the inspiration and the know- how

So get in touch

Water, water everywhere


With British rowers winning the first gold medal for the UK in these Olympics, my thoughts turned to water as inspiration for this week’s blog.

We certainly seem to have had a lot of issues with water in Britain this year, drought, hosepipe bans, floods, Wales and Northern Ireland had their wettest June since 1910 and even the Olympic flame got doused. We should have known that once we declared a drought we’d get a flood…

When we knew we were short of water, with many reservoirs only half full after a dry couple of winters, some of us planned ahead. Water butts came into their own in gardens and on allotments, and various water conservation and recycling tips were to be had – not least from Plews Garden Design, determined to keep your gardens growing.

Rainwater, pouring off roofs and into gutters then diverted from downpipes into water butts and carefully conserved.  Then the stored water was used to irrigate food crops, new plantings, ‘fussy’ plants such as camellias that find tap water too full of chlorine and other chemicals and of course the water was also to keep ponds topped up so fish, newts and tadpoles survived.

This collection and use of what would otherwise be wasted clean water straight into the sewage system is something that many of us partake in. we do it regardless of rain, flood, drought because it seems an obvious thing to do, an easy task to accomplish, an environmentally sound pursuit, an occupation to be praised.

After all, no-one else is going to use the rainwater are they? It doesn’t belong to anyone in particular, it belongs to all of us and none of us; it just falls from the sky and is either soaked up by plants and soil or runs off hard surfaces into the drains. By collecting it and using the rainwater in our own gardens we’re reducing the amount of water that gets washed away.

May I suggest that you don’t move to the State of Oregon in the USA. “Oregon law that says all of the water in the state of Oregon is public water and if you want to use that water, either to divert it or to store it, you have to acquire a water right from the state of Oregon before doing that activity.” This law includes rainwater that falls on your land. Interestingly, if you collect the water from your roof as many of us do, that’s ok. But if the rain is collected in your pond, or sits in puddles on your lawn then it doesn’t belong to you.

An interesting concept?  Or a crazy law? Could it happen here? You tell me.

If you would like some design advice, or a consultancy on how to manage the water – or lack of it – in your garden, we have the inspiration and the know- how to help you ‘go for gold’