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The Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua & Barbuda

Raising awareness & promoting sustainable use of natural resources

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Environmental Gardening


· Environmental gardening helps to save our beautiful native species and natural biodiverse ecosystems and remove alien invasives which destroy our native species

· Environmental gardening uses sustainably sourced materials

· Environmental gardening enriches your life - you are constantly learning more about the hundreds of wonderful natural plants and wildlife that we have


2. Beauty in the Garden


Whilst we grow many plants for food, the majority of what we grow in our gardens today is ornamental for beautifying our surroundings. Beauty is not necessarily Big, Blousy and Brightly-coloured like many cultivated ornamentals. For the environmental gardener, beauty can be Small, Subtle and Shades and tints like many native species. Study plants closely and learn about them and you will be amazed that your concept of beauty will change dramatically. Take a walk in a healthy forest and look around you. What do you see and feel? Hundreds of beautiful diverse plants, birds, wildlife, bouncy moist soil, ferns, epiphytes (plants like bromeliads which grow on others) and what a wonderful feeling of oneness with nature! Surely our gardens should try to emulate this beauty!


3. Weeds in the Garden


Every gardener knows that a weed is the wrong plant in wrong place. Usually anything not cultivated is regarded as a weed to be destroyed. To the environmental gardener, however, a weed is an invasive species. Plants which miraculously appear in the garden, perhaps dispersed by birds, wind, bats or seeds that were dormant for years are a wonderful blessing, only to be removed if they prove invasive.


4. Environmental Gardening


So let us compare environmental gardening with what you might call "standard gardening". Let us assume you are starting from scratch with a new plot of land. Clearly, there is a spectrum of approaches in practice – most people now use some environmentally friendy techniques and very few have adopted all the ideas suggested here.

5. In conclusion


So in summary, given that we need to change our attitudes and behavior, what are the main learning points?


· Don't fight nature; work with it and care for it.

· Study and learn about our native species including those that attract birds and wildlife.

· Plant native species wherever possible. Seek advice to ensure they are from a sustainable source.

· Remove only invasive species. Stop worrying about "weeds".

· Use hands more and machines less.

· Recycle and compost as much as possible.

· The same is true for wildlife – care for our native birds, butterflies, tree frogs, geckos, lizards, bats etc, that enrich our biodiversity and are vital to a healthy ecosystem, but remove alien invasives e.g. Cuban tree frogs, African snails, fire ants and rats. Seek advice on humane ways to deal with invasive species.

· Educate our children to learn about and care for nature.


Chris Pratt

28 November 2010

Step

Standard Gardening

Environmental Gardening

1

Bulldoze/backhoe all living plant and associated wildlife from the plot

Carefully remove invasive species, leaving native species where possible and ensuring the soil is not left to erode

2

Make as low-maintenance as possible by putting down grass and concrete over most of the plot

Grow grass where appropriate e.g. for children to play ball games. Elsewhere, grow plants which need little maintenance, and especially native species where possible

3

Buy top soil from unsustainable sources (sometimes illegally bulldozed from Body Ponds and other natural endangered areas)

Compost plant and food materials – use this to enrich the soil. If absolutely necessary to buy soil, make absolutely certain it is legal and sustainably sourced

4

Buy imported plants used in almost every other garden – ones that often are not suited to our climate and environment

Plant native species where possible and some choice introduced species. Select wildlife/bird-friendly species. Seek advice to ensure they are from a sustainable source

5

Water profusely every year in the dry season

Plant drought- and hurricane-tolerant species that need little attention, especially native species

6

Use chemicals to kill native plants as well as birds, bats, tree frogs, geckos, lizards etc

Use few, if any, chemicals. There are natural organic pesticides which can be used around food crops. Remove only invasive species. Do nothing to harm wildlife

7

Use weedwackers and other machines wherever possible to remove all weeds, good or bad

Closely study what you see growing in the garden and use your hands (with gloves) to remove invasive species

8

Buy tea, medicines, fruit from the supermarket

Grow native tea, medicine and fruit plants

9

Remove every fallen leaf etc and burn them

Burn nothing. Where possible, let fallen plant material rot down naturally – it will enrich the soil and is a haven for wildlife. Compost as much as possible

1. Introduction


The concept of gardening and what constitutes a beautiful garden is changing, albeit slowly, in Europe, North America and elsewhere. In an age when we are making plant and animal species extinct every day (4 plant species per day on average are made extinct by human activity according to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew), we need to change attitudes, concepts and behaviour.


So why is environmental gardening (a.k.a. eco-gardening or environmentally-friendly gardening) important for gardeners in Antigua and Barbuda?