There is no better time to transition to or take up sustainable gardening techniques, not only for your health and well-being but also for the environment.
Sustainable herb gardening at Jekka's
One of our three core roots at Jekka’s is that we are Environmentally Conscious and for the past 35+ years all the herbs grown at Jekka’s have been raised using organic and sustainable principles resulting in a remarkable biodiversity at Jekka's Herb Farm.
Jekka is the RHS ambassador for health and well-being and Alistair's Ph.D. is from the Grantham Institute of Climate Change, Imperial College London making us strong advocates for the environmental benefits of herbs and gardens.
Want to know more? Read Jekka's guide to growing herbs in a changing climate.
This guide forms part of our sustainable gardener series, which builds on our numerous tips, blogs and guides that includes Jekka's top tips for becoming a sustainable herb gardener, rewilding your herb garden, maintaining your soil health and attracting pollinators. Check out Jekka’s blog through the link below.
Within this guide we summarise the top 5 ways to be a sustainable herb gardener.
1. Herb garden sustainably
We strongly advocate becoming sustainable herb gardeners and each of us doing our bit, regardless of how small, to prevent climate change. Sustainable gardening is when you garden in a smart and eco-friendly way. Jekka’s tips for becoming sustainable gardener lists her top 8 ways from caring for your soil to reducing your use of plastic. We hope Jekka’s top tips will aid you on your journey to becoming more sustainable.
Want to know more? Read Jekka’s top 8 tips for being a sustainable gardener.
At Jekka’s we have always followed organic principals that in turn supports the biodiversity on the farm. We have been peat-free from the start of the herb farm and, if it is needed, we use these organic feeds and pest management treatments: Maxicrop liquid seaweed for all round good plant health; SB Invigorator as a safe and effective insecticide and fungicide; and Epsom salts to top up magnesium and stop orange leaves. We also sell our herb plants in roadside recyclable pots, our grow at home herb kits contain biodegradeable pots and we sell reusable, long-life rubber plug trays. All the tools you need to be a sustainable herb gardener!
As a sustainable herb gardener, you also have to monitor the weather patterns as we no longer have the 4 traditional seasons. Every year is different and we need to be adaptable to cope with the changes. For example, April can be the coldest month, with snow and frost and just because the gardening bible says to plant out at Easter, with our changing climate, this theory may no longer apply. Jekka’s top tip is to sow directly outside when the ground is warm to the back of your hand.
One important way to be a sustainable herb gardener is to design and plant your garden with sustainability in mind. For example, when you are planning your herb garden, think about where the different plants have originated. Have they come from South America, Scotland or the mountains of Italy? For more guidance on herbs for sun, semi-shade, dry & damp conditions check out Jekka's blog or Jekkapedia; our online encyclopedia of herbs.
2. Attract pollinators to your herb garden
A major part of our natural ecosystem at Jekka’s Herb Farm is the biodiversity of pollinators. Pollinators are amazing to watch and help make happy, tasty and strong organic herbs. In the network of your herb garden everything is connected; the soil feeds the plants, the plants feed the wildlife and this then feeds us.
Insect pollinators include bees, pollen wasps, ants, flies, beetles hoover flies, mosquitoes, butterflies and moths. Jekka’s is home to a diverse range of pollinators and in particular, bees. We have honey bees (Apis mellifera), miner bees (Andrena spp), leaf cutter bees (Megachile spp), hairy footed flower bees (Anthophora plumipes) and many of the main bumblebee species, including Bombus pascourum, Bombus lucorum agg. Bombus terrestris, Bombus lapidarius, Bombus pratorum, plus many more! Come to one our Herb Experiences to see them.
However, worryingly, pollinators are considered to be in decline and therefore, the delicate balance of our ecosystem is at risk. It is thought that this decline is due to the lack of flowering plants, loss of nesting sites and other habitats as well as climate change, pests and diseases. You can make a difference to help reverse this trend because, as we mention in our blog on our sustainable approach, through gardening sustainably we can all promote pollinators.
Jekka’s top 5 ways to attract pollinators to your garden are:
1. Plant nectar or pollen rich plants (Read Jekka’s guide to pollinators for her top 10 herbs or get growing with Jekka’s seed collections).
2. Rewild part (or all) of your garden by allowing plants to flower (read about rewilding in Jekka’s blog).
3. Provide safe sources water for bees and other pollinators.
4. Garden sustainably and avoid using pesticides.
5. Provide nest sites for wild bees which includes tuffs of ground or mounds of soil. We now stock Wildlife World’s beautiful bee homes so you can give solitary bees and other pollinators a place to nest.
In addition to pollinators, to make a sustainable, natural ecosystem you should also look after your birds. Birds are not only beautiful to watch, they will control your garden pests. Therefore, you should feed them throughout the year but especially during the winter. We are fans of the Cotswold Granaries bird food which the birds at Jekka's love. It is a high quality bird feed mix that has no artificial colours or added sugar. Furthermore, their packaging is fully home, compostable and is made from starch and plant fibres.
To further support our pollinators at Jekka’s Herb Farm, we are excited to be creating Jekka’s Herb Garden. Jekka’s design contains two large flowers with 16 petals. Each petal will illustrate a different herb garden design, for example herbs for dry conditions, herbs for the damp and one showing herbs for pollinators. The herb beds will be of a size for people to recreate at home and thereby create their own space for nature.
Want to know more? Read about Jekka’s Herb Garden.
3. Support local nurseries and businesses
We are very grateful and honoured by all the support we receive and love seeing our regular visitors and hearing how our herbs are doing. In general, the focus on local has increased over the last few years where people have realised the benefits of having a strong community on their doorstep. The benefits include providing employment as well as supporting the local economies, communities and neighbourhoods.
By supporting your local businesses, especially your specialist nurseries like ours, you are not only putting money back into your community you are keeping the knowledge and skill for growing plants alive.
Jekka has long friendships with many small nurseries, especially as part of the RHS show circuit. Jekka’s favourite local, UK nurseries are:
- Derry at Special Plants, Chippenham.
- Matthew at Hampshire Carnivorous Plants, Southampton.
- Neil and Niamh at Kitchen Garden Plant Centre, Newent.
- Rob and Rosy at Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, Whitchurch.
- Simon, Stephen and Nicolas at Blackmore & Langdons, Pensford.
- Terry and Mary at The Botanic Nursery, Bath.
Supporting local goes beyond local economies and includes the social welfare of its inhabitants. As you might already know, we are great supporters of Putting Down Roots. Putting Down Roots is St Mungo’s’ horticultural therapy and training project. It uses gardening as a tool to help people in their recovery by helping to build people’s self-esteem, confidence and sociability. We are delighted to have them help with the creation of Jekka’s Herb Garden. Visit their garden in Castle Park, Bristol, to see their wonderful work.
Want to know more? Read about Jekka’s and Putting Down Roots.
4. Improve your health and well-being
Gardening sustainably and attracting pollinators to your garden does wonders for the biodiversity, environment and natural ecosystem. In addition, it is widely documented that plants and horticulture help heal and boost people's fitness and mental health. In times of stress and uncertainty gardens provide necessary sources of relaxation, comfort and enjoyment.
Pleasure and enjoyment are the main reasons people garden. However, there are numerous reasons to garden for your health and well-being. The top 5 reasons include:
1. Gaining a sense of responsibility and a sense of worth through the act of caring for herbs. This is because, if we don’t prune, water or otherwise care for the plant, it may die.
2. Reconnecting with nature that shifts our focus away from ourselves and our stresses. When gardening, our brains are pleasantly distracted by nature around us and thereby restoring our minds and reducing negative feelings.
3. Plants do not judge, they can be nurtured and cared for by anyone without passing judgement, and keeping herbs healthy can improve self-esteem and confidence.
4. More frequent gardening was also linked with greater physical activity supporting the notion that gardening is good for both body and mind. Regular exercise has proven to be beneficial for a wide range of mental health issues, and can contribute to improving other aspects of our lives, such as helping us sleep better or promoting self-esteem.
5. Gardening puts you in control. While you may never be able to fully have your life in order, you can decide how to arrange your vegetable patch, and where the sweet peas should creep next. The satisfaction of an orderly garden can be very therapeutic when other aspects of your life aren’t quite going to plan.
Want to know more? Read Jekka’s blog on the health and well-being of gardening & horticulture
5. Live and think sustainably
You can also be sustainable outside the garden and in your home. Whether that is using less or no plastic, recycling or saving energy. Following our core root, all our gifts and homeware at Jekka’s are sourced with the environment in mind, are packaged using sustainable material and, where possible, are sourced locally.
Check out our “For the Home” range which, along with Jekka’s illustrated gifts, we are delighted to include Wild Sage + Co skin care and St. Evals candles both of which are small UK businesses that follow our environmental and sustainable ethos.