Charlotte, Events, Guest Posts, Insects

Lessons from the Garden SleepOut

Amid the excitement and success of the National Garden SleepOut I was keen to use the event as an opportunity to educate my children regarding its purpose. In addition to being a fabulous excuse to have fun under canvas, the SleepOut raised awareness of important issues in the UK and abroad. Two charities were supported by the event and I spent some time discovering more about these causes and how they related to our own lives. I was keen to see what they could teach us and whether this changes the way we utilise and manage our garden.

Child watering the flowers
The first charity, Just a Drop, works to provide clean water for children worldwide. We take it for granted in the UK that whenever we turn on the tap we’ll have an endless supply of fresh drinking water. So much so that we even use drinking quality water to irrigate our gardens, flush the loo and clean the car, something I have always found to be rather extravagant and wasteful! However we’re privileged in this respect as around the world a child dies every 20 seconds from drinking unclean water.

The prolonged hosepipe ban earlier this year already made us mindful of our water usage but having read about ‘Just a Drop’ and downloading their ‘Splash 4 Kids’ pack we’ve become even more water conscious. Learning to use water sparingly not only reminds us of its value, it also helps the environment since the process of cleaning and processing water releases harmful CO2 into the atmosphere. What’s more if your water is metered, like mine, it really does pay to be frugal.

Here are the top tips we’ve adopted to save water in the garden:

  • Install a water butt and collect the thousands of litres of free rainwater that fall on your roof each year.
  • Use bathwater and dishwater on plants.
  • Use a watering can or drip irrigation system. Or if you can’t sacrifice it completely, add a trigger nozzle to your hose to make watering more efficient.
  • Water at cooler times of day when evaporation rates are lower.
  • Add water storing granules to reduce the need for frequent watering.
  • Add a thick layer of mulch which provides extra nutrition and dramatically reduces evaporation.

Child sleeping out in sleeping bag
Having learnt some great lessons from ‘Just a Drop’ we turned our attention to the SleepOut’s second charity, Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Even my toddler understands the importance of bees to our planet, with ‘Bee Movie’ ranking top on his list of favourite DVDs. Thus we took the opportunity to learn more about the rapid decline of UK bee populations and how we can make our own garden more habitable to these essential pollinators.

After utilising the online guide to identify the bees in our area we used the ‘Bee Kind Tool’ to put our garden to the test. Here are the tips we learnt to attract more of our favourite furry insects:

  • Use bee friendly planting to last throughout the year.
  • Build a bug house where bees and other insects can nest.
  • Allow the grass to grow: our overgrown lawn has received curious looks from neighbours but the bees and butterflies adore the long grasses and clover.
  • Avoid artificial pesticides which may harm bee populations.

Child sleeping out in tent
For us the SleepOut proved to be not only an enjoyable event, but also an educational one. The lessons we learned from it have already had dramatic results in our garden by reducing our water usage and increasing the number of bee visitors. I look forward to next year’s event and to supporting and learning from the charities involved.

– Charlotte