Climate-friendly garden: tips for low-maintenance trees and shrubs

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Recent years have shown that changing extreme climatic conditions have a major impact on our gardens. Hot summers, mild winters, long periods of drought and storms lead to high maintenance costs in the long run if you stick to traditional gardening.

As long as one attaches great importance to a green lawn all year round, it will be difficult to protect the climate with one’s own behavior or to react appropriately to increasing weather changes brought about by climate change. A change in thinking is absolutely necessary here.

Provide shade and attract beneficial insects

Due to rapidly rising real estate prices, newly developed plots of land today are usually relatively small and hardly allow for planting a large tree. In allotment gardens there are even special regulations as to which trees may be planted. However, if one adheres to all existing rules, such as maximum height and boundary distance to the neighbor, one should plant at least one shade-giving tree according to the size of the property. If there is not much space, this can also be a fruit tree, so that you can also harvest delicious fruit. At the same time the tree can be provided with bird nesting boxes.

The flowers attract many pollinators in spring, such as bumblebees, wild bees and honeybees. Birds find their caterpillar food there throughout the year, which at the same time serves as an excellent biological pest control without chemicals. After a few years the microclimate in the garden changes positively and the tree becomes an air conditioner. Plants near him evaporate less water and a seat under the leaf canopy will become a favorite place especially on hot summer days.

Deciduous trees or conifers

To enjoy garden trees for a long time, you have to plant them in a way that is particularly suited to their location and species. While existing, old deciduous trees are less at risk due to their deep-reaching root systems, shallow-rooted conifers often lack support in dry soil and often fall over in storms. In the meantime, however, many older native deciduous trees such as maple, linden, oak, ash, birch, chestnut or beech are also struggling with the unusual droughts. They then suffer from various diseases and pest infestations. Therefore, special attention should be paid to older trees, as often large branch areas on the tree dry out or. Wood turns rotten unnoticed. For new plantings, it is better to use robust deciduous trees

plants that can root deeply and require less water in the long term. Foliage or. Fruit trees are therefore more suitable than conifers.

Planting time and water management

Since the most frequent rainfall is concentrated in the winter months, it is advantageous to plant in the fall. Then the tree is already well established before the first dry periods begin in the spring. However, garden design is often postponed until spring. Then special attention should be paid to proper watering. When planting, watering should be done well and a watering trough should be created so that the water can reach the roots directly. In the following period, watering should not be done every day, but rather once a week a larger amount of one to two watering cans full. This will ensure that the root zone is sufficiently moistened and the tree will be stimulated to look for water in deeper zones in the period thereafter. With daily watering or by water automatic the tree will demand that otherwise also in the future further, since the roots do not reach deeply enough.

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By mulch material such as lawn cuttings, leaves or bark mulch on the tree disk the water evaporation can be additionally minimized. Drought-tolerant ground covers on the tree disc not only look pretty, but also help to shade the root area. Older trees that have grown in should receive larger waterings no later than when the foliage droops, turns yellow prematurely or falls off.

Climate-friendly woody plants

Thuja hedges, which are often popular as privacy screens, consume vast amounts of water in order not to dry out and hardly offer any contribution to climate protection and biodiversity. Also unfavorable are cherry laurel hedges. Cherry laurel spreads invasively through nature via birds that eat the berries. After a frosty winter at the latest, the evergreen hedge has become unsightly, as the leaves evaporate too much water on sunny days and the shrub then often consists only of brown leaves. If the damage is too great, pruning will no longer help. Better to plant native shrubs that also provide habitat and food for bird and insect life. They are more robust and better adapted to extreme weather situations.

The greatest benefit to a natural garden is a mixed hedge of free-growing shrubs such as hawthorn, cherry plum, dogwood, woolly snowball, black alder, hazelnut, or peonies. If space is limited, however, a trimmed hornbeam or privet hedge also offers habitats. Especially blackbirds like to nest in such dense hedges to hide from cats. Once these hedges are grown in, they only need regular pruning, but little water and usually still provide some shade in the area of the hedge. Shrubs offer a good alternative if it is not possible to plant a tree, as they can be kept small by regular pruning.

Sigrun Hannemann from the mountain flower garden with a focus on natural gardening. Ms. Hannemann is a garden blogger and writes on her blog and on the Hortus about ecological and insect-friendly gardening. For the nature garden association e.V. she tests gardens for the award of the German plaque ‘Nature in the Garden. In addition, she is a juror of the LWG and certifies nature gardens for the badge ‘Bavaria blooms nature garden’.

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