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Waste Why forethought can save you future grief

Nobody wants a mountain of garden rubbish to get rid of, so adopt a preventative policy by growing plants that need less pruning and tidying.

Perennials such as Eryngium alpinum  Blue Star produce less waste than annualsPhotograph: Goekce Narttek/shutterstock
Perennials such as Eryngium alpinum Blue Star produce less waste than annualsPhotograph: Goekce Narttek/shutterstock

Many councils collect green waste from householders, but with shrinking budgets they may cut back this service. When tidying the garden in autumn, I personally wouldn't part with a twig or a blade of grass, but if you only have a small compost bin, you may not be able to cram in all your prunings. So, when planning this spring, aim to produce less waste - your choice of plants and how you weed and mow the lawn makes all the difference.

Start by growing plants that suit your garden and available space. A happy plant grows well and won't be consigned to the compost heap prematurely. To avoid an early death, plants must suit your soil. Much as I love hydrangeas, they won't survive my alkaline ground. And I wouldn't even try growing passion flowers - their chance of surviving a Scottish winter is almost zero.

Perennials produce less compost waste than annual bedding plants. Eryngiums, Sedum spectabile, hardy geraniums, alliums, monarda or bergamot and astilbe are just a few of the perennials you could grow. All have attractive seed heads that survive the winter. When they eventually fall over in February or March, the leaves have rotted away and there is only a stem to dispose of.

Avoid enthusiastic spreaders. If you have a small garden, Campanula poscharskyana and vincas are the last inhabitants you want. These attractive thugs survive almost any conditions and smother everything in their path. You'll have no shortage of waste.

There's no doubt woody prunings are the biggest headache for gardeners. Branches are often too big to shred and won't compost, so unless you can burn them in a fire, chiminea or barbecue, you're doomed. If you have fast-growing trees and are sick of all the prunings, the only solution is to fell replace them with smaller, slow-growing specimens.

It's easy for me to say that. Realistically, my advice only applies to people planning new plantings or making a fresh start in an established garden. Here, the world's your oyster. So, when choosing trees, viburnums, acers, sorbus and hawthorn are a few of the smaller ones. In the same way, select fruit trees grafted on dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstocks, which control vigour. With apples, choose M9 or M27; for pears, go for Quince C; and Pixy for plums. All fruit trees need pruning in summer when twigs are green and sappy and easy to compost.

Make life easier with shrubs such as mahonia, daphnes, chaenomeles, euonymus, skimmia and shrubby loniceras - they need zero pruning. And there are plenty of slow-growing hedging plants: holly, box, dwarf berberis, deutzia, some flowering currants and some pimpinellifolia roses. Other evergreens include Portugal laurel, yew and thuja varieties such as Thuja occidentalis Smaragd and Thuja plicata Atrovirens.

Many gardeners curse the huge pile of stinking grass clippings their lawns produce, yet they religiously water and fertilise the grass. This problem is easily solved: don't use "feed and weed" products.

During a dry spell, you needn't have any grass clippings. Keep the lawn short by cutting twice a week and leave the small amount of clippings on the grass to quickly shrivel up and be absorbed into the lawn. Eureka - the lawn feeds itself and doesn't need artificial fertiliser. And if we have a wet summer, you can compost some grass and use the rest as mulch round shrubs and trees.

Alternatively, turn part of the lawn into a wildflower area, a job that begins by leaving the grass to grow. Some grasses produce attractive seed heads and a few wild flowers may appear. Add more colour with bulbs and wildflower plugs, such as red campion and oxeye daisies. This way, you will only have to only cut the lawn once a year, in the autumn.

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