Review of a talk by Sue Fisher, horticulturalist and BBC Gardeners’ World contributor

By Martin Cook, volunteer gardener at Bell House

This was a really lovely, approachable talk, with much practical and useable advice on how we can mitigate some of the effects of global warming.

Sue started by emphasising the importance of garden soil and how to improve and maintain it. She encourages the use of natural products, such as garden compost and horse manure rather than manmade fertilisers and chemicals. Very good advice on composting and recycling followed, using kitchen food waste (not cooked) and old packaging in our compost bins for example. Paying attention to the moisture levels in the bins was a good tip: too dry and nothing happens; too wet and you get a stinky anaerobic mush.

Sue discussed retaining nutrients in our beds by using cardboard to protect from heavy winter rains, and improving soil with rotted leaf litter to help hold moisture in times of drought.

We have lost a huge number of insects in the last generation and Sue put a good emphasis on changing the way we garden to include a wider range of food and habitat for invertebrates. Having a small pond or even a small container of water is so very important for supporting wildlife. Letting grass areas grow longer and leaving areas uncleared of nettles and the like will improve diversity.

Sue suggested using a wide size - range of plants, shrubs and trees. Hedging gives good habitat and filters strong winds. Cultivate a plant palette that mixes edibles, perennials and evergreens. Choose nectar - rich plants that flower throughout the year. She stressed the importance of planting at the right time of year and letting root systems develop before the seasonal temperature rises too much. Harvest and store as much rainwater as you can and in high summer, water at dusk or in the early morning to reduce evaporation.

Producing your own food is very topical as supermarkets run short and prices soar. Sue grows her food using various methods to reduce pests and disease. She extolled the virtues of companion planting and the use of barriers and natural predators to keep plants healthy. Avoid insecticides and fungicides. I shall follow her excellent tip of putting in chives around my most spot - affected roses.

Get to know your plot. Look carefully at which areas are in full sun or shade, cold and exposed spots. Where are the dry parts? What sort of soil do you have? There are a wide range of plants available for smaller gardens these days, such as cordon fruit trees. In the manner of the late Beth Chatto, Sue advocates right plant, right place. This is so important when space is limited.

The big takeaway for me is to be a bit more relaxed about my garden. I shall be leaving more wood piles and plan to mow less. I am going to plant more ground covering species and introduce some more small water containers, hidden in the darker corners.