Gardening without the plastic
Gardening without plastic. Sounds easy to do but it’s actually very hard to achieve in practice! Horticulture is full of plastic, both visible and invisible. We asked Claire from The Garden Editor https://www.gardeneditor.co.uk/ to share what she's learned about reducing and removing plastic from gardening over the years, so we can all garden a bit better.
TIP 1: JUST SAY NO
First off, just avoid bringing plastic in your garden in the first place. If it’s not there, you don’t have to manage it! For me, the easiest (and cheapest) way to do this is to buy plants as seeds rather than in pots. Seeds come in paper packets, are cheap to transport and tend to be fully recyclable. It can feel intimidating to grow things from seeds. However, at the very basic level it involves chucking seeds on the ground and giving them enough light and water to start them off. So, for the cost of a quid or two you can experiment fairly risk-free, and certainly without plastic. Good “starter plants” for this type of gardening are foxgloves, honesty and cosmos - as well as a whole load of veg seeds like beans, cucumbers, tomatoes.
TIP 2: GO POTTY FOR NON-PLASTIC POTS
However, in the real world we sometimes just want to buy something in a plant pot. There are an increasing number of non-plastic pots on the market - there are coir based pots, recycled cardboard pots and even ones you can make yourself from newspaper! These all have advantages and disadvantages. I’ve found cardboard ones ok for things which are only going to be in a seed pot for a short amount of time, otherwise there’s a tendency for mush and rot to set in. It’s a fairly low-cost low-effort experiment to see what works.
TIP 3: THINK LONG TERM
But if you are really, really lusting after a plant and you are buying from somewhere without sustainable options, the way I would suggest reducing plastic here is to buy perennials. This is a technical term for plants which will last more than a year. If you buy annuals (which is what a lot of bedding plants are), they will only last a season - normally the summer. These are the really, really tempting things in front of supermarkets with tempting “buy 3 for £10” labels on them. Quite often, bedding plants come in un-recyclable black plastic, so if you are buying 3 plant trays this year, and 3 the next, the plastic soon piles up.
Perennials by contrast, come back year after year*. So you buy it once, and that’s it. Just one pot to reuse.
TIP 4: USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Re-use the plastic you do have! Here, the sky is your limit. I use peanut butter pots for sweet peas: grape containers for seed beds; old butter spread trays for seed sowing.
My best find this year is repurposing online plant packaging donated by a client into mini-propagators: perfect for getting runner beans used to the outside after starting life inside.
TIP 5: BE REALISTIC
Finally, remember it’s impossible to be perfect and completely eliminate all plastics all the time from gardening. It’s been used for decades for understandable reasons! So try and see what you can eliminate getting into your garden, and reuse and recycle the rest.
*Normal gardening disclaimer: plants die, sometimes for the most bizarre of reasons. I have killed many many many over the years. It’s a numbers game so the more you grow the more you’ll keep!