Sustainability NOW: Plastic in the garden – how to use less and gain more

My Patch – Paul Rushton’s Natural Nirvana
11th May 2020
Sustainability NOW: Climate Change Gardening
11th May 2020

For the sake of our planet, our oceans, and much more, no one can be immune to the urgent need for us all to reduce plastic – especially single use plastic – as far as possible in our daily lives.

There’s no denying it’s a tall task, but as Hugh Feanley-Whittingstall & Anita Rani’s recent BBC TV series War on Plastics proved, by everyone taking small steps, collectively we can make a huge difference – one street managed to reduce their plastic by a whopping 50% in 3 months!

Where we are and could be:
Plastic has become woven into our gardening life. Plastic pots, trays, fleece, mesh, ties, labels, watering cans, wheelbarrows, buckets, plastic spray bottles of all kinds, gloves, garden chairs, plastic ornaments and picnic stuff are just some examples. There’s no denying, too, it’s light, durable, has a multitude of uses and is cheap, so weaning ourselves off plastic, let alone getting to grips with the different sorts of plastic made commercially and whether they are/are not recyclable or biodegradable, will not be easy. But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – plastic was only invented in the 1950’s; before then we all gardened without it, so there’s no reason why we can’t again; or at least minimise buying new plastic.

In tune:
It’s also in tune with our mindful times, a key theme for biodynamic gardening. Our gardens will be prettier, and even more planet friendly; being mindful about what we buy and buying less, is liberating and means less clutter and gardening stuff we don’t use. Best of all it enables us to unleash our inner resourcefulness, ingenuity and creativity – a great way to save the planet and enjoy our gardens and save money, too.

The time is NOW:
We feel this is a cause all our members will wholeheartedly want to get behind. Share your top tips and favourite websites via members’ Facebook page, and let’s make the Biodynamic Gardening Club a shining example of home grown sustainability!

Making it pay:
Going without plastic does not automatically mean costing more. A little human ingenuity and mindfulness goes a long way and often works out a lot cheaper. Here’s some suggestions and useful links:

5 ways to get started:
i) The simplest way to start is to think about what you can recycle, reuse (and not use), and be choosy about what kind of plastic you do buy. Garden Organic gives an excellent overview here:
Note: Polystyrene (marked 6 on the triangular label) is one of the most harmful for the environment; Polycarbonate (marked 7 on the triangular label) believed to be the worst plastic mankind has invented. Avoid both wherever possible.

ii) This brilliant website is a great resource and inspiration of what can be achieved and includes where to buy plastic free garden products such as bamboo and coir pots /seed trays & jute pea netting, plus links to garden centres and nurseries reducing their use of plastic and offering alternatives.

iii) Ever wondered what else you could do with those unwanted plastic bottles, apart from making instant cloches? Organic gardener, Huw Richards, shows you here.

iv) DIY plant pots: another easy switch for free. This video shows you how to make your own using egg boxes, toilet rolls & newspaper: You can use old yoghurt pots & disposable coffee -cups. Send us your ideas, too!

v) Up-cycling is as good as re-cycling and great fun. You can make stunning containers out of just about anything, including wooden fruit crates.

5 ways to be resourceful:
i) Hunt out discarded clay pots from skips scour charity shops for gloves, garden tools, old wine boxes, etc.
ii) Use old saucers, dishes and plates instead of plastic pot trays.
iii) Use flattened cardboard boxes instead of plastic to clear the ground and suppress weeds.
iv) Chicken wire (large hole is fine) is better and cheaper than plastic mesh for climbing plants. Once up you can’t see it, so harmonises perfectly.
v) DIY grow bags: Supermarket bags –for- life, with drainage holes in the bottom filled with home grown compost for potatoes, climbing beans, cucumbers, and med veg (tomatoes, aubergines, peppers).

5 ways to be mindful
:
i) Purse power: we spend around £7.5 billion each year on our gardens. Using our purse power to support companies and nurseries trying to do the right thing and produce sustainable alternatives when we can is a win-win.
ii) Peer pressure works: asking your local garden centres, supermarkets and DIY chains to reduce their use of gardening plastic and supply more eco-friendly plastic-free alternatives for their garden products helps make change happen faster.
iii) Clubbing together with gardening friends to invest in sustainable alternatives shares the load and develops community spirit.
iv) Do you really need it? Buy less, empower yourself more.
v) Discover beautiful copper tools copper spray bottles and wonderful vintage clay pots, and add to your Christmas wish list.