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Long, hot summers won’t faze succulent plants such as stonecrops, and less watering is good news for gardeners and the environment
Gardening for the future Elly West on modern-day pariahs peat and plastic, plus the domestically recyclable pots being trialled in nurseries this year, and the rest of the organic gardening latest
e gardeners are, by nature, forward-thinking, and gardening and caring about the environment generally go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise that more and more of us are looking at ways to practice sustainability in our plots. Never has the health of the planet been such a hot topic: we’re all much more aware of the need to recycle, reduce plastic use and avoid wastage where possible, and this awareness has increased dramatically in the last decade or so. There’s still a great deal of work to be done, but even small changes can have a big impact if we all do our bit. Increasing numbers of people are attempting to garden organically, avoiding pesticides and weed killers, choosing plants that are good for wildlife, and looking for peat-free alternatives in compost. This month I’ll look at a few ways we can help to go that bit greener, while hopefully saving some money and having a healthier, happier garden.
Water conservation Writing this on a wet spring day, it’s hard to know what the summer holds, but if it’s anything like last year when there was barely a green lawn in sight by the end of July, then we need to start planning ahead to save water. Climate change means a hot summer like 2018’s could become the norm, and a valuable addition to any garden is a water butt or two (or more). These can collect run-off from any outside buildings such as sheds, garages and greenhouses as well as the house. Plants in pots will always need watering, but if you mulch the compost surface and move them to shadier spots on hot days, you can limit the amount of extra water you’ll need to provide. I rarely water plants in a border, unless they are newly planted. Letting the soil dry out encourages them to put down deeper roots in search of moisture. It’s also about choosing the right plant for the right place. Sunnier spots, as well as 88 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE
areas under trees or next to walls, are likely to be drier so choose plants that can cope with drought. Mediterranean plants with silvery leaves, such as lavender, or succulent stonecrops and euphorbias are all drought tolerant. Ferns and other woodland dwellers can cope with dry shade. I also never bother watering an established lawn. Yes, the grass will look like a disaster after a long hot summer, but it’s the first thing to recover once the rain returns. When you are watering, choose morning or evening to avoid evaporation and direct the water at the roots of a plant rather than the leaves.
Reducing plastic An approximate eight million tonnes of plastics end up in our oceans every year and many companies are now working hard to reduce singleuse plastic consumption, largely due to consumer pressure. Despite our best intentions, most garden sheds are full of plastic – compost bags, watering cans, pots, trays, labels, sprays, fertiliser containers and so on. But the gardening industry has also been getting greener, with a move towards recyclable and compostable pots, particularly for seed sowing. Around 500 million black plastic pots are used each year in the UK, with many ending up in landfill. The main problem is the colour, which the sorting machines can’t cope with so they can’t be included in kerbside collections. Some nurseries will collect pots for recycling. However, a new taupecoloured pot that can be included with our domestic recycling could solve this problem and is being trialled in nurseries this year. Until they become the norm though, we can help by reusing plastic pots and making them last as long as possible. Wash them and store them, then use them again. Keep plastic out of the sunlight where possible, as it makes it brittle, and if you are buying new pots, choose eco-products such as coir or paper, or use old loo rolls and egg boxes for seed sowing.
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