REDUCING PLASTIC IN THE GARDEN
This evening, Kim Stoddart - co-author of 'The Climate Change Garden', editor of 'The Organic Way' and gardener joined us to talk about how to reduce plastic in the garden.
We began the evening with a reflection on some of the global challenges we face in contemporary society, including: reliance upon consumption, especially of cheap disposable items not made to last; the proliferation of single-use plastics and; detachment from the consequences of waste.
But through our everyday actions Kim suggested we can make a difference - whether it is reducing the amount of things we buy, especially single-use plastics; making do with the goods we do have and mending them when they break and, reconnecting with the resources that are freely available to us in our local area.
Look to the past for the more resilient future
Kim encouraged us to take inspiration from cottage gardening approaches to get ideas of how we can garden for more resilient futures.
Peasant or worker gardens of the past - so called cottage gardens - tended to include a mix of vegetables, flowers and herbs. These biodiverse gardens promote beneficial insects and natural pest and disease control whilst reducing workload.
Cottage gardening approaches are also more likely to allow for weeds which in turn attract pollinators whilst conserving moisture in the soil. They often include a range of edible perennials such as rhubarb, asparagus, jerusalem artichokes, horseradish, as well as a range of fruit trees and bushes.
This is a 'free spirited' kind of gardening and Kim encouraged us to use our intuition whilst out in the plot. One of Kim's recent 'free spirited' experiments for example is exploring how biennial plants can become perennial - such as kale, chard and purple sporuting broccoli.
Top tips for reducing plastic
Whilst there is much to be gained from looking to the past, the reality is that many things we might consider essential in the garden are made of plastic - from pots to netting fleece, tools to wellies and watering cans, hose pipes to compost bags. How can we break out of the cycle of plastic dependency? Kim offered some top tips...
Use plastic-free alternatives: make paper pots for seedlings, use terracotta pots for larger plants and try to avoid plastic where possible - whether in tools or teabags.
Recycle and reuse: transform single-use pots into recyclable plant pots and reuse plastic plant pots.
Make do and mend: Invest in quality tools and look after them. Keeping tools well-oiled and sharpened and even befriending them can make them last a lifetime.
Propagate! Avoid having to buy plants by saving seed, taking cuttings and attending local seed swaps or plant exchanges.
Incorporate pollinator-friendly perennials into your garden.
Turn food waste into compost.
Someone's waste could be another's treasure
Kim encouraged us to invest time looking into the resources and materials that are around us. Whether in skips or on freecycle, there are lots of opportunities for reclaiming, upcycling and transforming materials that might otherwise be heading to landfill. Old baths or sinks can make excellent ponds whilst pallets can be used to create bug hotels, planters or even garden furniture.
Supercharge your compost
Finally, we turned to discuss composting, a key practice for supporting healthy crops. Balancing a mix of 50:50 green and brown waste, Kim encouraged adding comfrey and nettle clippings and ground seaweed to support and enhance microbial activity and create 'supercharged' compost.
Kim's book 'The Climate Change Garden' is full of wonderful tips for climate action in the garden, available for sale here. Kim has also created a series of videos on 'Backyard Biodiversity' which you can watch here. Finally, Kim also offers a range of climate change gardening courses from her gardens in West Wales and webinars on resilient growing. Find out more.
This event was supported by the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales.