Ecotip – Can you replace plastic in your garden?

Can you replace plastic in your garden?

PLASTIC is really useful in the garden, but it comes at a cost to the environment and wildlife. Luckily, there are alternatives and sometimes they are better for your plants too. Plastic pots, trays and root trainers are lightweight and cheap. They may not rot, but they do degrade and become fragile with exposure to sunlight.

Changing the way we garden to avoid using plastic, by turning to biodegradable materials like wood, paper and coir, and making careful choices, reduces the environmental cost of gardening. For example, seed modules and root trainers are often flimsy, and shatter and crack easily. You can swap them for newspaper pots, soil blocks or paper pulp modules. Toilet roll inners are best for larger seeds, such as sweet peas. You can then simply plant the seedlings without removing containers, which rot away in the soil.

Soil blocks are cubes of compressed blocking compost, shaped using a soil blocker; you sow into the top and the seedling’s roots bind the compost into a natural module. Home-made modules take time to make and need more frequent watering – but seedlings never suffer from pot-bound roots and establish more quickly.

Replacing plastic string is an easy step, as there are plenty of natural products available using cotton, jute or hemp. These will eventually rot and biodegrade, unlike plastic string, which often breaks down with exposure to the elements into tiny strands which are impossible to dispose of, leaving plastic fragments in your soil.

Based on an article by Sally Nex on the Royal Horticultural Society’s web site,