Plastic-free planting and gardening

Your Simple Gesture: Avoid plastic when planting and choose more sustainable alternatives

It’s time to make your green thumb even greener by embracing plastic free planting, and avoiding plastic as much as possible when tending to your garden and house plants. 

Planting our own vegetables and composting are two of the most impactful ways to reduce our environmental footprint in the home. Composting green waste and kitchen scraps can reduce the amount of waste each individual sends to landfill by 40–50%. For a very sustainable and hugely positive way to mitigate our impact on the environment, gardening and planting unfortunately often come with lots of plastic barriers. You know the regular culprits – compost and soil in plastic bags, veg and plants in plastic pots, even gardening equipment is now predominantly made of plastic – hoses, watering cans, planter pots, and the list goes on…

Plastic has found its way into most corners of our gardens, and collectively, this is contributing a lot of unnecessary waste. In the UK it was found that 500 million plastic garden pots are used every year! A key solution to live by to reduce plastic in our gardens is REDUCE and REUSE!

So, with this in mind, and plenty of simple plastic-free alternatives, here are some key ways we can reduce plastic in our planting and gardening routines: 

Action Steps:

Grow your own

1. Grow veg from seed – Buy seeds from a garden nursery in a paper envelope (ensure there is no plastic on the packet) or use seeds from fruit and veg at home. You can replant most seeds –  chilli and capsicum for example are really good for replanting. Just dry them out for a week or two prior to sowing the seeds, and ensure it’s the right time of year to plant.

2. Grow veg from veggie scraps – Regrow fruit and veggies from kitchen scraps – a quick online search will reveal which ones this method works for! A few examples can be found here.

3. Purchase seedlings from your local community garden – Most local or urban farms sell seedlings at various times of the year. Enquire with them and plan your planting around the times they’ll be selling. This way, you can take your own container rather than purchasing new seedlings in a plastic pot.

4. Sprout seeds in eggs cartons or upcycled plastic containers – if planting seeds at home, you can either use an egg carton (which you can plant directly into soil when the seeds have grown and matured) or you can use plastic plots from previous plants to grow seeds. If the pots are deep, ensure to plant the seed only a few centimetres below the soil, and scoop out a fair amount with a spoon before transplanting to a larger pot for full growth.

  • Cut an empty egg carton into individual pots
  • Poke a small hole in the bottom of each and use the carton lid as a drainage tray
  • Plant 2-3 seeds in each pot
  • Keep your seeds warm and watered until they sprout

5. Propagate cuttings from existing plants rather than buying new – Take a cutting from either a plant of your own, a friend’s, or outside and leave the stem in a jar of water. In a number of weeks you will see roots start to sprout (the longer you leave them, the more established the roots will be). Once you see a fair amount of roots, and if it’s relatively warm (spring is usually the best) plant the cutting in soil (⅓ compost, ⅔ soil). Make sure there is good drainage. Monitor it in the weeks following to see if the roots have taken well, not watering too much but keeping the soil slightly damp (plant dependent, of course!)

Reuse and be resourceful

6. Reuse plastic pots again and again…and again – Rather than buying new plastic pots (for your veg garden or otherwise) buy them second hand (online marketplaces, garage sales etc.) or instead, preference clay, ceramic, terracotta or metal when buying new. These will last longer, and are often nicer anyway!

7. Ask the nursery if they’ll take plastic containers back – There are nurseries that offer to take back plastic pots, as there is no reason these can’t be used over and over again. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to buy a plastic pot, make sure to ask the nursery if they’ll take them back, or hop on a search engine and see if you can find a store which does.

8. DIY fertiliser – there are lots of great hacks and recipes out there, but also things as simple as sprinkling cracked eggs shells over your soil! You can also soak banana peels for one to two weeks. Upcycling veg scraps at the same time and really great, natural nutrients for your plants – perfect!

9. Source bulk gardening materials using your own container – Some garden centres offer a scoop and weigh option for things like coconut husks, cocopeat and soils (such as Flower Power), so you can bring a bucket or container and fill your own. If your local nursery or garden store doesn’t offer this, ask them if they will consider it and prompt them to do the same!

10. Use compost you’ve made or source from a friend Making compost is such a powerful and effective way to minimise our environmental impact. It is so beneficial for our gardens and one of the richest, natural nutrients full of carbon and nitrogen, ready to feed our plants. Rather than buying compost in the store in a plastic bag, consider starting your own worm farm or a cold compost to create your own. If you use the ShareWaste app, ask your compost Host if you can have some compost for your garden when it’s matured. And if not the latter, then ask a friend who is making compost if you can pinch some of theirs – compost is abundant, so persist until you find the right way to source it for you!

11. Minimise plastic gardening tools – Select non plastic gardening equipment where possible. For example, I recently bought a dustpan and brush made with coconut bristles and a metal dust pan. It will definitely last longer! If you can’t find a plastic free alternative, check an online marketplace first to buy second hand and upcycle existing plastic. Also utilise sharing options, such as tool libraries, community and gardening groups, so you can borrow a gardening tool without having to purchase one for the long term. 

12. DIY soil recipe
(13 L large bucket = 1 part)

Potting mix

  • 2 parts compost / worm castings
  • 1 part cocopeat
  • 0.5 parts sand / perlite
  • 1 cup blood and bone
  • 1 cup seaweed meal

Seed raising mix

  • 1.5 parts compost / worm castings
  • 0.5 part cocopeat
  • 0.5 parts sand / perlite
  • 1 cup blood and bone
  • 1 cup seaweed meal

Simply add the ingredients in a wheelbarrow or on a tarpaulin and toss it around really well until it’s all mixed together! You can make a large batch and make it a social occasion, inviting friends or neighbours to come and contribute!

Recipe by Ben Tyler

See our Instagram post for more info.

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