Sustainability and Going Plastic Free in the Garden

We are all increasingly aware of how much plastic is in our lives and most of us are aware that the plastic we use today will outlive us.  We all own plastic and it would be foolish to just get rid of all existing plastic products even if we could, as that alone would create a huge problem for the future as we tried to process it.  Just because we no longer own it or see it because we have “re-cycled” it does not mean that the problem has gone away. 

As we now know re-cycling is sadly not the process we thought but merely the removal of the problem to another location or country. This slow pollution is causing countless other problems, not the least of which is the health of the humans and wildlife coming into contact with the enormous piles of plastic which we have shipped out of our lives and straight into those of the third world.

Here, as part of the Greener Gaddesden initiative, are some of the ways in which we as gardeners can help to tackle this problem in however small a way.

1. Stop Buying New Plastic for the Garden

We all need to vote with our feet.  There are now many innovative alternatives to plastic.  Some are as old as gardening, like wooden seed trays and some are the more modern alternatives such as bio-degradable pots made from various materials, widely available now and getting cheaper as demand grows.  It should be added that some work better than others too! supply a large number of plastic alternative products.  You can now buy jute netting instead of plastic which is also kinder to thieving wildlife as it does not cut into them if they become entangled. is also full of good advice and alternative products.

2. Un-Invited Plastic

Our increasing use of the internet often means that without intending to do so we end up with plastic arriving on our doorsteps in the form of packaging.  Try to ascertain before buying how the company intends to deliver your item.  Peter Nyssen bulbs for instance now send out all their bulbs in compostable bags.

3. Re-Use All Existing Plastic

We will all have existing plastic in some form or another in our gardens and on our allotments.  Try to use it until it no longer has a useful life and only when it is well beyond use or repair try to dispose of it with awareness.  David Ware in Faversham has found an excellent solution to the plastic problems he inherited when taking over an old nursery.  They use all the existing plastic on the nursery time and again but no plant leaves the nursery in a plastic pot, thanks to David’s innovative POSIpots which are made from cardboard and fully compostable. See and

4. Be Responsible For Re-Cycling The Plastic That Does Arrive In Your Garden

Although you can try to adapt your gardening practices to try and avoid plastic, it is inevitable that some plastic will arrive in your garden – compost bags, single use packaging for tools, pots etc.  Try and be inventive and find a get-around plan.  Compost bags for instance can be transformed from single use into ground cover to exclude weeds; they can be used to create more compost from kitchen green waste or fabulous leaf mould in the autumn.

Reusing all the plastic products that we can which have come uninvited into our lives via the supermarkets, such as the plastic trays and containers used for fruit and vegetables  These are fantastic for raising seedlings both to hold the compost and to act as a mini greenhouse.  We just need to use our creativity.

5. Up-Cycling – One Man’s Rubbish etc.

Both charity shops and your local waste transfer station (tip!) are great places to visit for unique items which can be adapted for use in the garden.  Local jumble sales or markets are also a rich source of items.  Locally we have a lovely company The Green End Gardenalia who refurbish old tools and up-cycle all things garden.  Each item is unique and has been lovingly up-cycled.  If you are short of ideas a quick visit to Pinterest will soon have you on fire.

6. Indirect Benefits

By being aware of your plastic use you will find that you are going to be motivated to grow more of your own food and this will lead to health benefits for you and your family.  Being creative and finding ways to get around the difficulties of living without plastic will in all probability give you added skills and join you to a wider community who are all striving to make our world a better place.

Things to Consider in the Garden for a Greener Gaddesden

  • Reusable metal plant labels/recycled lolly stick labels
  • Paper seed envelopes instead of vacuum packed plastic packets
  • Supermarket plastic packaging used for micro greens and
  • Supermarket plastic used for a seed tray
  • Re-usable classic terracotta pots/charity shop containers
  • Various re-cycled seed pots
  • Self-watering pot made from a plastic bottle
  • Using an old compost bag used to make more compost from household green waste

The VPA Supports the Greener Gaddesden initative