My aim is to:
- Reduce the number of plastics used (and use no single-use plastics).
- Stop using peat.
- Use no chemicals.
- Have no plant imports.
So to start with, working in the commercial growing industry I was shocked at the amount of plastic used and simply thrown away after one use. How to change this has taken some thought. I checked out many alternatives and eventually, I came across coir pots, (Cow Pots were my favoured pot but these are made in the US and we cannot get them in England, so until a cattle farmer in England starts making these I use coir). These pots can be used to grow my plants on and then can simply be planted straight into the ground, pot and all. The coir breaks down naturally and no root disturbance is caused to the plant. Brilliant.
Well not quite brilliant, hands up here I take cuttings that are grown in plastic. So far there is no way around it. Cuttings and young plants spend months in pots before they can be planted on…biodegradable pots would simply biodegrade before they can be sold. My plastic, however, is, to start with, second-hand. I got second-hand pots from my old nursery, and they will be reused, reused and reused. When my plants are garden ready, they are transferred into the coir pots to settle and then sold.
For my large plants I use a mix of sheep’s wool and jute to create a larger pot, these are still planted straight into the ground, it all degrades causing no harm.
As we all know by now our peat bogs are under threat, and indeed the government is trying to ban the use of peat in the horticulture industry by 2030. So what to do? I have trialled so many peat free composts during the last year, some most definitely better than others. Then I tried Dalefoot Sheep Wool compost, it gave far better results than any of the others I had on trial. Then I did a lot of research into the company, and they are brilliant. Dalefoot is based in The Lake District, the owners are Simon and Jane.
Simon is a fifth-generation sheep farmer and Jane is an Environmental Scientist. During the last eighteen years and the fall in demand for wool, they went in search of diversification. They came up with wool compost. This is a mix of sheep’s wool and bracken which is also a huge issue for sheep farmers as it is an aggressive plant that takes up precious grazing land. The bracken contains a rich source of humus and a wide range of trace elements, Jane and Simon created the perfect recipe for compost and that’s the only thing I use. Do give their website a visit, they are a very interesting company: www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk
A dreadful amount of chemicals are used in the horticulture industry, from start to finish.
When my growing year started in my old job I started by taking thousands and thousands of cuttings. The majority of these were dipped into a rooting hormone. These hormones are dangerous to humans and the environment, and these are the start of your plants’ life.
Now we all need a kick start sometimes so hormones are good, but not when they can damage so much. An alternative took some research, but after trial and error, I found some advice from a grower in the States who used willow water. I got the recipe and have had fantastic results. Everything is natural and easily made.
So when my little cuttings had rooted, my next step was to put them into peat-based compost that is literally full of chemicals.
I use the sheep’s wool peat-free compost and use only natural feeds such as bone meal or fish blood and bone.
The next step was the plants went out in pots into the great outdoors. Here they are blasted again by two more chemicals that are dangerous to humans and the environment. The reason for these two chemicals is to keep the plant weed free until it is sold. At The Little Green Plant Factory, I use a small amount of sheep’s fleece which I get from a local farmer. This keeps the weeds away and causes no harm to the environment. The wool can be planted straight into the ground along with the plant and will simply break down.
So in my old job, the plants would sit and grow…until some nasty insect took a liking to them, then you have an infestation….the answer…chemicals! Again I did a lot of research into this. In my own garden, I have never bothered with insect control, if something gets attacked one year, it comes back the next, but nature tends to keep it in check. Obviously growing commercially you can’t lose your whole crop so I tried many recipes, and found one that has worked all year. I have had no insect infestation. I use this as a deterrent rather than to kill anything, and only need to use it on plants I know are susceptible. It’s made with an awful lot of garlic and chillies and the insects do not like it.
And here it is, my homemade insect repellent, sometimes my polytunnel smells like an Italian restaurant, but it keeps the bugs away so I’m happy.
No Plant Imports
Many pests and diseases are brought into the UK through plant imports, especially from the more unscrupulous companies. Unwanted bugs etc have even been found in the pallets plants are imported on (and even on those belonging to companies who are good), so they come into our horticulture industry then into our gardens. DEFRA are constantly checking on all imported plants but like everything some get through the net and once it’s here…it’s here to stay.
At The Little Green Plant Factory, I propagate everything myself here in The East Riding of Yorkshire, so the plants I sell are literally my babies and I take great pride in my offspring. I know the plants’ history, its parents and its organically grown process.