We've learnt from all the recent nature documentaries that the natural world is being spoilt by plastic waste.  One of the reasons why I garden is that I find the natural world beautiful.  I enjoy looking at the plants and insects and birds that live in the garden.  I would like to garden in a way that creates less plastic waste.  But how easy is that to do?

Many of us grow plants from seed and cuttings which is an excellent way to avoid unwanted plastic.  But what about buying new plants from the garden centre or by mail order?

1. Plastic plant pots are useful up to a point

I'm not saying no to any plastic at all.  I have a stack of plastic plant pots that I use each year for growing on seedlings and potting up dahlias as well as the self seeded plants I find when I'm weeding.  I probably have enough plastic pots though.  I really don't need any more.  So if I'm buying plants I'd prefer it if they didn't come in a plastic pot.

2. Perennials without pots

For the first time I've ordered bare root Peonies, when previously I'd bought them potted up and in growth.  It was cheaper to buy them this way.  These were ordered from Kelways.  They arrived in a cardboard box  filled with biodegradable packing pellets.  The peonies were packed in plastic bags, ones of the same variety being packed together in the same bag.  This seems like a worthwhile saving on plastic packaging.  I'll let you  know how they fare once they are planted up.

I've been reading the RHS website on how to garden without plastic and they only list one nursery which sends out plants without plastic packaging and three companies offering bare root perennials.

One of the companies mentioned by the RHS is Unwins.  I ordered several cranesbill geraniums of the same variety from them last year.  Each one came wrapped in its own cellophane envelope, so not very plastic free. They also turned out to be the wrong variety, for which they gave me a refund.  It's not great though, when you've had to pot them up and grow them on for a few months.

The RHS don't mention  J Parkers wholesale but I've ordered from them in the past and some of my order arrived as bare root plants, each variety in a separate plastic bag.

If anyone has experience of ordering plants bare root or from a company that uses very little or no plastic packaging I would be interested to hear about it.

3. Bare Root Shrubs

I buy roses bare root. So far they've always been the correct variety and they've all grown well.  The additions to the rose garden this year have just arrived from Trevor White Roses.  I bought nine roses which were packed in one black plastic bin liner inside a paper sack.  The sack must have torn during delivery, because it was in turn placed in another plastic bag by the courier company.  I think that's a worthwhile saving on plastic packaging compared to buying them potted up.

I've also ordered bare root hedging in previous years - yew, box and laurel.  They've all grown successfully too.

4. Vegetable and Fruit growing

 I must admit to being primarily interested in flower gardening and the vegetable garden does not excite me to the same extent.  But it occurs to me that vegetable gardening is also a good way to reduce plastic waste.  I buy some of our everyday vegetables from a stall at the local market, and pretty much everything can be brought plastic free there.  But there are some items which can't.  These are mixed salad leaves, many herbs and strawberries and raspberries.  These luckily happen to be some of the things that I find easy to grow, as long as I can keep the blasted squirrels off the strawberries.  I've ordered some bare root strawberry plants which should arrive soon.

I thought it might be interesting to grow a few new things this year, and I've bought these seeds.  Actually, the rocket I have grown before, but I won't make the mistake of letting it set seed this time.  It's a horror to weed out of the paths (tap root if you wondered).

5. Composts

There is a similar problem with composts, bark, grit and such like.  They come in a large plastic bag.  I keep the plastic bags and reuse them for collecting up leaves for leaf mould and I use them for kneeling on so my trousers don't get muddy.  But I don't want any more bags.

We make our own compost, and collect the leaves for leaf mould.  I'll even try to look more favourably on the mole hills as they can be added to the above to make a potting compost.  But I don't expect my home made supplies will last the spring.  I would usually buy seed compost and compost to pot up tomatoes and Summer bedding in pots.

It would be nice if there was a refillable bag scheme for compost near me.  But according to the RHS there's only one garden centre in the country which does this.  So I'm not sure whether there is anything I can do about this particular plastic problem.

I appreciate this may not be a problem for all gardeners, but if you have any tips to share then I would love to hear them.

6. Snowdrops

Anyway, enough of all this, I hear you say.  How are the snowdrops getting on?

The single flowered snowdrops have grown taller in the last week, but their buds are still closed.  Maybe they will be in full swing in time for next week's post.

As always, this post forms part of Six on Saturday, a series of posts from gardeners around the world, kindly hosted by The Propagator.


  1. Many beautiful initiatives proposed thanks to your blog this week. It's true that there are many things to do to improve both ecology and avoid waste....

  2. Well done for writing about this, it certainly is a problem in horticulture. The more we shout, the more they will listen - hopefully anyway. We must do what we can, however small. Great post.

    1. I'm sure I'll end up buying more plants in pots, but I'm just trying to find alternatives where they exist.

  3. White swathes of snowdrops are beautiful.

    1. Its been a bit sunny today (and windy) but they still haven't opened up.

  4. I should try and reuse my compost bags. I've certainly noticed that a few plant deliveries have started to come in more environmentally friendly packaging. Our garden centre used to allow you to return plastic pots but don't anymore which is a pity.

    1. It's a shame the garden centre won't take back the pots. The nurseries appear to be reluctant to reuse them. That's good news about the environmentally friendly packaging though.

  5. Some of the smaller nurseries don't use plastic, but also, think about seed swaps, Freecycle, etc. as gardeners always have too many of one thing & not enough of another. If you live where a bulk delivery of compost can be made, many of those companies deliver in returnable mega-sacks. If you're tempted to do that, be sure the truck can get access to your property.

    1. Great ideas Lora. I'll look into those. I've given household things away on Freecycle but not thought about gardening stuff.

  6. That's an impressive colony of snowdrops!


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