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Deal with it - Simple steps to banish single use plastics from your garden

Part One in our series of posts to help you cut plastic from your garden and future proof your consumption.

Reducing and reusing plastics in our gardens is the best way for us to start taking responsibility for our planet and preserving the glorious natural world we love so much.

There was a point that plastic was everywhere, sturdy, waterproof, rot proof, it was the perfect solution for almost every problem. Especially in our gardens, where sturdy, waterproof and rot proof are exactly what we need.

However, our continuing inability to recycle many plastics means it has, over the years, filled our oceans, consumed our landfills and spilled out into every corner of the globe. Choking rivers and fish, polluting beaches and destroying the natural beauty we, as horticulturists and gardeners hold so dear.

Plastic has now become the worlds most vilified material. We must accept that as gardeners, a lot of this lands at our door.

It is estimated that half a billion black plastic plant pots end up in landfill every year and the problem is only getting worse.

It's worrying how many plastic plant pots I have thrown away over the years; discarding them in to my recycling bin under the impression they were going to be recycled. Horrified to discover years later that they aren't, purely because the colour of the plastic means it isn't recognised the machine at the sorting plant.

We can all wring our hands over the sheer number of rarely recycled plastic bags that we have lugged home full of compost, sand, gravel, again to throw in to the bin either accepting they end up in landfill, or with the hope that they might be dealt with by the recycling bin.

Plastic is everywhere, we are choking on it. But now is the time to start a new and vow to make our gardens free of single use plastics and look for alternatives were we can. It can seem an impossible task but we must try, for the sake of the very gardens we labour for.

Plastic plant pots - that's your lot

This is the main issue, the big hitter when it comes to reducing plastic in our gardens, but I'm going to say one thing which might sound odd.

Love those pots.

The massive Leaning Tower of Plastic that is a holiday home for spiders and forgotten, muddy pencils that sits at the back of the shed? Reframe their existence and know that from today, they are the only plastic plant pots you will have for the rest of your life. They are waterproof, rot proof, sturdy and are very good at retaining water. Ideal for sowing, pricking out and potting on. Look after them, that's your lot.

You aren't going to buy anymore so make them count, and while they are being cared for for eternity in your shed, they aren't going in to landfill, or worse, our seas.

Once you have used a pot, all you need to do is leave it to dry so you can brush out the soil, or (my favourite depending on what time of year it is), leave them upside down, out in the rain for a little bath to wash away the excess soil. Once they are clean of the majority of the dirt, run them through your dishwasher at around 50c and return them dry to your shed for another use.

It is important when reusing your plastic plant pots that they get a hot wash. Regardless of your potting medium, pathogens can build up in the soil residues in the pots so they will need a thorough clean in order to cut these pathogens down before they propagate in your potting area.

With all of these pots hanging about you might as well make use of them, and what better way than sowing seed. There are many, many plants that can be grown from seed, removing the need for an expensive trip to the garden centre to stock up on new plants.

I do appreciate that one of life's pleasures is spending far more than you intended on plants but it is very easy to grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and even some fruit, from seed at home.

Not only does this save you huge amounts of money but it cuts the endless supply of plastic pots which pile up as a result of these splurges. To fill the retail void, you can, with little guilt, buy colossal amounts seed from online suppliers completely plastic free, and you'll no doubt find many unique varieties that your regular garden centre would never grow.

When sowing seed simply won't do, there are plenty of other options to source new plant babies for your garden which don't involve adding to your plastic architecture.

Beg, borrow but please don't steal, cuttings from your friends and neighbours. If you have a skill for taking cuttings then offer your services to friends and neighbours to expand everyone's stocks. Taking between 6 and 10 good quality cuttings from these plants will allow you to add to your garden while giving back to your friend and allowing a couple of extra that may not strike. The rule of six works well. Take 6 cuttings, allow 2 to fail, two for yourself and give two back to your friend or neighbour, then everyone is happy and you have kept the plastic at bay.

If you do need to buy a new plant then try to source your plants from companies that do not use plastic pots. Companies like the Hairy Pot Plant Co are a good option for new herbs and certain perennials, and now many garden centres and nurseries are changing to plant pots of different colours that can actually be recycled. Look out for taupe pots which can be put in your kerbside recycling bin.

Finally, if you do find yourself in need of more plastic to use in your garden then look elsewhere in your house to cut the single use plastics in your kitchen as well.

These repurposed aluminium cans are useful, quirky and beautiful, not just for displaying your plants but for growing and potting on. The plus side to these cans is that drainage holes can be easily made with a light drill or screwdriver, with caution of course.

Mushroom trays from the supermarket make super seed trays, as do takeaway containers and yoghurt pots. You can also save non plastic items to sow or pot into, such as broken mugs or damaged cookware. We have lots of old mugs in our shed that have long since been chipped or lost their handles that make excellent pots in which to grow on larger plants such as young cauliflowers or cabbages before they head for the ground. A stoneware baking dish with only one handle serves as a perfect seed tray alongside makeshift plant pots of wine bottle bottoms, cut and sanded so there are no sharp edges.

These containers may not have adequate drainage so you must be wary of your watering but they are reused, repurposed items that are not only sturdy, waterproof and rot proof but they are thrifty and environmentally sounds methods of keeping our reliance on plastics at bay.

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