Gardening: Reducing, reusing and recycling on the nursery

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening: Reducing, reusing and recycling on the nursery

This week we would normally be looking forward to the start of show garden season with, in normal times, RHS Chelsea due to start next week.

After that we would be coming to the midway stage of our Bloom Show Gardens – but, alas, neither is happening at this stage.

Nevertheless, we are keen to look at all our favourite show gardens. I have been doing some research into lots of the gardens that have caused us to think about gardening; lots of elements that you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to replicate in your own gardens but gardens that make you stop and think, as well as having lots of elements that you can use in your own outdoor patch.

For next week I will be putting together my top 10 list of show gardens from Chelsea, Bloom and lots of other show gardens from around the world, including some of my favourite designers from Australia and the US too.

For this week, though, I am looking at how we are doing our bit for sustainability. I have often talked about how we need to do more, not only for pollination but also to leave behind the nursery in better shape for future generations.

Kathryn, who is one of our designers on here at Caragh Nurseries, is putting manners on us all when it comes to recycling and being more aware environmentally on how we impact the planet.

We have a large compost heap on the nursery that is made up of all the cuttings from our crops where we have cut them back or shaped them and we have been adding to the compost heap. When we remove trees and shrubs from clients' gardens, we then add them to the heap too.

When branches and trees are removed, we use our chipper to break them down and again they get added to the heap; along with some of the shavings from stables and sheep sheds and grass cuttings. We turn these every five to six months and we have been doing this for a number of years as the heap got bigger. Now we have the best of enriched matter to use on our trees and plants.

Worms and weeding

We have recently also invested in a wormery for waste for the house and office. That is a great way to get rid of tea bags, fruit peels, and banana skins as well as lots of other kitchen waste.

We have recently invested in a weeding machine that removes any need for sprays. We have been reducing the amount of chemicals we use year-on-year and now this last cog in the wheel will ensure that we don’t need chemicals on any of our field crops.

We have a two-year plan, that we are halfway through, to stop the use of peat in our plants and compost. It is so important that we stop the use of peats for compost and fuel, and let our peat bogs return to their natural habitats, preserving their ecosystems, aiding biodiversity and minimising flood-risks.

Our peatlands store huge amounts of carbon to create significant emissions reduction, reducing greenhouse gasses.

A real breakthrough came when we found a company that recycles the plastic pots that we use for plants and trees. We have been trying to reuse the pots but there are always some that can’t be reused, and the cost of reusing is sometimes much greater. We found a recycler of plastics that turns the pots into products we can reuse, including a plastic mulch for playgrounds and play areas. We are aiming to find plenty more products that we can turn our waste produce into. We have been looking into the idea of recycling our plastics into the making of other outdoor products. We have recently found a supplier of water soluble packaging material so that’s another thing that won’t go to landfill.

Water and electricity

Our water consumption has been drastically reduced over the last couple of years and we are harvesting surplus water. The next step is some kind of electricity generation. We are looking into which is the best use of our environment, either wind or solar. This is our investment for next year and we look forward to being self sufficient for our power.

My question to you is, what can and do you do, in your garden or your home, for a more sustainable way of living? Is there more you can do? Is there something that you do that would recommend to others that they could do? I’d be delighted to hear all your sustainability ideas so that we can all increase our awareness of what we can do.

I hope you are looking forward to our show gardens special over next couple of weeks, I know I am, there are so many fabulous gardens out there.

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