HOW SUSTAINABLE ARE MAIL ORDER PLANTS?
POT'S GROWING ON? 10/02/23
We all know that feeling, the excitement of a new plant arriving only to find it encased in two boxes, plastic tape, newspaper or bubble wrap and a plastic pot. Some nurseries send plants without any plastic, wrapped in damp paper using paper tape, which is reassuring. But what about the delivery van? It all got me thinking, which is more sustainable, mail order or going to a garden centre?
Well, the answer is “it depends” but also, mail order is probably better than we might imagine. We’re often one drop out of 20 - 40 by one vehicle, as opposed to 20 - 40 households making longer trips to a shop. Online deliveries are likely to be better researched and therefore more likely to grow well than random spare of the moment purchases. Quite often garden centres (not growing nurseries) are a hub taking plants from the growers, adding an extra stop, where mail order from independent nurseries is usually direct. Smaller plants use less packaging and petrol. On the flip side, if you’re planting a large area, one trip to the nursery to buy a large number of plants reduces packaging.
Choose nurseries you know grow their own plants, that package with minimal plastic and have other sustainability practices, and spend a bit of time researching the delivery company’s sustainability promises. Of course, if you’re within walking or cycling distance of a brilliant nursery, do that! :)
What do you think? Share your thoughts below in the comments.
Growing onions and shallots from seed is the easiest, cheapest and, I think best, way of growing them. But it’s good to start now! Join my sow along by following my free guide.
I’ve been cutting some plants back in the garden where new shoots are coming through. I’d rather wait until end of February at the earliest but needs must. Chopping everything up roughly with secateurs, I leave everything as a mulch and in case any insects or eggs are hiding in the material. You can see I still have quite a bit to hard prune on the privet hedge to reduce its height, making it easier to cut. This is a job that machines get stuck on making it a laborious manual lopper task. More satisfying than it sounds when I start, if slow, hard work.
I recently recorded an interview for the Organic Gardening Podcast by the charity Garden Organic, discussing all sorts of topics including our new garden and differences in climate in Yorkshire compared to down south. You can listen to it here or on most podcast platforms.
Last autumn I planted lots of Crocus tomassinianus ‘Barr’s Purple’. C. tomassinianus are one of the crocus that will self sow and naturalise, whereas many cultivars increase their bulb clump but are sterile. I saw the first is about to flower this week, the start of something wonderful.
Now is a good time to prune deciduous shrubs like Buddleja and to then use the clippings to grow hardwood cuttings. Follow my easy free guide for the steps.
The first wave of the large snowdrops is well underway, once they’ve all largely flowered I’ll begin dividing and spreading around again, as I did last year.
With the cold but sunny, dry weather we’ve been treated to some spectacular sunsets. Last Sunday everyone in the valley was drawn outside by a sky that looked like this. I haven’t filtered it at all, it really did look like this and it was incredible.
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Really enjoy reading your newsletter and seeing the photographs of the garden. Totally agree with the idea of using nurseries but sadly don't have any close to where I live. I regularly visit the Lake District where there are some excellent nurseries with plants grown in "hard" conditions. PS Please can you take a photo of your beautiful cat
Thank you for writing this. I own an online bare-root peony nursery in New York State (USA) and think about this topic near constantly.
Sadly reducing plastic has proven more difficult than I'd hoped. If I store/ship the roots in paper only I find they dehydrate and/or mold. This year I plan to trial bio-degradable plastic instead. Not ideal in some ways but hopefully better. My goal is to make our model progressively more sustainable each year.
On the plus side, I notice online customers generally put in big orders and LOTS of roots can be packed into 1 small box. I think there's a real "plant miles" reduction there.
On your newsletter overall, I only signed up a few weeks ago but it's currently my favorite read on substack. thanks for putting in the effort. Looking foward to listening to the podcast!