The year marches on: and I thought it was about time I gave a little update on where I’m at in my attempts to clear the plastic out of my garden.
One of the things that’s become very obvious is that the main cause of the plastic mountain that greets me right inside my gate is the annual seed-sowing frenzy that envelops me and my garden each spring (and, fitfully, for the rest of the year too). It’s a side-effect of growing your own veg: you effectively raise an entire garden from seed every year, and to do that you need a lot of stuff.
From March to May, I’m reaching for a seed tray, module or pot every single day. So my seed-sowing paraphernalia builds up into teetering piles on display for all to see. And most of it is plastic.
I thought I would start at the bottom, so to speak, and look at my extensive collection of seed trays.
I use seed trays for absolutely everything to do with sowing. I sow straight into them from time to time, especially baby-leaf salads which I like to transplant straight from the seed tray in chunks – saves a lot of pricking out.
Seed trays hold my modules and smaller pots too. They make useful carry-alls for transporting seedlings out to the cold frame. And they’re just the right size to fit on the shelves in my greenhouse.
So I wouldn’t be without them. But every single one I own is made of plastic.
As with so much in this particular crusade of mine, I’ve been looking back to Victorian ways of doing things for a solution.
Wooden seed trays are far more beautiful than plastic; and of course they’re completely biodegradable. I like the look of them, very much. They’re a bit more expensive, granted: but being wooden, if you don’t want to shell out for the posh versions you can also make your own.
Disadvantages: they are heavier, and of course they do deteriorate and give way, although I would argue plastic ones too have a limited life in a busy garden. Mine regularly crack through heavy use, get trodden on or strimmed to uselessness and have to be thrown out. And of course broken plastic seed trays end up in landfill – whereas wooden ones biodegrade back into the environment.
In terms of using them, they’re much the same: fill with compost, and extract seedlings for transplanting with a kitchen fork, the tip of a trowel or just your fingers. Just like you would with a plastic tray.
They do dry out more quickly: I have found this is becoming a bit of a theme with non-plastic gardening, as you use a lot more absorbent materials (plastic, of course, tends to hold moisture in). But on the plus side, once it’s watered wood holds on to moisture against the seedlings, too (because it is damp itself), more effectively than plastic where the edges can, I find, evaporate to dryness more quickly than the centre.
I’ve been trying out a few different types this spring. I’ll outline which in the next post – with results later in the season, once I’ve put them through their paces. Watch this space!