Category Archives: Eco Gardening

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR OLD BIN NOW THE WHEELIE BINS ARE HERE

If you live in Bath you will have recently taken delivery of a new wheelie bin which must now be used for your council rubbish collection. This got me thinking about the many old bins that are now redundant and what uses they can be put to in the garden. Here are some suggestions.

  • Grow some spuds. Plastic bins are an easy way to grow potatoes in a small space. Simply drill some holes in the bottom of your bin (3 holes of roughly 2cm diameter should do it but it doesn’t have to be precise), place a crock over each hole and fill to 30cm with compost (a general peat free compost will be fine). In January/February buy some first early seed potatoes from the garden centre and chit them at home. This means putting them somewhere indoors with lots of daylight so that they start to grow shoots. I tend to put mine in an empty egg box (stops them rolling around) on a windowsill. In March place 3 seed potatoes on the compost, shoots pointing up, and cover to about 3cm with compost. Leave outside in a bright but not direct sunlit place and keep an eye on progress and once leaves form add more compost so that only the tops of the leaves are showing and keep doing this until the compost is nearly at the top of the bin. What you’re trying to do is create a very long stem as this is where the potatoes will form. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged. To harvest tip the bin out in early June and you should have a lovely crop of salad potatoes. I promise you they will taste better than any you can buy at the supermarket and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you grew them.
  • Create a flower pot. This is perfect for any aluminium/galvanised steel bins you might have. Again form some holes in the bottom for drainage. I then use old packing polystyrene to build up the height and place some polythene over the top with some holes punctbin flower potsured in it. This is cheaper than filling with compost and the polythene prevents the compost that you place at the top filtering down into the polystyrene. Then fill with 20cm of compost, place your tulip or daffodil bulbs on top and cover with another 10cm of compost. Keep the soil moist and sit back and wait for your spring flowers to bloom.
  • Use as a water butt. Place under a downpipe from the roof to collect rainwater which is perfect for watering the garden. You can either use a bucket to get the water out or fit a plastic tap. Make sure you keep the lid on to keep leaves out and make it safe for children.
  • Store compost. Cut the bottom off your plastic bin and place on level ground. Fill with garden cuttings and fruit and veg peelings. Keep mixing it up as you add new waste. In a couple of months lift the bin and the oldest waste will have formed into a homemade compost for your garden.
  • Use it as a rhubarb forcer. Every year I get an early crop from my rhubarb by forcing it. In January put horse manure or compost around your rhubarb plant and place your upturned bin over the top of the plant and weigh it down so it doesn’t blow over in the wind. The lack of light blanches the stems to make the rhubarb sweeter and more tender. Check it weekly and, depending on the variety, from February onwards the stems will be of an edible size and ready to harvest. The plant needs to be at least 3 years old for this to work successfully and not damage it.
  • Use as a root barrier. Some plants are very vigorous and will rapidly spread so if you fancy some bamboo in your garden an old bin will form a great root barrier to keep it confined to one area. Cut the bottom off the bin and place in the hole that you’ve created in the ground for your bamboo so that the top rim of the bin is about 5cm above the soil level. Then plant your bamboo within the bin. The bin will prevent the roots from spreading.
  • Create a pond. Cut the bin down to the depth you want and place in a hole in the ground. Place in a few dwarf pond plants and to speed things along add a jug of water from a friend’s pond. Make sure you create a shallow area or ramp for wildlife to get out.

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration here. Remember to take care when making any holes or cutting the bins.

Happy gardening

Brett

 

Eco-Gardening – the Future is Green

All hail Bristol – this year’s European Green Capital.  Bristol is the first UK City to earn this prestigious award, gained by its exceptional environmental, sustainable and eco-friendly commitments.

As a landscape gardener I am becoming increasingly interested in how to implement eco-friendly and sustainable ideas and practices into the garden.  I strongly believe that this is the main area where gardening is going to evolve, and much that I see at the horticultural and RHS Shows supports this.

Ecologically friendly gardening is not a new concept – for many years now we have been:

  • using non-peat compost
  • using less plastic and choosing biodegradable products
  • collecting rainwater
  • planting drought tolerant plants and planting for wildlife

but I’m interested in what we will be doing in the future.

How we may all be living in the future with gardens in the sky to produce our food.

How we may all be living in the future with productive gardens in the sky to produce our food and help to purify the air..

One area of change will be our front gardens where simple changes can make a huge difference.  How can we do this?  I encourage clients to “green up” their front garden space with plants that both tolerate pollution and simultaneously help reduce pollution.  Good pollution tolerant shrubs include hydrangeas or dogwoods, or evergreens such as Skimmia japonica, Aucuba japonica or any of the Euonymus fortunei varieties, all of which are hardy, low maintenance, easy to prune and have attractive foliage, stems or flowers.

Plants can also be used to control the environment by acting as an insulator against exterior walls by trapping air against the structure. They can also reduce the heat gain in summer by shading and moisture loss from the leaves. Admittedly this is not often required in this country but may become more of an issue if global warming takes hold. There is even research under way for the next generation of cheap Photovoltaic panels which mimic the photosynthesis cycle and store unwanted energy as plant starches instead of using inefficient current technology batteries. The mind boggles!

Green wall designed by the pioneer Patrick Blanc. These walls help to clean the air and provide insulation and help modify the temperature in summer. They also look far nicer than stone or concrete.

Green wall designed by the pioneer Patrick Blanc. These walls help to clean the air and provide insulation and help modify the temperature in summer. They also look far nicer than stone or concrete.

Back down to earth the functionality of front gardens does not prevent eco-friendly opportunities.  For example it is now possible to have an eco-friendly drive.  This is a drive made from a porous or permeable product that allows water to drain back into the ground, thereby purifying it and preventing the run-off into drains and possible flooding.  Porous drive options include:

  • Using a permeable concrete or asphalt.
  • Using grass, growing through a durable mesh or grid.
  • Special pavers with gravel filled gaps between and gravel beneath.
  • Paving only the car tyre tracks and having planting in between.

    Cut a strip out of the centre of the drive and plant with low growing low maintenance plants. Acts as drainage strip and looks great.

    Cut a strip out of the centre of the drive and plant with low growing low maintenance plants. Acts as drainage strip and looks great.

Looking to the future there is one innovative material that I can’t wait to use – carbon dioxide absorbing concrete.  It’s been in the production stage for many years – but it now looks very close to becoming readily available.  Not only is the manufacture of the concrete more eco-friendly as it emits less CO2 during its production, but the concrete actually absorbs CO2 as it cures and continues to harden over its lifetime.

The eco-friendly approach is very important in the materials we use. I always try and source in an eco-conscious way, whether this means using locally produced aggregates such as gravel and paving, or timber that has been produced in a sustainable way.  I try and buy from local trade nurseries that have grown the plants themselves – and this benefits my clients as they get plants that can cope with local conditions.

Eco- friendly gardening is something that I am very passionate about and will be returning to in future blogs.  The great thing about it is – big or small – we can all make a difference by doing something we love – planting.

Bye for now

Brett

Next post – 19th February – “Builder vs Landscape Gardener”