• Isle of Wight Garden Plant Group Newsletter December 2018

    In response to Buzzing with Concern by Sue Painting (member's article in previous edition of the Newsletter)

    I was interested to read Sue Painting’s article “Buzzing with Concern” published in the September Newsletter (NO 113).

    I wanted to reassure Sue, and other group members, that at The Coastal Gardener Nursery we don’t use Neonicotinoids, or any other pesticides. In fact, we don't use any chemicals at all. We use peat free compost, feed our plants with liquid seaweed, recycle plastic pots and use nematodes to prevent vine weevil attacks. We grow the vast majority of the plants we sell from our own seeds, cuttings and divisions, which reduces our plant miles in the way that buying local produce reduces food miles. Our display beds provide food and shelter for beneficial insects and birds and the nursery buzzes with bees for much of the year. Occasionally caterpillars munch their way through our Verbascums, birds disturb succulents or a few blackfly or greenfly appear. I turn a blind, if watchful, eye and wait for the birds to eat the caterpillars, the farm cats to scare away the birds and the ladybirds to eat the greenfly! I’m about to create bug hotels to provide enhanced winter accommodation. Next year we’re going to trial some compostable pots.

    However, none of our environmentally friendly actions financially benefits us as a business - far from it. Peat free compost is more expensive than the compost that includes peat. Nematodes are not only expensive but tricky to apply to hundreds of plants. Recycling plastic pots creates storage issues and cleaning them is labour intensive. Liquid seaweed doesn’t beef up the plants in the same way as chemical fertilisers so our plants don't look as showy as those at nurseries that use chemical feeds. And having display beds reduces the space we have for selling plants.

    I have never had anyone ask about our environmental policy and I’m not aware of anyone who chooses to buy plants from us because of our approach. However, we won't be changing a thing! I love working in a chemical free environment that is alive with insect and bird life. We will carry on using seaweed feeds, recycling pots and treading as lightly as we can. It has puzzled me for some time that gardeners aren’t more concerned about where the plants they buy come from and how they are produced. Perhaps Sue Painting and IWGPG members will be at the vanguard of a new movement of gardeners who hold nurseries and garden centres to account?

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The Coastal Gardener

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