How Many Plastic Pots and Trays Are Used in the UK Every Year?

According to a 2018 episode of Gardeners World the UK uses half a billion plastic pots and trays per year. Gardening expert and designer Arit Anderson  estimates that if all these trays were spread out over the grounds of the Chelsea Flower Show they would cover it 149 times…per year!

Fortunately the plastic tide is slowly starting to turn with introductions of bioplastics and other alternatives.

Most plant pots are made of post consumer waste. That’s the good news. The bad news is standard black nursery pots are themselves, difficult to recycle. Many depots use a light scanner to sort the plastics but black pots don’t reflect the light back to the machines, making them hard to sort mechanically.

The industry is doing some testing with making lighter colours of pots to offset this problem. There is some concern that the lighter pots will do a poorer job of shielding roots from sunlight, resulting in less healthy plants, but hopefully that won’t be a problem.

You can learn more about all of this by viewing the 2018 Episode 25 of Gardeners World.

Gardeners are connected to the earth by the very passion that defines them. If they demand changes, the industry will have no choice but to listen. We need to continue to come up with viable solutions together.


Keeping it Even – The Secret to Wintering Tender Perennials

It’s not the cold temperatures that kill borderline hardy perennials in your garden, it’s the fluctuating temperatures. Plants prefer predictable stability when it comes to putting down roots. Once it gets cold, they can be perfectly fine with that. It just needs to stay that way with minimum fluctuations until spring.

If you live in northern Canada, as I do, this is an impossible scenario. I have seen a Chinook blow in and temperatures go from -30 C to +10 in a single day! During a warm spell in the winter our heaps of snow shrink to almost nothing before we get slapped with another round of cold.

We might celebrate the winter reprieve, but this can spell death to a perennial who doesn’t know whether to start sending up leaf buds, or tucking in for another couple months of cold.

When snow falls on a garden it is like throwing a lovely warm blanket over the bed. When the snow melts, the blanket is removed. If cold temperatures return before another dump of snow there the perennials are, in bed without a blanket. Not pleasant and not all perennials will survive.

Fortunately you can make sure whatever happens, the perennials have a blanket to insulate their roots. The answer comes in the form of mulch.

Once freezing temperatures settle into your garden you can help prevent fluctuations on the soil level by adding some kind of organic matter around your plant. It doesn’t really matter what you use; compost, wood chips, sawdust, leaves, straw, hay, even gravel…it all works. A depth of six inches (15 cm) to as much as a foot (30 cm) will do the job nicely.

Compost makes wonderful mulch material.

Spreading the organic matter after freezing temperatures settle in – not before – will prevent critters with the nibbles from setting up their winter home in your lovely mulch.

In the spring you can begin to slowly remove the mulch until temperatures are done with dropping below the freezing mark.

If this sounds like too much bother, simply stick with perennials that are naturally hardy to your zone. There are lots to choose from.

Crocuses are hardy in most zones evident in how they brazenly burst through the snow to announce the start of spring.

However, if you like to push the zone envelope and plant things that are a zone or two above where you live, mulch could be your ace in the hole. Or on the hole, in this case.


Which is the Most Fragrant Sweet Pea in the World?

The Matucana! This heady heirloom is also known as the original sweet pea. It wafts an intoxicating 10/10 scent from gorgeous violet and deep maroon coloured petals. The blossoms are smaller than most but make up for their lack of size with intense colour and fragrance. Many gardeners prefer the diminutive blossoms for their tabletop displays. And, of course, the perfume is unmatched.

Image from West Coast Seeds

One legend has it that Sicilian Monk Franciscus Cupani introduced the seed to Britain from plants found in Italy in the early 1700’s. Another widely accepted theory has the variety being brought to Europe from Peru, which has a city that shares the Matucana moniker.

Wherever its origins, we know for certain the Matucana Sweet Pea is the undisputed title holder of the world’s most perfumed sweet pea in existence!

How Do Earthworms Survive Winter?

Night crawlers, one of the most common earthworms in North America, survive winter by crawling below the frost table. These soil dwellers are capable of burrowing more than six feet (1.83 metres) below the earth’s surface.

If you have an indoor compost bin, you know all about red wigglers. They are voracious vegetable scrap munching machines that thrive in temperatures between 55 – 77 degrees F (12 – 25 degrees C) making them the compost bin worm of choice.

Can red wigglers survive winter in your outdoor compost bin? How about if you return them to the wild aka your garden bed?

The answer in both cases is yes.

And no.

Red wigglers are fabulous compost producers because they munch on anything that lands on the soil’s surface. This is their favoured ground. When the temperatures drop, red wigglers remain optimistically near the soil’s surface, which unfortunately leads to their demise.

In other words, they freeze to death.

The good news is nature has their survival covered.

Red Wigglers lay numerous eggs wrapped in a sort of cocoon designed to remain viable through the cold winter. Come spring, the eggs hatch and a new generation of red wigglers emerge for the summer season.

*Note – releasing red wigglers into the forest can have a devastating impact on the environment. To find out more check out our article Never Dump Your Worms on the Forest Floor 


Did Earth Just Get Buzzed by Aliens?

So this is happening…a cigar shaped object  spotted near earth have Harvard scientists thinking it might be our first official sighting of an alien spacecraft.

Aliens may have found us and maybe that is just what the world needs to shake us out of our shoes a bit. Finally something we can all unite over.

Don’t get me wrong, I hope they’re friendly and I hope we are friendly back but still.

The whole world feels so divided these days, but just imagine if a ship of aliens were to drop in. Suddenly our own politics, religion and race would seem pretty darn insignificant.

We would instantly become united as Human and, for a while at least, nothing else would matter.

Still, I hope we would be cautiously friendly humans and share our potato salad. And I hope the aliens would be gracious and ask for the recipe and not inquire if we happen to have any unwanted humans kicking around that they could possibly munch on instead. Because that would just put us right back to square one.

I hope it goes down so after we unite in our Humanness and share our salad, we will be able to learn things from our guests. Important things. Like how to clean up our planet and stop killing each other.

Maybe the aliens will be so cool, so kind and so intelligent, we will feel like rodents by comparison. We will be completely mind blown. We will be so embarrassed at our own primitive behaviour we will start scrambling to impress our new guests with how enlightened and evolved we can be, if we just try.

The alien light will have shone on just how unenlightened and evolved we actually are and we will be motivated to do better right now, and not wait to save earth until Monday, or when we aren’t feeling so tired or after we’ve lost ten pounds or when we manage to save a million dollars in our bank account.

Humans will all together, all at once, become the change our world and our earth needs right now, right there on the spot.

Whatever happens, it can’t be said that we don’t live in interesting times. Which, of course, is an ancient expression meant as a curse. May You Live in Interesting Times were words you hurled at a person you didn’t like very much.

However you look at it, times really are getting interesting, curse or not.






Share Your Nuts. That’s All I Know.

We have six backyard bird feeders, which we fill with an assortment of seed, fruit and nuts.

It amazes me how quickly the birds find it.

At first we just fed the black oiled sunflower seeds and got thousands of sparrows for our effort and a few (too few in my opinion) chickadees. When I put out the peanuts it took about three hours for the first blue jay to show up.

How does that work? Do they talk to sparrows or chickadees?

”Hey bud, the feeder over there has some of those horrid big seeds that you yammer on about all the time.”

”Big seeds? What are you talking about little bird? You mean peanuts? They have peanuts? OMG! SQAWK! SQAWK!”

Or maybe they smell them. Do birds smell things? I suppose they must. For some reason I only associate sniffing abilities with soft flesh covered noses, not hard beaks, which is kind of a weird assumption when you think about it.

Anyway, now we have lots of blue jays, as well as sparrows, chickadees, magpies and the odd raven and woodpecker.

About a month ago a singular Stellar blue jay showed up and she has been a daily customer at the feeders ever since.

I don’t really know if the stellar jay is a she, but I like to call her Stella so it works better that way. When I see her at the feeder I announce it by theatrically yelling (in a stage whisper so as not to scare her away) Stella! Stella! Stella!

You know, like in Streetcar Named Desire.

If I learn more and can figure out the difference and I’m wrong, I guess I will just have to call Stella Stanley instead.

Stella doesn’t care what I call her, so long as I fill the feeders with nuts.

She’s bold and bossy. While other birds fly off when I come outside, Stella flies in. When I go back inside and the other birds return, she tries to chase them away. However, with six feeders that can prove an exhausting undertaking and eventually she just chills out, settles in and eats.

Apparently stellar jays can mimic the sounds of other animals and birds, often parroting (stellar jaying?) birds of prey to scare other birds away from the feeders. Maybe Stella does this as well.

No one chases Stella and this worries me. Why is she the only stellar jay? Did her flock move somewhere for winter and leave her behind? Did her mate dump her or maybe die? Is she grieving and is that the reason she seems indifferent to human stranger danger and is so grouchy and bossy with the other birds? Or did her mate and/or flock dump her BECAUSE she is so grouchy and bossy?

Though generally no one becomes grouchy without someone else inflicting pain, even if that someone is the simply the voice in ones own head.

That certainly can be the way of things in the human world.

A few hard knocks and a person withdraws. A couple more and they become defensive and grouchy. Eventually they are making sure they’re the ones actively doing the rejecting. Get within feeder distance and they will run you off before you can so much as muster up a, “Hey, how ya doing?”

I don’t know what the answer is, but sharing your nuts is always a good place to start. Even if some won’t share them back. Maybe especially if others won’t share them back.

As the saying goes, “Hurting people, hurt people.”

Maybe hurting birds, hurt birds. Or maybe Stella just really, really, likes peanuts.

Short of settling Stella onto our couch while I sit nearby with a pad and pen on my knee, ready to record her fears, tears and anger issues, I will never know. And would it matter if I did?

When all is said and done, what really matters anyway? Heartache, gender, marital status, a beings disposition or the fact I have some seeds to share and we are all sharing a planet together?

What I know for sure is we are currently under a winter storm alert and the snow has been falling for hours and will continue to fall for several more hours to come.

It’s time to throw my coat back on, shovel the deck and share some more nuts.

Because I have some.

And Stella likes them.




*The picture of the stellar jay at the top of this post is a stock photo and not an actual shot of Stella. Here’s a shot of our Stella in the feeder that I snapped a couple of minutes ago…

And now you know why I use stock photos!