There is fresh new urgency in the world of gardening to increase efforts towards more sustainable gardening. The impetus follows the recent COP26 United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, as new targets limiting carbon emissions were set in an attempt to fend off potentially harmful temperature rises.
Two key pledges from the summit agreement were a scheme to ensure a 30 per cent cut in methane emissions by 2030, and a commitment to end deforestation. Under discussion were urban tree planting, recycling plastic and using water responsibly. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – the only horticultural body with an exhibit – explored ways to use plants to tackle global warming, such as crops that need less water and fertiliser.
A 2021 survey for the Royal Horticultural Society found eight out of 10 gardeners think the government doesn’t fully recognise the impact gardening can have on the environment. “Britain’s 30 million gardeners can make a positive contribution towards the climate and biodiversity crisis – but we can’t harness this potential alone,” said Director General, Sue Biggs.
The horticultural industry has set targets for going greener, committing nurseries, garden centres and growers to a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Other industry pledges include recycling at least 10 per cent of plastic waste, using more recycled plastic in packaging and speeding up efforts to get peat out of potting composts.
James Barnes, chair of the Horticultural Trades Association, says, though targets could be more ambitious, the industry is responding to gardeners’ concerns: “There is an increasing awareness from the consumer, and we need to get ourselves ahead of the curve.”
But environmental campaigner Professor Dave Goulson says change has to come from the bottom up. “If we wait for governments to fix things it’ll be too late,” he says. “Individual choices – what you buy and refuse to buy – can change the world if enough people do it.”
Get involved in sustainable gardening with our ‘Growing Greener’ campaign, from p32.
Peat extraction “must end globally”
The use of peat in potting compost was in the spotlight at COP26, with the Peatlands Pavilion, hosted by the International Peatlands Society. The government restated its aim to ban peat in compost by 2024, while the National Trust led an international coalition calling for a global end to peat extraction to prevent compost manufacturers buying peat from abroad. Natural Resources director Patrick Begg said we need an import ban, too. “If we just export our carbon emissions, we fail to solve the problem.”
Darwin’s plants help climate change
A unique collection of dried plant specimens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, could help scientists predict future climate changes.
The vast collection, which includes plants collected by Charles Darwin, is going digital after the Government announced £15 million in funding during COP26. It will take four years to scan the seven million specimens.
It’s hoped the online database will help scientists identify plants that can cope better with climate change. “It gives us the data to say what might happen,” said Kew’s head of science collections Dr Alan Paton. “And that provides nature-based solutions.”
New age blooms for allotments
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