Hello! I’m diving back into the ‘Six on Saturday’ format but this one’s a bit different! Instead of showing you six things from my garden (which hasn’t yet shed its dismal February look), I’m going to show you six new gardening products that I thought were pretty cool, as seen at the Garden Press Event in London on 21 February.
The Garden Press Event is essentially a fair for the horticultural media, where some of the big brands and also smaller companies showcase their new gardening products, everything from robot lawnmowers to eye-watering expensive but gorgeous Japanese Niwaki pruning tools. I spotted a few famous faces, including Sue Kent from Gardener’s World, but sadly not Monty, of whom I am a major fan! Also present were the less famous, and the totally non-famous like me, and anyone who writes for the horticultural press.
Using a by-product from the farming sector, and made from British wool, this pad smelt wonderfully of sheep! Initially used by the company for packaging, they started hearing back from green-fingered customers that it had some really quite useful garden uses. It can be used to line hanging baskets, to protect plants from frost (instead of fleece, which contains plastics), as a growing medium if you like to grow micro-greens, or even just dug into the soil or into pots for added organic matter and water retention. Its cutest use is to place it in a bird feeder for nesting material – especially now that the nesting season is starting. I’m going to try it as a slug repellant around young veg plants and maybe even dahlias – it has a coarse texture and absorbs slug slime so they don’t like it, apparently. I’ll let you know how I get on!
Yes more wool! I think many of us don’t feel good about those piles of plastic pots accumulating behind the shed from our garden centre buys. These wool pots are once again using a by-product, as the sheep are shorn each year to keep them cool in summer, and although not made in the UK (they are manufactured in Egypt), they are very lightweight and not in the least bulky, so transport impact is minimal. The pots can also be used to transplant seedlings directly into the ground, where the wool will eventually biodegrade and provide nutrition to the plant. There’s even the bonus that the wool edging around the seedling just might deter slugs and snails.
I thought this was a really clever idea, especially for beginner or clueless gardeners! You get a pre-designed garden border laid out on a biodegradable paper plan, where the plants are marked out and correctly spaced. The plants are supplied with the plan, so you just plant into the paper where indicated and voila. The company designs a range of borders for different situations and styles, for example a shady border, a sunny border, and evergreen, Mediterranean, wildlife and English cottage borders. I did wonder whether soil types should also be taken into account and asked them about this. They said that they didn’t want to add too many layers of complexity, especially as this product is aimed at beginners, which I understand and they have deliberately chosen plants that aren’t too particular about soil (e.g. not including acid-soil lovers). I think this is a nice way into gardening for anyone who feels intimidated by plants and the choice available. It also helps reduce waste as plants are more likely to thrive in the right situation and not need replacing.
Urban Farm-It specialises in aquaponics, hydroponics and mushroom growing kits. Their aim is to promote urban food-growing in a sustainable, eco-friendly and fun way. The risk of fresh food shortages has recently been in the news in the UK, and I think that food insecurity is going to be something we’ll have to live with in the future. What I really liked about this company is that it enables people without gardens to still grow their own food at home. I also think that growing mushrooms sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m keen to try it this year. I didn’t get a freebie but I do think these would make wonderful and original gifts (Hint, hint!).
This company uses agricultural waste to make modern and sleek-looking garden accessories. I thought the insect hotels looked especially good, for the discerning fashionista ladybirds out there! When crops are grown and harvested, a lot of the residual plant waste is usually burnt. Instead of doing that, agricultural waste is processed and blended with resin to make new things. The main ingredients used determine the finish, and include bamboo, wheat chaff, straw, coffee husks and nut husks. The factory is in China, which is one negative point due to the carbon footprint of transporting the finished products to other countries, but it’s still better than creating from new or unrecycled materials, which would require more energy input.
I really love how this company operates. They generate renewable energy from anaerobic respiration, using plant matter grown on their farm, and then they use the waste product to make nutritious plant feeds, mulches and composts. They also use these to then grow the plants that feed back into the renewable energy production process, completing the circle perfectly. They’ve given me some mulch and indoor plant feed to try out, I am really looking forward to seeing the results.
Modern horticulture developed as an off-shoot of agriculture, and many of the processes and products around it are industrial or energy-intensive, or even actively damaging to the environment and ecosystems. So it’s heartening to see that efforts are being made to reduce gardening’s carbon footprint and make it more sustainable. Using waste products from other industries like farming or energy plants, especially where these are local, is one way towards a greener future for gardening. Hopefully this has been useful – I’m not paid to promote any of the products here, I just like them! And it goes without saying: wherever possible make your own, recycle, upcycle and grow your own.
Six on Saturday is hosted by gardening blogger Jim from Garden Ruminations, and on his Six on Saturday page you’ll find links to many inspiring gardens and gardeners!