How I Avoid Plastic Pots in My Garden

A few tried and tested strategies to avoid introducing new plastic pots to your garden.

Close up of hand holding young seedling in garden

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Most of us are well aware of the detrimental environmental impact of plastic. This is a material which comes at a great cost—from beginning to end, starting with its manufacture to the waste at the end of its life.

Many of us are trying to avoid plastic use wherever possible in our homes and gardens. To help others to move away from plastic use in the garden, specifically, here are some strategies I use to avoid introducing new plastic pots in my garden.

First of all, it is important to mention that I do have some plastic pots in my garden. I just avoid introducing new ones whenever possible. If you, like me, already have some old plastic pots knocking around for reuse, it is a good idea to use these for as long as possible, to keep them out of the waste stream. 

That said, here are some things I do:

Grow from Seed

Plastic pots are much more difficult to avoid if you buy in plants from garden centers or plant nurseries, most of which will not have made the move away from plastic pots. So rather than buying plug plants or bedding plants, it is always a more sustainable option to grow your own from seed where possible. 

It is worth noting that plastic pots are not the only issue when buying plants. Sowing from seed can also help you avoid other harmful products, like peat-based compost, for example. It also allows you to grow from scratch in an organic way without worrying about what may have been used on plants before you bought them. 

I sow most of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers I grow from seed, rather than buying plants. And, as an aside, you should also consider saving at least some seeds from your homegrown plants to sow in your garden next year. Since this is one more way to reduce consumption and reduce waste. 

Use Biodegradable Pots and a Soil Blocker

To avoid buying in plastic seed trays, pots and containers, use sustainable seed-starting alternatives. For example, I often use toilet roll tubes as mini biodegradable plant pots. And there are plenty of other biodegradable pot options you can buy or make. 

Another great idea is to invest in (or make) a soil blocker. This creates solid blocks of soil/growing medium which allow you to start seeds without using any pots at all. These soil blocks can be placed in recycled food containers, cardboard boxes, or wooden seed trays, rather than new plastic ones. 

Propagate Existing Plants

Sowing seeds is not the only way to get new plants for your garden without buying them in plastic pots. You can also increase your plant stock by propagating existing plants in your garden. You can take softwood, semi-ripe, or hardwood cuttings from many different plants, and many others can easily be propagated by layering or division. 

Always look around to see how you can increase plant stock for your garden in this way before you decide to buy any new plants. 

Swap Plants With Friends and Neighbours

Even if you do not have plants in your own garden to propagate, there are still other options to increase your plant stock without buying new plants in pots. One thing to consider is you might be able to beg cuttings or divisions from other gardeners in your area or swap plants (or seeds) with friends or neighbors. If you see a plant that you admire in a neighbor's garden, there is no harm in politely asking whether you can take a cutting or two for your own use. Joining a gardening club or community garden in your area could be a great way to connect with other gardeners. 

Buy Bare Root Rather Than Potted Trees and Shrubs

There may well still be times when you do wish to buy plants for your garden. You may not be able to avoid plastic entirely. But you can avoid bringing new pots onto your property if, rather than buying potted trees and shrubs, you purchase bare-root specimens during the dormant period. If you are creating a larger forest garden or other larger planting scheme, then this is often also the more affordable option. 

You might not be able to avoid plastic in your garden altogether but by following the tips above, you should be able to avoid bringing too many new plastic pots into your garden. By avoiding new plastic pots as much as possible, and using old ones for as long as you can, you can help reduce plastic waste and do the right thing for people and the planet.