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Sharing Zero Waste Eco-Friendly Tips, Inspiration and Success.

It's 5pm and I’ve retreated indoors to enjoy a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and honey. A bit of cosy relaxation after a sunny afternoon spent in the garden pulling up Ivy and Stinging Nettle to expose the glorious dark soil beneath. More space for raised garden beds made from recycled pallets! See our previous article on recycling pallets and DIY here.

Now - - After an attractive avocado led me to lift the 24 September 2020 Waitrose Weekend paper I was very pleased to see on page 3 an article that recommends a way to reduce landfill waste caused by throwaway fashion.

Don’t forget you can recycle clothes too!

In fact there are a number of leading retailers publicising their awareness of fashion and it’s significant contribution to landfill and buyer awareness is on the up. WRAP and the British Guardian found that over 300,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill and incineration via household bins. Think - - the African Elephant is the largest land animal and one male adult weighs between 1,800 and 6,300 kg (2 and 7 tons/ 4,000 and 14,000 lb) so 43,000 elephants or 1,200 of the Statue of Liberty! - - That’s a lot of waste.

Speaking of plastic waste and elephants the Guardian has an interesting article about this.

Can we take action?

It turns out there are a few options. Some of which I didn’t know about!

  1. Fashion buy-back service: John Lewis was trialing a which is now suspended due to the COVID pandemic but is a cool idea. Who wouldn't want to sell their used unwanted clothing, knowing it will be responsibly disposed of? Watch this space.

  2. Slow fashion movement: check out this sewing blog where you can get lessons on how to restyle older or unloved items that is said to bring about a satisfaction that brings mental wellbeing and joy. Some retailers have aspirations similar to Waitrose to phase out all non-recyclable plastic from all packaging by 2021.

  3. Make your clothes last longer: wash your clothes in lower temperatures and repair when possible

  4. Swap clothes with friends and family: this can actually be a lot of fun and an interesting way to acquire much coveted clothing. Thank you Claudia Morales for the items you have given me over the course of our friendship!

  5. Explore charity shops: A friend of mine who is a Chemistry teacher shopped for suits at Charity shops near-to-Finchley Road Station and I have to tell you they have some really nice shops. So rather than buy new, buy used that are in great order and shop knowing your hard earned money is going to a great cause like shelter for the homeless or helping sick children.

  6. Quality: above all, when buying new clothes, stick to garments of high quality and avoid clothes that contain plastic materials.

You can learn more

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Updated: Dec 30, 2020

What is upcycling? Using something for a better purpose than what it was originally designed for. It’s better than recycling, because as we are now sadly aware, recycling is really downcycling, which is to give the object one more or less ‘good’ use before it ends in a landfill or incinerator--I’ll let you be the judge of preschool trash “art”. Or plastic bags turned into decking material (which then disintegrates in the sun into tiny particles before looking awful and ending in, you guessed it, landfills.)

So. Pallets. Those ubiquitous woody things that are used to transport everything bulk, everywhere around the world? We’ve now seen them in many über-cool uses, from coffee tables to bike racks. If you can get your hands on good ones and your ambitions as a food-grower are, ahem, growing, why not try your hand at upcycling them into your very own raised gardening beds?

Before you start doing anything with your pallet, make sure it is safe:

  1. Check the IPCC symbol. The International Plant Protection Convention requires all pallets to be stamped with information about how the pallet was treated. If it says MB, it’s Methyl Bromide, a chemical pesticide linked to health risks, RUN. If it says HT then, phew, it’s heat treated, and *probably* ok to use, but read on

  2. Do you know your pallet’s story? What was it used for? What kind of conditions was it kept in? Was it used to ship food or chemicals? Did it hang out on unsanitary docks (that one is most likely). The porous wood of pallets can easily harbor contaminants such as E-Coli or Listeria. If you’re not sure, just don’t use it to grow food.

  3. Give it a thorough cleaning. Arm yourself with brush and soap, and why not, vinegar or bleach. A good dry in the direct sun for a few days will help get rid of residual bacteria (but not 100%, porous wood etc, see #2)

  4. Protect your nicely scrubbed pallet with an environmentally friendly wood sealant

And now for the main event - here are the not-too-complex directions:

  1. Arrange similar-sized pallets in a neat stack. (Standard pallets are approximately 5" in height. So, a stack of 6 or 7 pallets will create the right working level for the average person.)

  2. Fill the gaps with potting soil or quality topsoil

  3. Done :)

Then it’s all up to you - insert your choice of seeds or starter plants and...water, of course. You now have a raised garden to save your back.

The pallet boards keep rows neat, help delineate boundaries, and act as a natural barrier to moisture loss, keeping plants healthy. Additionally, removing your baby plants will protect them somewhat from nibbling bugs.

What’s not to love? Have fun cooking with your hyper local veggies!

(More gardening with pallet ideas thanks to the Micro Gardener here)

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I grew up with a big garden in Australia and also in New Zealand - but I never had to take care of it. Then I moved to apartment after apartment, where a few indoor plants survived under my rule of thumb: “I’ll give you water, the rest is up to you.”

And then, one day, I again had a garden. And though I was full of desires and ideas for that patch of green...I realised I was a little apprehensive knowing absolutely nothing about gardens, and the care required. But then I realised with gardening, unlike with cooking, you cannot go wrong!

Yes you might try plants that don’t take off, or whose looks you don’t love, but none of it is a big deal, ever. It is so fun to play in that way: with no consequences!

I’ve thrown ‘wildflower spring mixes’ at the base of the lemon tree, and watched with curiosity as an unruly and disheveled bunch rose randomly from the potting soil. They’re already gone. I’ve planted with no long term plan whatsoever high maintenance basil and tomatoes, and low maintenance succulents. Even a walnut tree (in the ground) and a camellia (in a pot - can’t wait for those big buds to open!)

And now at the Fall Equinox I started wondering if I could plan a little for next year, for once. I would really like more flowers, but this isn’t the right time to seed, is it?

Actually it’s not a bad time at all, if I’m going to try perennials. In fact Fall is a good time to transplant perennials (it gives them time to establish a solid root system before the next summer.)

Annuals--the ones I would plant from seed in the spring-- work hard at their flower show because they only have one year to make seeds and hope to reproduce. Then they die.

But perennials...though they may be a bit less showy, they come back year after year! I like that.

This isn’t an either/or situation. As a gardener, we can have it all...there is room for both annuals and perennials. In fact, most likely we’ll need both for the prettiest garden. With annuals you can change colors every year (just work a bit more at it.) Meanwhile your perennials will ask little maintenance of you, and delight you year after year by showing up at their appointed blooming time.

If, like me, you’re just getting started--and of the more impatient kind--there are some fast growing pretty perennials that will help accelerate your garden efforts. (Note for the novice gardener: fast in the gardening world may mean a couple of growing seasons...a good way to help us re-attune to Mother Nature’s rhythms!)

Here are my 5 picks for fast-growing perennials:

  1. My absolute favourite for its delicate looks, adorable name, and delicious (to me) fragrance which was in my mom’s Dior perfume: Lily of the Valley (image above).

(How to grow details here)

Then, in subjective order of prettiness:

2. Geum - especially the red and tangerine ones. Charming little flowers show up in May and June.

3. Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ has pretty, ahem, mauve petals, and can flower almost all year round. Bonus: it’s a favourite of bees and butterflies.

4. Hardy Geranium (“cranesbill”) are great for borders with their star-shaped petals in blue, pink or purple.

5. Crocosmia for late summer, especially the Lucifer kind because, you guessed it, the fiery colors of its dense flowers.

(Thank you Gardener's World for this wealth of knowledge. More on fast-growing perennials in this article)

-----I also would like to mention Calendula Officinalis "Pot Marigold" which will feature in another blog post of mine. It deserves it's own write-up as it is a rather exciting, edible delight which is a beneficial ingredient in skincare and adds fantastic colour to your garden bed. More on that later.

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