Pot Washing & Bare Roots!

18 February 2022

Hello everyone, welcome to this month's blog post. I hope you're all well and have had a good start to 2022.

This month, I thought I'd talk a little bit about one of the main jobs we tend to do at this time of year - pot washing!

If you have received an order of plants from us in the past, you will know that we mostly remove the pots from the plants and wrap the root balls to protect them in transit. The reasoning for this is twofold:

  • Firstly, the hope is that this greatly minimises the amount of plastic going to landfill, either through us discarding the pots or customers throwing them away.
  • Secondly, it makes packing our plants quicker and easier. We can also get more plants in a box and pack them tighter together without squashing them. This minimises the amount of void-fill we have to use, as well as the amount of cardboard, as we can get more plants to a box, which in turn takes up less space in the courier's van, making it more beneficial for all parties and indeed the environment.

We think that most gardeners tend to have a surplus of plastic pots lying around in sheds and greenhouses, but if customers would like their plants sent in pots, we are happy to oblige.

Unbelievably, we still live in an age where the machinery in recycling plants cannot pick up black coloured plastics in order to send them on the right conveyor to be recycled. Hence why pot manufacturers have now started to produce taupe coloured pots, which can be picked up by A.I. and sent down the recycling chute rather than the landfill one.

I would also like to note that washing and reusing our pots (some of which have now been reused for over seven years) is no cheaper than buying in a brand new lot every year. In fact, when you tot up the cost of labour and disinfectant, it works out a little more expensive. My question being though, what is the cost to the environment of all the small nurseries, garden centres and their customers, throwing away all these pots every year or placing them in the recycling bin with the hope that they will end up in the right place, only to be rejected at the other end and sent to landfill by an inferior technology. It is worth further noting that most black plastic plant pots are indeed recyclable, but the systems in place simply cannot pick them up due to their colour.

So, how do we do it? Well, before I answer that, I'd like to share a picture of our lovely Chris, sporting an apron fashioned from a compost pallet-topper, in her words, looking like "one of those doll toilet roll covers!". So elegant did she look, and so graceful her one-woman fashion show was, that even the cows couldn't take their eyes off her; gazing on as she strutted around - a dazzling beacon in blue.

Anyway, for those of you who are still reading and haven't shrivelled up with boredom - essentially, I hose the excess dirt off the pots, Chris gives them a scrub with a brush to get into all the nooks and crannies and get the fine dirt off. They are then plunged into a special horticultural disinfectant for ten minutes, which is specifically for this job; then they're drained and finally stacked ready for reuse.

It sounds simple and it is really, but there's a fair bit of setting up and to-ing and fro-ing. Plus, answering the phone when you're wearing about four layers because you're working at the top of a windy hill in January, is, well, challenging, shall we say?

So far this year, we've washed about six thousand. We're not done yet but we washed more than we needed last year, so we already have some to go at.

I hope you enjoyed reading this month's blog post. I'll aim to keep you posted monthly with regard to what we've been up to and what new plants and products are available. Don't forget that our annual bare root offer ends on the 28th of February. As ever they've been flying out. Here's a wee picture of me, holding up some that were off on their way to their new owners, to be loved and admired for many years to come...

And to finish, here's some more pictures of bare roots getting boxed and all the boxes in my hallway, ready to be taken to the post office the next morning (please excuse the decorating sheet). Addresses obscured of course!

Enjoy the rest of your February everyone, and be sure to check back next month for more news from the nursery. 

P.S. if you'd like to request a guide and subscribe to the mailing list, I'll let you know when the new blog post is out.

Best wishes, Gary, Jenny, Chris & Riley.

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