For most allotmenters, the reuse and recycling of various items and materials has become an integral part of their lives. As inhabitants of this wonderful natural world, we all have a responsibility towards the environment and fellow/future inhabitants. Whilst many householders are reasonably diligent in recycling household items such as newspapers, bottles, tins and greenwaste through local authority collections, and many donating other unwanted clothing, shoes, etc. to favourite charities, there are many allotment holders who take reuse and recycling to a whole new level. How satisfying it is to save money and save the planet at the same time.
Tenants on the Bryant's Field, Fairview, Higher Raleigh and Sunnybank allotment sites in Barnstaple have already proved their ability to Reduce the volume of water used at each site. Check here for the results!
Pots and containers
Simple actions such as reusing the discarded flowerpots from nursery or shop bought plants, reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill (many types of plastic flower pots cannot yet be recycled through local authority schemes). Although generally rather fragile, with careful handling and use these pots can last several seasons. Just make sure that you thoroughly wash them before reuse to 'kill off' any lingering organisms that could spread disease to your new seedlings and plants.
With careful handling and use, Terracotta flowerpots can be made to last many years, but when they do eventually crack and fall apart due to the ravages of frost, or from being bashed or dropped, why not reuse the pieces as crocks for drainage in the base of other pots, larger containers or even in your borders. Just be careful of the sharp jagged edges until they have been well-weathered.
Toilet rolls are wound around a cardboard tube. When a roll is finished, use the cardboard tube as a biodegradable flower pot. Simply fold one end in towards the centre to form the bottom of your pot, and Hey Presto!, you have a slender container in which you can plant beans or similar seeds. Once, grown to a suitable height and hardened off, plant the cardboard tubes directly into the ground. With increased moisture levels, the cardboard will soften and allow the roots to spread through. Eventually the cardboard tube will decompose and the fibre content will enhance the soil structure - at zero cost!
Some enterprising recyclers wind strips of newspaper around a wooden former to create paper pots for growing small plants, which will then be set out on the allotment. With enough turns (layers) of newspaper around the former, the resulting pots are robust enough to nurture seedlings and can be carefully planted into the earth where the seedlings will rapidly establish their rootsystem and the pots decompose. You can make your own cylindrical former for these newspaper pots or use a rolling-pin, but formers are readily available from a number of sources such as Gardening Naturally at reasonable cost.
How about recycling the large plastic tubs used to contain Chicken Manure Pellets and other organic fertilisers. They can 'enjoy' a second life as plant tubs (with suitable drainage holes) or large slug traps (make sure that wildlife cannot fall into the 'free bar'). They can also double as wind shields around susceptible plants if you cut out the bottom - and Yes, we're sure that you'll be able to find a use for the plastic disk removed from the bottom.
jars & bottles
If you buy jam or marmalade from the supermarket, make sure that you keep the empty glass jars and metal lids, they are an obvious recycling target, so when you make chutney's and preserves from the produce grown on your allotment, reuse them. But how about recycling plastic yogurt pots and similar items for growing seedlings; they are large enough to use in the place of flower pots for those smaller plants. Or perhaps reuse the shallow trays used to contain meat and other products by the supermarkets; after careful washing, these are ideal for growing shallow-rooted herbs.
Glass bottles can be reused (after thorough washing of course) to store your homemade wines; just make sure that they are suitably labelled.
CD's & VHS Tapes
Don't throw away old CD's and VHS video tapes because they can prove useful down on the plot. Simply pull a long length of VHS tape from the cassette, cut it free and tie it to the tops of bamboo canes which have been firmly pushed into the ground by your crops. Make sure the tape criss-crosses the crops and is fairly taut so that it vibrates in the wind, making a noise that will ward off most of the birds that are likely to feast on your crops. Similarly, redundant CD's can be suspended over your crops on twine stretched between bamboo canes. They will then twist, turn and glint in the breeze, scaring away those pesky birds.