Like many allotmenteers we think seriously about what we put on or in our soil. My guess is that many more of us buy so-called ‘green’ products on the basis of an ethical impulse rather than out of absolute conviction, and the manufacturers know this and exploit it. I could go on for ever about misleading labelling of so-called green sprays – you need a magnifying glass and a great deal of time to read the tiny print on a bottle of insecticide that deliberately fails to explain the difference between pyrethrum and pyrethroids with the consequence that customers are conned into using products that may compromise their organic produce. It’s probably not as much dangerous as thoroughly dishonest.
But what about plastics? We’ve been doing everything we can to reduce our use of plastics; we recycle old pots until they’re unuseable and we’re slowly phasing out plastic labels and plant ties. But what about the allegedly compostable bags we collect our green kitchen waste in? Has anyone else noticed that an ordinary compost heap can be full of resistant plastic bags. That’s because they don’t tell you they’re only properly biodegradable in an industrial composter that runs at temperatures way above anything an ordinary heap can produce. Now we treat them exactly like other plastic waste – they’re a con.
And then what about Jiffy 7 coir modules. You might think that they offer a double dose of consumer virtue – no more plastic pots and no peat either. We were very taken (in) by them and used them a lot last year. Yes, they do everything they claim to do, and we sowed and germinated seed very successfully and planted out without any setbacks, so points all round for that. But as the season progressed we noticed that the mesh which encases them seems very resistant to rotting down. Some of our beds had a number of empty modules lying around exactly as you might expect tea-bags to do. I’m increasingly sure that the modules are wrapped in non-degradable plastic mesh and so I’ve started a very small-scale experiment to test them. There may be a difference between “biodegradable” and “photodegradable” so in order to test both possibilities I’ve buried six modules about 8″ below the surface in a corner where they won’t be disturbed and left six more on the surface above them. Meanwhile if anyone else had any experience of this I’d be very glad to hear.