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January 16, 2018updated 17 Jan 2018 5:02pm

Garden industry welcomes the UK’s environmental plan

The garden industry has welcomed the UK Government’s ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’, which they believe will not only improve the environment but also help to improve health and wellbeing and develop stronger communities.

By Pamela Kokoszka

The garden industry has welcomed the UK Government’s ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’, which they believe will not only improve the environment but also help to improve health and wellbeing and develop stronger communities.

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has welcomed many of the actions in the plan, including the creation of more green infrastructure and ways to evaluate and improve planting and management.

According to the statement on the HTA website “the HTA and its members s have been working hard for this to happen and it is very encouraging that our voice has been heard.”

Most of the actions and changes will be delivered locally through community projectsand local garden centres will be a part of the process by giving advice and selling plants and equipment to help the projects get off the ground.

School gardening projects which will play a strong role in this plan will also be introduced to engage schoolkids in the natural environment.

The Growing Media Association (GMA ) and the HTA have also created the Responsible Sourcing Scheme for Growing Media, a scheme to “steadily introduce and increase an awareness of manufacturers’ impact upon the environment as a result of choices made regarding the components used in growing media”.

The scheme, which was given support in the Government plan, enables manufacturers wishing to participate the ability to measure the components that make up products, and enter those results into a calculator, which will then inform the manufacturer of their environmental impact.

As part of the UK’s environmental plan there are also targets for restoring vulnerable peatland and ending peat use in horticultural products by 2030.

Peat is a naturally forming, organic substance which forms in anaerobic conditions usually in the presence of stagnant water and  is used in gardening due to its fertile properties. It is often the main ingredient in modern, store-bought composts.

The peat used to produce garden compost is mainly derived from peat bogs. Peat bogs are among the rarest and most fragile environments in the UK, and are often hundreds of years old. Natural peat bogs are being destroyed to meet the demand for composts and UK peatlands have become some of the most endangered natural habitats in the country with only 6000 hectares of bog left in a natural condition, equating to a loss of 94% of all peatbogs in the UK.

The voluntary strategy to phase out the use of peat by 2020 for amateur gardeners was first introduced in 2011, with a voluntary phase-out target of 2030 for professional growers of fruit, vegetables and plants.

As part of the comprehensive environmental plan, the UK government has threatened to take further measures if there is not sufficient movement to become peat-free by 2020.

Growing Media Association chairman Steve Harper said: “There is potential for taxation or an actual ban [on peat]. We’re still working with making the Responsible Sourcing Scheme auditable over the next few months. We’ve raised [£30,000] funds from businesses and organisations [including HTA, GMA , Defra, Bord na Mona, Erin , Scotts] for it and I still believe once it is up and running…it is the best way to go forward rather than a ban.”

The dramatic proposals to increase tree planting and the creation of a new woodland creation grants scheme will help UK tree growers. A new Tree Champion in the Government will help raise awareness of these vitally important plants and the role they play in enhancing everyone’s lives.

In addition, the action to ‘make biosecurity central to buying decisions’ builds on the HTA’s efforts to encourage garden retailers and growers to source plants responsibly and not to take unnecessary risks in the face of serious threats like Xylella fastidios – a bacterial disease affecting a wide range of woody commercial plants that infects host plants by invading their water conducting systems causing serious consequences including death for some host plants.

HTA director of Horticulture, Raoul Curtis-Machin, commented: “There are many good ideas and aspirations for the UK garden industry in this plan, and many ways for us to work together with the Government to improve the industry. We look forward to working closely with Defra on the implementation of the plan.