We feel the environment deserves the same care and attention that we give to our plants. As such, we are always looking for ways to limit our impact. From rainwater use and solar energy to recycling and composting, we strive for our practises to be as sustainable as possible.
Here are a few of our initiatives from across the group:
Efficient Water use
Where possible, our nursery sites have been developed to make full use of all the rainwater that falls on glasshouses and polythene tunnels for irrigation.
Reservoirs enable us to collect and use large amounts of rainwater and help secure our long term water requirements. For example, the 22,000m³ water reservoir at Binsted Nursery can hold up to 20 million litres.
Rainwater attenuation tanks are used throughout the group and help support peak demand. For instance, the three tanks at Walberton Nursery can hold 750,000 litres of rainwater. This is enough water to last three days in the peak of summer.
1.1 million litres of rainwater is collected annually from the roof of our distribution centre. This makes the centre virtually self-sufficient for pot-washing requirements.
Levelled capillary beds are also used in the group where irrigation is applied at floor level. This makes far more efficient use of water and because the foliage is kept drier, this reduces potential disease problems and improves crop grade-out.
Environmental computers and weather forecasts are used to maximise the effect of water and minimise waste.
We are continually looking for way to reduce our energy consumption and for sustainable alternatives.
A new cold store has enabled us to reduce energy use for the production of potted bulbs by 40%.
Energy screens are used to reduce the heat loss from solar radiation and reduce the energy input required to protect some winter crops. Also, heating pipes are lagged to prevent heat loss.
By centralising our distribution, we significantly reduced our local lorry movements, saving over 1,000 miles a week at peak times.
Solar panels help to reduce our reliance on the grid. For instance, the 134 panels at Walberton Nursery has reduced their reliance by 16%.
A one megawatt biomass boiler is used to heat two hectares of growing area. This is entirely powered by wood chips sourced locally from coppiced woodlands within a 20 mile radius
Peat reduction is practised on all nurseries and responsibly sourced peat replacement materials are being trialled as they become available. We have reduced the peat content of our compost by 25% and we are fully committed to produce crops in sustainable growing medium.
None of the peat that we use is sourced from sensitive Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). In the past 20 years the group has been involved in many industry and government led projects to develop and test new peat-free and reduced mixes.
We also use controlled release fertilisers (CRF) that more accurately release feed when the plant requires it, thus minimising the release of excess nutrients.
Packaging and Recycling
We are working hard to eliminate black plastic and unrecyclable plastic from our end products. We are also working with suppliers and industry bodies to help close the loop on plastic within the horticultural industry.
Our new coloured pot is made from up to 95% recycled material and free from black carbon pigment, making it suitable for kerbside collections. The new colour will ensure pots are compatible for domestic recycling but this will be dependent on the capabilities of individual centres.
We are working with the wider industry to highlight this change to Local Authorities to increase acceptance of plant pots in kerbside collection routes.
We have reduced the amount of plastic trolley wrap we use by 1.2 tonnes.
Materials recycled across the group include; pots and trays, cardboard, polythene film and pallets. Green waste is collected by a local company for composting.
There are many conservation areas across the group which include mature gardens, hedgerows, woodlands, ponds and lagoons. The most recent is the water meadow at Binsted Nursery, which was planted with 23 species of native shrubs, wildflowers and grasses. There have been sightings of Great Crested Grebes and Adders.
Integrated Crop Management (ICM)
As a significant proportion of our production area is covered, we are able to extensively utilise environmentally friendly, biological control on many plant crops. Natural predators are introduced to control Whitefly, Vine Weevil, Aphids, Spider Mite, Thrips and other common pests.
This has enabled us to reduce pesticide use by 15% in the last 10 years.