Green Fingers I Wish

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Ethical Gardener

Plastic pots

The plastic plant pot is the gardener's equivalent to the shopper’s plastic carrier bag: we know we use too many of them - some 500 million each year in the UK - but they’re really cheap and they’re handy. The only trouble is that like carrier bags, they have become a huge waste problem: they pile up, in our gardens, in our bins, and the majority of them are either sent to landfill or incinerated. And the manufacture of virgin plastic uses significant amounts of fossil fuels (4% of the worlds annual oil production is used to produce plastics and a further 3% to manufacture them).

An obvious alternative is to recycle them, not just by giving your surplus to neighbours or a local community project, but by being able to take them back to be recycled commercially, ideally to be made into more pots. Until recently, the argument against recycling on a large scale has been that it is too complex and costly to sort the mixed plastics. But now the majority of plant pots are made from polypropylene, with trays made from polystyrene, and advanced technology means that mechanical sorting is feasible.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Butterflies scarce after two wet summers

Britain's butterflies are going through their worst summer for nearly half a century, a leading conservationist believes. Matthew Oates, conservation adviser to the National Trust, says the torrential downpours of summer 2007 had a knock-on effect on 2008, wiping out many eggs and caterpillars that would have become this year's adults.

Many familiar species are now missing from the countryside. Some, such as the small tortoiseshell, are less prevalent than ever and some varieties may become extinct at a local level.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Climate is altering UK bird habits

A number of UK bird species are laying eggs significantly earlier than they were 40 years ago, a report reveals.

A conservation coalition's report says some finches, robins and tits are all laying earlier and puts this down to warming caused by climate change.

Overall, numbers of farmland birds remain about half of what they were in the 1970s, while wintering populations of water birds have risen considerably.

The RSPB said birds were having to respond to climate change to survive.

The State of the UK's Birds report is produced annually by a coalition of conservation groups

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Climate Friendly Gardening

You love your garden, you want to keep it healthy and thriving. But, you are aware that you have some responsibility to maintain your garden in as an eco-friendly way as possible.

Here are some tips to help-

* Avoid nitrogen-rich fertilisers - they require large amounts of fossil fuel to make and emit nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than CO2

* Add home-made compost (about a bucketful per square metre) to boost the amount of water and nutrients that soil can retain - and avoid store-bought, peat-based composts

* Go manual - buy a push mower and a watering can

* Choose sustainable wood for your garden furniture

* When you're paving, consider lower-emission alternatives to concrete. Made from recycled and reclaimed materials, they have catchy names like pulverised fuel ash or ground granulated blast furnace slag.

* Get low-carbon outdoor lighting, such as solar lights or LEDs

* Check with your water company or council whether there are grants available for water-saving equipment like rainwater butts

* Recycle wastewater from the kitchen and bathroom for use in the garden and toilets.

* Discover plants that can withstand long spells of heat, including French honeysuckle, Lavender, Iris, and Salvia, and water infrequently but thoroughly, at the base of the plant

* Avoid patio heaters

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Butterflies in danger from flies

There used to be loads of small tortoiseshell butterflies fluttering around our gardens, but in recent years their numbers have fallen, and experts think they know why...

They think an insect - the Sturmia bella fly - could be to blame. It was first spotted in the UK in the 1990s, and it's possible that it arrived in Britain because of climate change.

The fly lays eggs on the nettles the tortoisehell caterpillars feed on. The baby butterflies eat the eggs, but when they hatch the little caterpillars are killed.
Experts are really worried about the winged creatures. They say numbers of the small tortoiseshell butterflies have fallen by up to 80% in some parts of the country.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Lemons in Cooking

The lemon is the ultimate citrus fruit, full of tart, sunlit juice, ready to dispense its blessings to sweet and savoury dishes and to drinks hot and cold. Its golden juice is a miracle-worker, bringing life and light to anything from a grilled fillet of fish to a devastatingly rich lemon posset.


Use it with olive oil and oregano to breathe Greek flavour into any salad, squeeze onto free-range chicken before roasting, or over sautéed courgettes or freshly boiled broad beans. A squeeze or two can brighten up dull sauces or soups, highlighting inherent flavours.

Lemony puddings come in many forms, rich with cream or pure and light. Real lemon sorbet is divine and so too is lemon ice cream. Top a scoop or two with raspberry or strawberry coulis, an optional shot of grappa or vodka and top up with sparkling prosecco or cava. Wow.

Lemon zest knocks the socks off so many other flavourings. Use in marinades, stuffings, dressings, cakes, biscuits, trifles, soufflés, rice puddings, poached fruit or buttery breadcrumb crusts for fish or lamb. For the ultimate pick-me-up for any number of savoury dishes, stews especially, knock up an Italian gremolata - finely grated lemon zest mixed with finely chopped parsley and garlic - and sprinkle over minutes before serving. It works every time.