Hillier Nurseries aims to be a leader in good environmental practice. This has always been of paramount importance, but at a time when we are all more aware of how our actions impact the world around us, it is even more critical.
Read more about our sustainable approach to managing waste, water and our plants.
Waste is kept to a minimum throughout the nurseries’ supply chain. We know the non-recyclable black plant pots of old were a big issue – gardening, after all, is about creating positive benefits to the natural world. We are proud that our nurseries were one of the first to introduce kerbside recyclable non-black pots in spring 2019. You can now find these in wide use at our garden centres.
Across our nurseries, 99% of black plastic used is in fact sent to be recycled (pots and plug trays for example). The wraps around delivery trollies are recycled. The plastic skins from polytunnels are recycled at the end of their lifespan (5-10 years). All compost bags are recycled, as are wooden pallets, which are sold for re-use. Scrap metal is recycled locally. All paper and cardboard are baled on site and recycled. Plant clippings are composted and periodically graded into a soil improver. Some of this is used on nursery land, historically some has been used for other local projects – for example, to build sports pitches. There is always more that can be done, and the nursery team continually looks at how it can make improvements.
When growing plants, heating is used only to keep glasshouses frost free in winter. Heat levels are controlled by an environmental computer that automatically controls vents to minimise heat loss and energy consumption. Plants are harder-grown and stronger as a result. Reducing peat use is an ongoing aim. All compost mixes used are a minimum of 35% peat reduced and a number of plants are grown in fully peat-free compost. Further trials of peat-free growing media are underway.
A system of Integrated Crop Management (ICM) is in place across our nurseries, which has greatly reduced any use of chemicals to control pests and diseases – and we do not use neonicotinoids. ICM uses environmental and biological controls wherever possible – essentially, this means making use of natural predators and parasites as pest control and using chemicals with a low environmental impact.
One of the most successful environmental projects by Hillier Nurseries has been the improvement of water management. In the late 1980’s, it became apparent that mains water was not an environmentally sound way to water crops, so we constructed our own reservoir.
There is a drainage system through which rainwater and irrigation runoff are collected in the reservoir and used to irrigate crops. As a result, our nurseries are 85% water self-sufficient. This water is filtered, cleaned and treated on-site at a water treatment plant so it is the correct quality for plant growth.
Water use is managed with information from the Government’s Waterlink project – we were involved in an extensive research project with them on controlling plant growth with water. Irrigation is carefully controlled by evaposensors and sprinkler systems that target crops and not the surrounding area ensuring economic use of water.
Importantly, the plants are checked 365 days a year to ensure they are thriving and growing in optimum conditions, which means you can be sure of buying top quality, UK-grown plants.