RHS in bid to mobilise biggest gardening army since Dig for Victory for climate

·4-min read

A climate campaign to mobilise the biggest gardening army since “Dig for Victory” in the Second World War has been launched by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The charity aims to help the UK’s 30 million gardeners take action in their own backyard to cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost wildlife in efforts to help tackle the climate and nature crises.

Gardeners are being encouraged to take planet-friendly actions such as plant trees, use rainwater to water plants, go peat-free, plant blooms for pollinators and pull up a paving slab to create more space for growing perennials.

The RHS said its research shows that if every gardener planted a medium-sized tree and nurtured it to maturity, it would store the carbon equivalent of driving 11 million times round the planet.

A gardener forking over their compost heap
Home composting can save carbon emissions compared to buying compost bags (Tim Sandall/RHS/PA)

And if all green-fingered householders made an average of 190kg of compost a year – the amount that gardeners who do compost make on average – it would save the equivalent carbon to heating half a million homes, compared to the manufacture and transport of shop-bought compost, the RHS said.

But YouGov polling for the charity found less than a fifth (19%) of UK gardeners say they have specifically adopted sustainable gardening principles such as saving water, making their own compost or reducing fossil fuels.

Separate research found nearly 40% of gardeners still use garden tools such as lawnmowers that are powered by fossil fuels.

And while pledges for the RHS’s water saving mains2rains campaign will save 6.6 million litres, or 82,385 baths of tap water, the charity says there is more to be done.

It is developing a planet-friendly sustainability calculator, an online-tool to empower gardeners to make the best sustainable plant and gardening choices.

A garden hose.
Gardeners are being encouraged to switch from using mains water to rainwater to water their garden (Martin Keene/PA)

And it has come up with a list of 10 achievable actions gardeners can take to help nature and the climate.

The RHS is also calling for Government support for research and development in horticultural science, as well as financially supporting community gardens in schools, NHS trusts and public spaces to help gardening make a difference.

The RHS is launching the planet-friendly gardening campaign as part of its own sustainability strategy, which includes measures to be climate positive – capturing more emissions than it puts out – by 2030.

It also aims to eliminate all single use plastic, ensure all packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable, and be water neutral at RHS gardens, shows and sites by 2030.

RHS director general Sue Biggs said: “The RHS is committed to using its own community outreach work to help Britain’s 30 million gardeners make a positive contribution towards the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Bee on flower
People are being encouraged to plant for wildlife (Peter Byrne/PA)

“But we can’t harness this potential alone.

“If we are to mobilise the biggest gardening army across the nation since Dig for Victory we need government support for planet-friendly gardens.

“This includes funding all research and development in horticultural science as well as financially supporting community gardens in schools, NHS Trusts and public spaces.”

RHS director of science and collections, Professor Alistair Griffiths, added: “Collectively, the actions of each and every one of our nation’s 30 million gardeners can create positive change and help us adapt to and mitigate against the climate and biodiversity crisis.”

The 10 actions gardeners can take to tackle climate change and nature loss are:

– Plant a tree in your community, school, workplace or garden to draw carbon out of the air.

– Pledge to switch from mains to rainwater for watering the garden.

– Go peat free to protect precious peatland habitats which store carbon, provide homes for nature and reduce flood risk.

– Make your own compost to save carbon.

– Pull up a paving slab and grow perennial plants such as grass, shrubs or trees to maturity to suck in carbon from the air.

– Put in plants for pollinators, to help slow and reverse declines in bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and other insects.

– Grow your own bunch of flowers, as growing or buying UK-grown cut flowers can save carbon compared to buying imported bunches.

– Electrify your garden, so you are using electric powered gardening tools, not ones run on fossil fuels.

– Help map UK garden plant biodiversity by adding your garden plants to RHS My Garden online to help the RHS conserve this important biodiversity.

– Eat more home-grown, UK, local and seasonal fruit and vegetables.

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