There is more to creating a woodland than just planting trees

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many people, and, apparently, even most governments, seem to think that all that is needed to create a woodland is to stick some trees in the ground and the rest will do itself. Alas, that is a fallacy.

Just planting trees and leaving them for Mother Nature to do its work is a waste of trees, money, time and effort and will lead to nothing but disaster. Mother Nature, unfortunately, is not the best gardener and forester, and especially when the woodland is not caused by natural regeneration but has been man-made.

Left to its own devices, and Mother Nature's care, brambles and other such will soon smother the newly planted trees and that will be it. Unfortunately many do not realize this and believe, as said above, that all that is needed to establish new woodlands is to plant some trees and leave them be. They also do not want to listen to those who have worked the woods for generations often.

Newly planted trees to create a woodland are planted relatively close together in order for them to raise each other up, so to speak. But that only works if man helps them along as well by keeping any weeds and such at bay so that the young trees do not get smothered. That also must be done in newly coppiced areas and natural regeneration if one wants the woods to live and thrive. Protection from browsing deer and other animals may also be required.

Then, after a while, thinning will be required, which means first those trees are cut that are weak, sick, of bad growth and stature, overbearing thus suppressing others, and such like. This brings in space and light allowing the other trees to better develop.

While our woodlands are to have amenity value and be a valuable habitat for wildlife, as well as, in today's thinking “carbon sinks”, they are also created, or should be so, as a source for homegrown timber from which to make all manner of things from wood.

There was a time when woods, old and new ones, were much better managed than they are today with trees even being “pruned” in order to grow more or less knot-free trunks and this was the “by hook and by crook” method of brashing, often done by youngsters, children even, and also and especially those that had the estovers' rights to firewood from those means.

We also used to grow our own trees, either by natural regeneration and protecting them, or in our own nurseries on the farms, estates, what have you, where the trees were grown from seed and only planted in the area from whence the seeds were taken because many trees behave like hefted sheep in that they like the area of their parents and do not, necessarily, thrive when planted elsewhere. Unlike today where we gather the seeds here, as in the case of the ash, which apparently brought ash dieback to our shores, send the seeds to countries such as Belgium and Denmark, have the nurseries there grow the seeds into trees and then import them. That to me is about the same as importing tulips to Amsterdam. Apparently it is cheaper to do it this way than to have our own forest tree nurseries and cost is, it would seem, all that counts nowadays, but I digressed, as I often do.

Depending on whether the woodland created is intended to be worked by coppicing, coppice with standards, or as standards, depends on whether there will be more thinning cycles.

If the woodland is to be worked in coppice rotation then there will be no further thinning cycles required as the cutting will be done, a parcel at a time, from the time of or even before the second thinning. In the second case, the coppice with standards there will also be no further thinning while in the last case there will be at least two more thinnings before the trees are able to grow without further “interference”.

The timber resulting from all thinnings should be, in one way or the other, depending on trunk thickness and structure, turned into forest produce and products, even if only firewood.

But until we get to the fist thinning even there is lots of work to be done in the new woods, such as keeping vegetation at bay from encroaching upon and smothering the young trees and even whips of a couple of years old need that kind of care and this work goes on for month after month, and year after year until the first thinning. After that the trees will, more or less, be big enough to continue, more or less, on their own.

This is all work, I am afraid, that Mother Nature is not going to do for us and lots of work it is.
So, if you just want to stick some whips in the ground and then forget about them in the hope that it will be a nice woodland in some ten, twenty or so years, forget about even setting out on that path. All you will end up with is an overgrown tangle of wilderness that is no good to beast or man, and wasted effort, time and money.

© 2020

Everyone talks about climate, too few about pollution and general environmental destruction

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

All we are hearing is CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and occasionally the issue with plastic, especially the kind that is plastic bottles of all sorts. The word carbon is being manipulated to include soot, for instance, which is now called “brown carbon” and all that in order to be able to trade all those issues under the carbon trading schemes, what I would refer to as modern day indulgences.

The Hippies of the late 60s and early 70s of the last century were ever so right when they simply talked and warmed about pollution of air, water, soil, etc. and about the general environmental degradation and destruction. In their days though we still had mostly glass bottles for everything and in most places there was a deposit attached to those bottles the refund of which made up the pocket money for many a child back then.

We scoured the highways and byways, pulling a small handcart, and taking bottle after bottle out of the ditches that those too lazy to dispose off properly had thrown to take back to the shops for the refund money. The lazy people were about already then when there actually was a small incentive to bring the bottles back. We kids benefited from this and the environment benefited from us taking the bottles back to the shops.

But today, when we are not talking about plastic pollution, everything is carbon this and carbon that. Soot, the stuff that is covering the glaciers in the Himalayas and causing them to melt (and probably also in places such as Switzerland and elsewhere) is now referred to as “brown carbon”. It is soot and this soot comes from oil and coal fired power plants. Exhaust fumes from combustion engines are now referred to as “carbon emissions”, etc., ad infinitum. It has all become “carbon this” and “carbon that” and for but one reason, aside from confusing everyone, and that is that carbon can be traded in the modern day indulgences scheme called carbon trading.

Let's get back down to earth and call a spade a spade and deal with pollution of air, water, soil and everything else in between. In fact, had we done that when the warning messages came from the Hippies we would have a much better Planet by now than we have and had we not done away with practices of the native peoples, such as back burning to prevent bush fires, we would have a lot less of them. But hey, that releases carbon into the atmosphere and for other reasons the Greenies put a stop to that. Now those bush and wild fires, whether in the USA, Siberia, Australia or other places release a far greater amount of “carbon” into the atmosphere on an annual level than any of the back burning would have ever done.

Modern man thinks himself so superior – that includes so many of the experts – in comparison to tribal people who have practiced certain things for particular reasons. We think that we have much greater knowledge and understanding and that our technology will safe us. Yes, we have seen to where that has lead us, aside from smartphone zombies, I mean.

The same attitude has been taken as to our woodlands and their management, especially in some parts of Europe, such as Britain, where coppicing was the standard management practice for broadleaf woodlands. But the self-appointed apostles and experts claimed that cutting trees was bad for the environment and the practice of cutting parcels of woodland in rotation had to be stopped. Another reason for the decline of coppicing, it is true, was also that the bottom fell out market for wood products from such operations, but the main culprit was the pressure from the misguided. Now some of the once thriving coppice woods are so severely overstood that they are in danger of collapsing, which will be the end of the coppice stools, some of which can be a thousand year or more in age.

I could go on and on citing examples be this in forest management, or agriculture, or so many others, but we would be here for the next month or so. Suffice to say that the belief of certain people that they knew so much better about all the things than the people who had sustainably managed woods and countryside for centuries and more and our belief that technology could save us, so to speak, is the reason that we are were we are today. Sixty wasted years.
© 2020

Belu becomes first UK water company to make all plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic bottles


The 100% recycled material used by the British water brand generates 75% less carbon emissions than aluminium and is easily recycled unlike a carton.

Pioneering social enterprise and ethical water company, Belu, has announced that it will become the first water company in the UK to make 100% of its plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
CEO Karen Lynch comments: ‘We have come to the conclusion that where the single use can’t be removed, the answer to our anti-plastics challenge, is in fact, plastic. Our message is to first use less, but when you buy bottles, buy better.

‘Using 100% recycled plastic is the lowest carbon footprint option that can be part of a circular economy.

‘Belu is a social enterprise that gives 100% of profits to charity WaterAid, and our driver is to do the right thing.

‘If you must use a single-use bottle, the kindest thing you can do for the planet is to choose a bottle made from 100% recycled plastic, and not a can or carton.

‘Making bottles from 100% recycled plastic reduces carbon emissions and other pollutants; nothing new needs to be made as it uses a resource that is already here. It will also create demand and value for recycled plastic bottles which will ultimately fuel investment for better local recycling infrastructure.

‘By moving to manufacturing 100% recycled PET plastic, Belu estimates that it will generate about 60% less carbon emissions than a comparable virgin bottle and about half that of a typical aluminium can (which contains 70-73% recycle content). While cartons are closer in emissions, other environmental impacts become more significant. A standard 500ml carton still contains 35% plastic and 5% aluminium foil. Special processes are often needed to recycle them, and collection avenues are limited across the country meaning only 37% of UK cartons are recycled.

‘When we looked at cartons we found that complexities of materials mean that these products cannot be part of the circular economy we so firmly believe in.’

‘While some of the big water companies have trialed individual products made from 100% recycled plastic, there has been no commitment to making this part of their wider business, instead these lines have been given limited distribution.

‘From November 2019, Belu has committed to make 100% of our plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic bottles. We are the first in the market to completely switch over. All our bottles will now be made from bottles, and they remain 100% recyclable too - so please do recycle.

‘Whilst we are one of the smaller brands in the market to make this commitment, we know it is the right thing to do, and if we do this successfully, other brands will follow, as they did when we were the first market with 50% recycled PET from 2012.

‘We are proud to introduce 100% recycled plastic Belu bottles with our long-standing partners including Pizza Hut, Shake Shack, and Pure.

‘We’ve taken the opportunity to update our labels to ensure that people are completely clear that Belu bottles are 100% recycled, 100% recyclable, 100% of our profits go to WaterAid.’

Belu is a social enterprise that provides hotels, restaurants and catering providers with natural British mineral water, filtration systems and refillable bottles with the lowest carbon footprint possible. As the UK’s most ethical water company, their goal is a world in which everyone, everywhere, has clean water to drink. They give 100% of profits to the charity WaterAid to help transform lives worldwide with clean water.

The Belu Filter Initiative has played a key role in the growth of the ethical water company, who gave a record £1million in profits to WaterAid in 2018. It brings their total given to £4million so far, helping to reach more than 270,000 people with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.
Belu is carbon neutral, making a forward commitment to reduce carbon footprint each year.

Their Ethical Glass bottles are made from recycled content and are 100% recyclable. They remain the first and only water brand to have achieved the independent British Standard Institute’s carbon neutrality standard, PAS 2060. For more information, visit or follow @BeluWater on Twitter.

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 26.4 million people with clean water and 26.3 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at

If this is the case then they know more than all the experts on polymers and plastics because using 100% recycled is NOT possible in the same way that there is no recyclable “paper” coffee cup. I just call 100% GREENWASH onto this.

Not so long ago I saw the 100% recycled coke bottles but reading the smaller print it stated “made with 30% recycled materials” and that also did not say whether post-consumer or pre-consumer.

2019 © Michael Smith

London College of Garden Design to sponsor new design series for leading podcast

Supporting podcasts are an integral part of our marketing strategy now.

The London College of Garden Design has announced their sponsorship of a new series interviewing some of the world's leading designers on ‘Roots And All’, the podcast that last week won 'Podcast of the Year' at the Garden Media Guild Awards.

The first episode features Thomas Rainer, Principal Designer at Phyto Studio in Virginia and co-author of the book ‘Planting In A Post-Wild World’. LCGD are also supporting a workshop day in Central London with Thomas on Saturday 18th January 2020.

Sarah Wilson host of ‘Roots And All’ said “I attended the London College of Garden Design myself and I’m always banging on about what a brilliant place it is to study if you’re looking to get in to garden design”.

Director Andrew Fisher Tomlin said “Supporting podcasts are an integral part of our marketing strategy now. Our previous sponsorship of Peter Donegan’s ‘Sod Show’ and now Sarah’s ‘Roots And All’, are a reflection of a growing interest in and improvement in the very high quality of broadcasts that are beyond the very traditional form of radio shows.”

About the London College of Garden Design
The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one-year Garden Design Diploma and a unique Planting Design Diploma delivered over 5 months. Both courses are taught from the College’s home in the world-famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

The Thomas Rainer workshop day is being ran by Gillian Goodson with the support of LCGD and London Stone. For more details visit

The hidden cost of your 2019 choccie-filled advent calendar

Here's why your Christmas countdown is a single-use plastic nightmare

In the next few days, millions of children – and quite a few adults – will open the first window on their advent calendars without a second thought of the mountain of waste to which they're contributing.

One of Britain's top waste and recycling companies estimates that there are 16.5 million advent calendars containing single-use plastics out there this year, which will be impossible to recycle and will end up either burned or dumped in landfill.

And, according to UK based, well-meaning attempts to recycle them mean that genuinely recycled waste will be contaminated, making the situation worse.

"Once again, we're going to be the Grinches who stole Christmas", says's Mark Hall, "We're the guys who are taking this one little bit of Yuletide joy and make you feel bad about it."

It's just cardboard and chocolate. What's the problem?

It's not just cardboard and chocolate, and there is a problem, says

And with 16 and a half million advent calendars out there – more than enough laid end-to-end to stretch from London to the North Pole – that's an awful lot of used calendars going into the bin once the Festive Season ends. explains: Long gone are the days when kids would open the window on their card-backed advent calendar to see the picture hidden behind.

"We’re a society based on instant gratification – we want MORE," company spokesperson Mark Hall explains, "That means advent calendars with even better gifts inside. Lovely."

Now the vast majority have a chocolate or some other gift behind the door, and that's where things have got complicated.

"They've added plastic and silver foil to the mix," says Hall, "and because they're glued together that's made it expensive to recycle."

It is – he says – a single-use plastic nightmare where it's difficult to separate the two, meaning it's more economically viable to either burn them or dump them straight into landfill.

"And frankly, neither of those is an acceptable outcome. What a waste."

What makes it worse is that well-meaning attempts to recycle the innards of these calendars by putting the plastic/foil mix into the household recycling bin means that entire lorry loads of "recycled" waste in the New Year will be rejected as contaminated loads.

"That time of year is always a nightmare for refuse collectors," Hall explains, "Shiny Christmas wrapping paper is another reason to reject loads intended for recycling, and the added plastics just make it worse."

TIP: Rip your old advent calendar apart. Recycle the card packaging, just bin the rest.

Surely there's an alternative?

Of course there are alternatives to these mass produced disposable efforts.

"Just Google 'refillable advent calendar' and you come up with dozens of affordable examples," says's Mark Hall.

"You fill them up with your own treats – and get this – you don't throw it in the bin when Christmas is over. Used again and again it becomes a family heirloom – all part of your own Christmas traditions.

And what makes these reusable calendars so unique is that you get so much more that a tiny lump of chocolate for breakfast.

"What you put in them is up to your own imagination. How about throwing in the odd lump of coal the night before as a warning when your little one is heading for Santa's Naughty List?" is at pains to say that we're not out to suck all the joy out of Christmas. (And we get no joy from the thought of a coal-based breakfast tantrum)

In fact, the exact opposite is true – we want people to dump the damaging convenience items that surround the Festive Season, use a bit of imagination and make it a proper family occasion.

"And if we can do that while protecting the environment, we're quite happy to take all the Scroogey-Grinchy criticism on the chin and make this world a better place," says Hall.

"Humbug, anyone?" is a leading expert in recycling and waste disposal for businesses of all kinds.
The UK's fastest-growing commercial waste company, we manage waste and recycling collections for companies in and around major towns at the best possible prices.

Our company is committed to reducing wasteful landfill, and works to help companies increase their recycling targets. campaigns for tighter laws to discourage littering, wasteful behaviour, and to encourage greater recycling. We're the waste company that hates waste.


Correct spelling of company name:

Ivy in the woods

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A great many of – often rather uneducated – people believe that ivy, climbing up trees harms the trees and strangles them but this is not the case. Unfortunately some people, alas, will not be told and, illegally, if they are not the owners of the woods, will cut the ivy and remove it.

A good amount of ivy in the woods is good. As well as being a great habitat for wildlife, it's a food source for pollinators woken by, such as this year, 2019, unseasonably warm weather. It is also a most important food source for some solitary bees before they turn in for the winter.

Ivy creeping up a tree does not harm the tree with one exception and that is when it gets too much into the canopy and suppresses light reaching the leaves of the tree itself. In general the rule should be; leave well alone. While it may appear that ivy would strangle a tree this is actually not the case, unlike other climbers and creepers.

Other creepers, on the other hand, such as honeysuckle, etc., are stranglers and they do harm indeed the trees, literally strangling them. Having said that, though, some interesting patterns are often created on saplings making for fantastic and very sought after walking sticks, for instance.

When it comes to ivy, however, trying to convince members of the public that ivy is not harmful to trees is often like talking to the proverbial wall; they just do not want to believe it, even if one presents them with the scientific evidence.

© 2019

Needs are problems looking for solutions, not products

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Needs are problems looking for solutions, not products, and we also have, quite seriously, to learn to differentiate between needs and wants. Often our wants masquerade as needs when they are not needs at all. To say I need a new smartphone or simply new cellphone, while the old one is still performing well and is doing all you will ever need it for is not a need but a desire and want to have a new one just because there are new ones around.

The marketing industry, also known as advertising, has trained us well to buy products that will supposedly solve all of life's problems. But with a little creativity and resourcefulness, you may find more sustainable and less expensive solutions to your predicaments than shoddy consumer goods designed to break quickly and languish in landfill for an eternity.

Nothing is sometimes an excellent choice

But what if a major appliance has broken? Maybe it is an opportunity to change habits. For example:

Your microwave dies
You really crave popcorn. You open a box of microwave popcorn, pull out a bag, tear off the plastic, throw that in the trash, place the bag in the microwave, press a few buttons and – nothing. You try again but cannot revive your appliance.

If your microwave breaks, you have no moral obligation buy a new one. You could instead:
1. Repair the microwave.
2. Look for a secondhand microwave.
3. Stop using a microwave.

Your dryer dies
In the USA it is most uncommon for laundry to ever be hung outside, at least in suburbia, and in some areas it is actually against the local ordinances (by-laws) to do so, even in your backyard. The vast majority of people, therefore, and also for “convenience”, use electric dryers, even in sunny and hot California.

However, if and when your dryer dies (as it eventually will if it is still working), become a rebel and hang your clothes to dry. This is also better for the clothes.
1. Saves money.
2. Makes clothes last longer.
3. Liberates you from owning one more large appliance in need of space and infrastructure to accommodate it and money to maintain it.

In the winter, and in bad weather, you can hang the clothes up around your home in the basement, in the garage, on a rack in the laundry room or wherever. If your clothes take too long to dry hanging up, buy enough extra clothes, ideally secondhand, so you and your kids don't have to go naked, although indoors and on the property that would be an option to be considered.

But what if your car dies?
When your car finally dies the question of whether to replace it depends on whether you could, if you consider it properly and without prejudice, actually live without a car.

Unless you live in a rural locality, in most places, at least in the UK and other European countries, and in those probably still better than in Britain, as their public transit is better and a cycling infrastructure actually exists in most places, walking, cycling and bus, tram, and train, can very well replace the car and it is also in general cheaper to travel about in that way that using the car, considering the costs for fuel and especially parking charges and, in places such as London, the so-called “congestion charge”.

There was a time – I do say was – when you could get about the country rather cheaply using the train, and even travel abroad by train (and ferry) cheaper than flying. Today the roles are reversed and it is cheaper to fly from the UK to Spain or Germany than it is to go from London to the North of England or Scotland by train.

Patience pays off
Often, if you think you need something and wait, you can find what you want inexpensively or secondhand (or you might just forget about it and save some money).

Change our mindset
I am one of those people, though I guess in many places they are a rarity, who looks for solutions first rather than going to buy a product, or a new product. That is not to say that I do not buy (new) things, I mean aside from the essentials such as groceries, but often those are only the tools with which to solve the problems and create the solutions, and sometimes those are, whenever possible, secondhand. Consumables, such as screws and nails, will have to be purchased if salvaged ones are not to hand, though I have masses of salvaged ones as well.

I have not really bought any clothes, bar socks and underwear, for years, but bought those that in Britain are called Charity Shops secondhand though often even brand-new, and that has, in the past, included shoes and boots.

Cooker and washing machine, I have to say, if they break down it is either repair or getting a new one, and often, I hate to admit it, it is cheaper to buy new than to repair with a call-out running to £50 + before we even look at parts and labor costs.

In many places if you do not have a microwave, a dryer, or a TV, etc., in your home you are seen more or less as a deviant. More so still if you do not buy into the consumer society and buy secondhand, including clothes. So, let's be deviants.

© 2019

Become a wildlife guardian this autumn

  • As birds struggle to survive the autumn chill your garden can become a haven
  • RSPB suggests five easy ways to help, including making wildlife friendly food and leaving out kitchen scraps
  • These simple guidelines can improve your garden birds’ chances of survival throughout the colder months
Fiery colours sweeping through parks and woodlands, complete with leaves crunching underfoot, mean autumn is here. But the colder nights and bitter winds mean garden birds will struggle for food and shelter - and the RSPB is appealing to people to help our garden birds survive the winter.

Nature looks beautiful in autumn as summer leaves fade to a sunset palette of gold, red and orange. But as we start digging out our cosy scarves and gloves the countryside is being stripped of the food sources birds rely upon. At the same time, birds need more energy to stay warm and have less daylight time to find food.

Wildlife charity RSPB wants people to become stewards of their gardens this autumn and help protect their feathered guests. The RSPB says the key things birds will need this winter are food, water and shelter.

RSPB Wildlife Advisor, Charlotte Ambrose said: “Up until now birds have been able to feed on insects and seeds, but the cold weather means they move into our gardens to find refuge. You can make a real difference and improve their chances of survival, as well as being rewarded by great views of wildlife in your garden or outside space.”

Take it easy- kitchen scraps like mild grated cheese, bruised fruit (not mouldy), cooked rice, unsalted bits of hard fat, roast potatoes and dry porridge go down a treat with garden birds. You can provide an excellent full-fat winter food by making your own bird cakes or fat balls. The RSPB also suggests calorie-rich foods like mixed seed, sunflower seed, nyjer seed and good quality peanuts.

No thank you! There are some foods you should avoid as they can be dangerous for birds. Cooking fat from the roast mixes with meat juices during cooking to make a runny, greasy mixture. This sticks to feathers and stop them from being waterproof. Other foods to avoid are dried coconut, cooked porridge oats, milk, and mouldy or salted food.

Keep it fresh: Another essential is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard with freezing temperatures, but a simple trick will help keep a patch of water ice-free. Float a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water and even a light breeze will stop it from freezing over.

Plan your planting: Providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. Plant dense hedges such as privet or hawthorn, or let ivy or holly to grow and you’ll be providing a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements.

Warm and cozy: Nestboxes are not just used over the summer egg-laying season – many birds will use them on a cold winter’s night. These boxes are frequently communal with many residents packing in together for extra warmth. The record number of birds found in one box is 63 wrens!

Ensuring your garden is filled with food now will improve your chances of having a successful Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB’s annual event runs from Saturday 25 to Monday 27 January 2020. To take part, all you need to do is spend one hour at any time over that weekend noting the number of feathered visitors to your garden or local green space. You can sign up for this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch from December 12

To buy high-quality bird food, feeders and other treats from the RSPB visit and save nature while you shop.

Origin: RSPB Press Office

London College of Garden Design to sponsor planting design competition

The London College of Garden Design has announced their sponsorship of a Planting Design Competition at the Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show 2020. This is the second year that the College has sponsored the Countryside Borders Competition which aims to help budding new garden designers and experts to show what they can achieve with plants.

The competition is open to anyone involved in garden design and landscaping and Tina Worboys, winner of the 2019 competition said “It was a real honour to create my Countryside Border. Andy and the team were so encouraging, and the public response to my ‘Rewilding Hedgerow’ concept was so positive that it made my first taste of a flower show very special.”

Director Andrew Fisher Tomlin said “At LCGD we are committed to improving the role of innovative planting design within our profession and our unique Planting Design Diploma is now regularly fully enrolled.” He added “This competition is just another way in which we can encourage new designers to exhibit and it’s working as we are aware that some of the 2019 entrants have submitted schemes for the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition for RHS Tatton Flower Show in 2020.”

The Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show takes place on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th July 2020 and is located in the Capability Brown parkland of the beautiful Belvoir Castle. More details of the competition can be obtained by downloading a brief from the LCGD website news pages.

About the London College of Garden Design

The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one-year Garden Design Diploma and a unique Planting Design Diploma delivered over 5 months. Both courses are taught from the College’s home in the world-famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

In 2020 the London College of Garden Design Melbourne will open its doors in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne Australia.

The possibilities of pallets and pallet wood

...also packing crates and similar

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There was a time when shipping pallets (not so much as to packing crates and such) were – supposedly – to be returned (not that that always happened) and then, not so long ago, like so many other things, pallets became “disposables” in that they were no longer being taken back (especially not for deposit return) by the companies.

This means that today, unless someone takes pity on them they end up at best being burned (for energy and heat) but mostly in landfill.

The wood, while often so-called softwood (pine, spruce, etc.) in Europe, though in the USA much more in the way of hardwoods including oak, maple and others, is a valuable resource for the recycler working with wood. And do not be fooled by the word “softwood” as the heat treatment that the wood has to be, in Europe generally, subjected to can turn the “pine” wood into a rather hard material. If something can be made from wooden boards it can be made from pallet boards.

I know of people who have furnished (almost) their entire home with things made from pallets, made by themselves, and of several enterprises making lovely furniture from pallets wood and other “waste” wood used, often combined.

Rustic furniture, including and especially small items, such as small wall shelves and other such, made from pallet wood can be very decorative indeed and today, with shabby chic being very much in vogue, are also something that people want to buy. So it is not just something that one can make to furnish a home cheaply but also something that can generate an income. At the same time the wood is kept out of the waste stream and is neither burned nor buried in a hole in the ground and thus the carbon stored in this wood will remained locked up in there for a while longer.

There are quite a number of companies that sell similar (small) items of home furnishings, made in places such as India, and others, from “reclaimed” wood, sold at a relatively high price, which can easily be made in an hour or two from pallet wood even by the not overly skilled person. With a little more time and effort invested in the work those items are also, as said previously, saleable and any entrepreneur-minded person could start a little business doing it. Ideas aplenty, if own ones are lacking, are to be found online at Pinterest and other places.

The greatest challenge to using pallet wood is the breaking-up of them into usable parts especially as the so-called Euro-Pallets nowadays no longer have the batten runners but wooden, often press-wood, blocks. But even those blocks, the ones from solid wood and not so much those from pressed wood (sawdust), can be made into something, though the batten runners were much more useful. However, those blocks make the breaking-up of pallets somewhat more of a challenge than the old traditional battens, but it can be done, though at times not as easily as with the older style.

For the batten-style, still in use in the USA and elsewhere outside the EU, tools have been designed that make the breaking-up of pallets quite easy. With the blocks those tools are, generally, not going to work, and hence it is back to the old tool, the crowbar (prybar) and hammer, and it means that there might be breakages. Also, some Euro-Pallets have riveted over nails at some areas which means that sometimes only short boards can be reclaimed. That, however, should not stop us from reclaiming the wood for use and reuse.

For projects in the garden pallets more often than not do not (even) have to be broken up and can make great fences, for instance, internal and external, and there are many ways to use them for this. You do not even need many posts if done the right way.

When it comes to making other things out of pallet wood, such as items of (small) furniture, etc., then boards are needed to be reclaimed and then we have to accept that some are shorter than others, that some may get damaged (some already may be due to the load the pallet carried or the handling it received), and so on. That should not deter us to do it, however. To waste this material just would not do, in my opinion. Pallet wood is a valuable resource in many ways.

While the old style pallet, with the battens, in a way, was better for the recycler, the Euro-Pallet found all over Europe now still can be used and even the blocks, unless they are press-wood, are usable. Pencil/pen holders are just one example. It just takes a different approach to disassembling them, that is all, and, alas, there are no nice battens to reuse. But so be it. The wood of those pallets is still a valuable resource far too good to be wasted and the possibilities for the wood of all kinds of pallets (and wooden packing cases and crates) are almost legion.

© 2019