With this year’s Britain in Bloom competition adopting the theme of ‘Edible Britain’, councils and community organisations across the UK are using self watering containers to meet the competition’s horticultural and environmental criteria and to maximise cropping.
The Royal Horticultural Society’s annual competition has made ‘grow your own’ a central focus to encourage an increase in community gardening groups and edible gardens. Jeff Bates, who has been a judge for East Midlands in Bloom for 25 years, explains the thinking behind the initiative.
“Britain in Bloom likes to have a theme or focus each year. Whilst this isn’t compulsory to achieve success, we hope it acts as a new, motivational focus for community activity,” he explains. “More than ever before, people are interested in ‘growing their own’, with various recent food health scares adding to established concerns around food miles, carbon footprint and healthy eating.”
Norwich Council is just one of numerous local authorities and Britain in Bloom groups who are using specially designed self watering planters to grow herbs and a range of edible plants for their competition entry. Terry Bane, who is Horticultural Officer and recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award in the competition, is delighted that organisers have chosen to highlight the importance of Edible Britain.
“We have used our self watering ‘Ambarrels’ to display and promote herbs as part of this year’s theme,” he explains. “We also have new categories in our local competitions for schools, residents and businesses in Norwich to grow herb displays in raised beds or containers. The herbs grown including chives will not only look impressive, they are also beneficial to health, helping to reduce high blood pressure.”
A children’s group is also developing a new herb garden which will be shown to the RHS Britain in Bloom judges as part of this year’s theme “We hope to show judges many more herb displays by individuals as well as businesses over the competition route,” adds Terry.
Environmental responsibility makes up one quarter of the competition marks and so any edible initiatives that incorporate this element into their planning and execution, reducing maintenance and water consumption, are more likely to score highly.
Horticultural suppliers Amberol developed the self watering containers and advise councils and community organisations on their BiB entries as well as supplying a range of products for the competition. Their Harvester container range was developed specifically for growing herbs and vegetables. John Williamson of Amberol explains why the company decided to develop self watering technology.
“Growing herbs and vegetables in containers works well. Potatoes, lettuces, peas and spinach are just some of the crops that are well suited to container gardening but problems such as drying out and lack of root space can hinder growth which is why self watering technology works so well,” he explains.
Amberol’s Harvester range of self watering containers have a built in water reservoir with a series of capillaries to ‘suck’ up the water which is dispersed via an expander pad. Because the water is stored under the soil, it doesn’t evaporate whatever the weather conditions. The containers come in a range of sizes, holding from 25 to 200 litres of compost.