Community group combats coastal gardening challenges

Challenging planting and growing conditions prompt community group to re-think how they garden to ensure longer-term resilience

A Broadstairs Town Team volunteer tends to planting at Louisa Bay

Challenging planting conditions

Gardening in a coastal area can be challenging due to high winds. In February 2023, Broadstairs Town Team, a Kent-based charity that runs volunteer-led town improvement programmes, received an RHS Sustainable Futures grant. The group are looking to tackle extreme weather conditions using the RHS funding.

In recent years, strong north-eastern winds, especially close to the beach, have caused considerable windburn damage to plants and blown away mulch used on flower beds. This coastal area has experienced much colder weather than the rest of the southeast of England and a severe lack of rain over the last few summers, resulting in the group re-thinking how they garden to ensure longer-term resilience.

“We were delighted to be awarded this grant. It’s helped volunteers focus on the sustainability of not only our planting but on each area around the town. We also have plans to do more formal community engagement and volunteer recruitment.”

Sue Wainwright, Gardening Group Project Manager
Examples of lower maintenance planting on a steep bank area

Right plant, right place

The 40 regular volunteers are taking a methodical approach to addressing their specific gardening issues. A plant audit is underway to monitor and regularly review which plants work best where and make the most of having varied areas across the town. From beachside flower beds to car park borders, each space provides a different environment for plants to grow. If something isn’t growing in one area, they can move it to somewhere else to avoid plants being wasted.

“The right plant, right place approach underpins everything we do,” explains Sue Wainwright

Water butts have been installed across the town to collect rain water

Innovative steps

Practical and innovative steps are also being taken to address the universal issue of watering. As well as investing in large water butts that have been installed across the town, they have switched from traditional bark mulch, which blew away easily, to composted bark mulch that is helping to retain more moisture and prevent run-off from rain on the ground. A trial DIY bottle irrigation system, involving planting recycled plastic bottles in the ground to create a drip irrigation system, is also helping save water and volunteers’ time. This approach encourages plants to form deeper roots, which makes them less susceptible to drought.

Watch this space as we continue to share how our Sustainable Futures grant recipients are addressing the environmental challenges they face around the UK.

Perhaps your gardening group faces similar challenges. Are you using a ‘right plant, right place’ approach to tackle the climate emergency, for example, changing your planting to drought tolerant planting? If this article has inspired you to do the same, let us know.

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