As with any industry, horticulture is constantly changing and upgrading itself. New plants, products, equipment and machinery are appearing in our nurseries and garden supply stores. Here we look at the possible impact of technology on gardening in the near future.
Concerns over the long-term environmental effects of chemical insecticides, fungicides and herbicides have resulted in changes in their usage. Many chemicals have been banned or restricted. As we discover more about the dangers of toxic chemicals and their impact upon ourselves as well as natural systems, we are moving more and more to natural methods of control.
As mankind is only too aware, nature provides all the answers to our need to control pests, diseases and weeds in the garden. It is just a question of harnessing the resources. There are insecticides such as Pyrethrum that use plant extracts to control insects. Other more natural methods of pest, disease and weed control are being developed, increasingly. The usage of this type of control is only going to increase in the future.
Biodegradable herbicides are preferable. These kill the target plants but then break down naturally before going back into the ecosystem.
There is also a growing trend towards using insect predators to control insect pests. Nematodes are microscopic soil insects that feed upon other soil pests such as the larvae of vine weevils. Natural glues can be used as barriers on the stems of plants to stop insects from crawling up them.
Equipment & machinery
As cars, computers, hi-fi and TV’s become more streamlined, so does much of the equipment and machinery we use in the garden.
Ride-on mowers and tractors can look every bit as sleek as cars, and be packed with power. It may not be too long before robotic mowers do all the work, but for the time being they still need human assistance.
The engines of chainsaws, pumps, pruners, jet-washers, and mowers are much more efficient than ever before. They also emit less fumes and are more economical to run. There are also more environmentally friendly engines on the market, designed to reduce harmful atmospheric emissions. Robotic and drone technology are also making inroads into the horticulture industry.
New Landscape Materials
With many of the world’s natural resources being depleted there is a knock-on effect in the garden. Recyclable materials are very much the order of the day. Some stone is only mined in small quantities, and some not at all in areas where it was formerly. In the UK most of the famous ‘York Stone’ used in garden projects is now recycled. Tufa stone has become scarce and sandstone quarrying is a fraction of what it once was. The result is the use of simulated stone or imitation stone.
These days they often look very much like the real thing and are an environmentally sound choice.
Paints, preservatives and stains
Many of these are now being produced without the aid of harmful toxins. Many paints, like petrol, are now lead-free. Look out for these products when restoring garden furniture and fixtures.
Timber is widely used in the garden from fences to pergolas, furniture to sheds. Some timber will resist rot and insect attack (eg. From termites), while others do not. Some timbers come from sustainably grown forests, and others do not. When trees are specifically grown for harvesting as timber and as such means that less native bush and rainforest materials are called upon. Look for theses timbers when making garden purchases, or opt for recycled timber. Provided it is treated it will give years of service. Radially sawn timber is also finding its way into the garden and this technique means less wastage.
Plants that are more pest and disease resistant are constantly being developed. Whilst these are a good idea for small gardens, if there is space, it is better to try to establish a well-balanced garden that minimises the risk of disease.
The increasing use of organic fertilisers is of great benefit. The devastating effect of planting weed species is also widely documented. If in doubt about the species you wish to plant check with your local council or horticultural group as to its suitability in your area. There has also been a move away from planting the seeds of hybrid species, and a return to planting those of the natural species. In Australia, we are now witnessing the widespread planting of native species, many of which had not previously been recognised as the superb garden specimens that they are.