Low fertility recycled substrates

Tracks through mounds of coal slag under a grey sky

Coal slag heaps in Byton, Poland. Photo by Marek Ślusarczyk

Many recycled aggregates are low fertility and sterile, meaning they’re an ideal growing substrate for many native plants and wild flowers

I’m a big fan of John Little’s work on creating wildlife habitat diversity using recycled building “waste”.

I have a possible garden project, where the builder has cleared some rooms to be replastered and refitted, and the leftover building material has been left outside.

Celtic Wild Flowers is a brilliant native plant nursery in Swansea, Wales. I found out today that Barry is a big proponent of using coal slag as a low fertility substrate. There is lots of it in South Wales!

I am really keen to know which plants will thrive in which substrate. Currently, I’ve only trialled growing Thymus serpyllum on crushed concrete, which does very well.

Mounds of thyme growing in crushed concrete

Having the Thyme of its life, in crushed concrete and full sun

Substrates to play with

  • Crushed concrete
  • Crushed brick
  • Coarse sand
  • Gravel
  • Clinker
  • Crushed ceramic
  • Plaster