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      Practice these 9 simple tips for plastic-free gardening
      08/21/2020 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
      Practice these 9 simple tips for plastic-free gardening

      Plastic has a much bigger role in gardens than people realize. Things like disposable seed packets and plastic pots might seem harmless at first glance, but these non-biodegradable materials can accumulate and, as is often the case, end up in landfills.

      The impact of plastic use in gardens is more startling and far-reaching than it seems. Health and gardening expert Susannah Shmurak notes that tons?of horticultural plastic, or plastic used in farms and gardens, pile up in landfills across the U.S.

      These plastics could come from all sorts of things,?including plastic spades, artificial fertilizer, landscape fabric, netting, pesticide bottles and more.

      Tips for plastic-free gardening

      To minimize our?immense contribution to landfills, Shmurak emphasizes the importance of keeping plastic out of our gardens in the first place. This might be easier said than done?for gardeners that have been using plastic since sprouting their first seed.

      But don’t fret.?You?can do several things to reduce plastic use in the garden regularly. In the long run, making greener choices can help slash the demand for plastic products?used in gardening and discourage their production.

      On that note, start making these nine simple and doable changes for a cleaner, greener and plastic-free garden.

      Ditch plastic plant markers

      Gardeners use plastic plant markers to label budding plants and crops, but these tend to be discarded after just a couple of uses.?Instead of using plastic markers, opt for used popsicle sticks, bamboo plant labels, slate labels or copper and aluminum labels.

      You can also get lollipop sticks for a cheap price at craft stores, or just make some labels from pallet scraps and other biodegradable bits and pieces.

      Opt for clay or terracotta pots

      Plastic pots?were a major game-changer at the time of their introduction. However, the dark side of their ubiquity is that they make up a large chunk of discarded horticultural plastic.

      Instead of purchasing more plastic pots at the garden center, repurpose broken terracottas or get some if you haven’t already. You might need to be more careful than usual in handling them, but ditching plastic containers makes for quite a big difference in maintaining a plastic-free garden.

      Make seed starters

      Plastic seed trays made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE)?– the same plastic used to make milk containers and shampoo bottles – last a long time but are difficult to recycle once broken. Go green by using bamboo trays or upcycled ones made from pallet scraps.

      Some gardeners also like to make theirs using other cheap and biodegradable materials like toilet paper rolls and egg cartons. On a side note,?it is also good practice to purchase seed packets made of paper, not plastic. Also, you can also keep seeds from fresh produce instead.

      Use homemade compost and fertilizer

      Almost everything contains microplastics these days, even fertilizer, and the impact of those minuscule bits of plastic is not to be underestimated. Environmental scientists have been finding microplastics in our soil?and these could end up in our stomachs if we consume crops?grown in?contaminated soil.

      In gardens, the main culprits behind microplastics in the soil are artificial mulch, compost and fertilizer. These products are made using inorganic compounds like ammonium nitrate and potassium sulfate. It bears stressing that these chemicals are also toxic to humans. This reason alone?should suffice in keeping us from using them near our homes.

      As a greener alternative, just make?compost using organic materials like kitchen scraps, fruit peels, eggshells and manure. Recent studies found that manure doesn’t just boost crop yield,?it also keeps the soil fertile and maintains adequate soil pH levels.

      Skip plastic netting and cable ties

      Gardeners often use strong and durable netting, often made from HDPE, to protect plants from birds, deer and other small critters that come and go. But this can end up entangling and choking them. Also, netting can be difficult to recycle.

      To protect plants from insects and garden critters,?use metal mesh cages or netting made from jute, a biodegradable fiber used to make burlap sacks. You can also use string made from jute to tie plants to their posts. Unlike cable ties, jute doesn’t cut into the stems.

      Substitute metal tools for plastic ones

      Gardeners serious about reducing the amount of plastic in their gardens should opt for metal tools and equipment. Metal far outlasts plastic, and rust shouldn’t be a problem as long as the tools are cleaned and dried after each use.

      You could also set up a tool-sharing initiative if there are other gardeners in the area. Lend extra tools you have lying around or borrow some from other gardeners to discourage more plastic purchases.

      Opt for metal watering equipment and storage containers

      While plastic watering cans are a lot cheaper than metal ones, those don’t last as long as metal watering cans.?Plus, hoses and automatic irrigation systems are exclusively made of plastic, so the only plastic-free alternative is to stop using them.

      But don’t fret. Hoses aren’t that essential to gardens in the first place, and using them results?in?more water wasted. In contrast,?hand watering might take a longer time, but it allows gardeners to use water more economically and efficiently.

      Also, other water storage containers used in the garden, like water butts and drums, tend to come in plastic, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and HDPE. These materials have been linked to health risks and adverse health effects, so ditch them and stick to metal tanks, troughs and barrels instead.

      Build a compost bin

      Plastic compost bags and compost bins can be reused as containers for rubbish, but regular purchases of these products feed the demand for them and encourage their production in the first place.

      For a greener compost bin, build one from scratch using pallets or repurpose metal buckets or trash cans.

      Make safe and organic pesticides

      Pesticides come in plastic bottles, not to mention the fact that these contain harmful chemicals. Instead of going out and purchasing three or four bottles of pesticides at a time, make some at home using natural ingredients. Potent ones include garlic, onion, neem oil and chili peppers.

      You can also?place insect-repelling plants around the garden. These include?herbs like basil, lemongrass, mint, sage, dill, fennel and oregano.

      Making simple changes like ditching plastic pots or using popsicle sticks as plant markers can reduce our contribution to the tons of horticultural plastic that accumulate in landfills.

      But don’t ruin a perfectly good garden trying to get rid of all things plastic. Start small. You’ll turn that garden into a plastic-free zone in no time.




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