The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

June 23, 2007

Gardening without plastic? My trip to Long’s Drug

longsI took a walk to the Rockridge Long’s today, or as my friend Christine calls it, the Mother Ship Long’s. It’s huge. With a huge nursery/ gardening center. I wanted to find out if I could buy plants, soil, fertilizer, and other plant necessities in non-plastic containers. Here’s what I found:

1) Plants — just as at Whole Foods, Long’s sells herbs and vegetables in Eco-Form pots, but all the other plants are sold in plastic. I’ll be sticking to seeds until I can find a way to buy plants without plastic.

2) Soil — Nope. Not a single bag of any kind of soil in non-plastic. How do people avoiding plastic obtain potting soil? I won’t be planting anything new until I figure this out.

3) Fertilizer — This is where I hit the jackpot. Long’s has a whole aisle full of organic plant foods in cardboard boxes and heavy paper sacks. Brands include Sweet Earth, Down to Earth, Grow More Research Farms, Peace of Mind, and Bradfield Organics.

4) Insecticidal soaps and other anti-pest products — Not much luck here. I bought a cardboard carton of ladybugs, who will be relocating to their new home tonight after I finish this post, and a box of Concern diatomaceous earth to get rid of the ants that are farming the nasty scale on my citrus trees. Other than those 2 items, I found nothing else that was not packaged in plastic. Fortunately, there are recipes online for making your own insecticidal soap, such as these from eSSORTMENT:

Recipe 1: 1 ½ teaspoons of liquid dish detergent per one quart of water.
(This mixture should assist you with the removal of mites, whiteflies, aphids, thrips small scales and leafhoppers. This recipe has a very low toxicity to wildlife and humans but should not be applied on a sizzling hot day, windy, or humid. It can burn some plants with dull leaf surfaces so always test a non-visible area before you attack the whole plant or growing section.)

Recipe 2: To combat adult scale, mix one cup of generic isopropyl alcohol with one tablespoon of the above insecticidal soap recipe. Mix those two ingredients with one quart of water and apply on your plant’s leaves (top and bottom) every three days for two weeks. This mixture will penetrate the adult scale insects’ shells which will kill them soon after contact.

Recipe 3: The last recipe can be used to spray on those plants that you want to bring inside for the winter. Mix three tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol in a quart-size spray bottle and fill with lukewarm water. Add one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent. Spray the topside and underside of the leaves and let it sit for three minutes, rinse all the leaves thoroughly and let them dry outside.

I’m going to start the second recipe in a few days and see if it really will work on scale. Any other suggestions?

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Karen Sceibner
4 years ago

See for the sick tree treatment for your orange tree. Howard Garrett will tell you the tree is planted too deep in the soil so it is sick. The pests know it and flock there. This is the mantra I heard from my parents growing up in Oakland: don’t bury the crown of the tree which they were calling the root flare. (The crown is the canopy.) Happy Gardening!

Tamil nadu tenders
11 years ago

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable, great tool. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.

ken ott
16 years ago

Hey, kind of a shameless plug, but I work for a company which advocates (tacitly) the banning of plastics, disposables, and waste. Personally, I am all for extreme conservation and anti-consumption to the point of only buying clothes from thrift shops when needed, etc. Bicycling. You get the idea.

Anyway, here’s the site:

It’s really challenging to buy anything not shrouded in plastic. Straus Milk is good if you like to drink with the baby cows because of its glass bottling practices.

I love FoodMill fruitbars once in a while as a treat, but they are wrapped in cardboard and plastic.

The best way to go shopping I find, is to bike to Berkeley Bowl with containers in hand, and fill them up in bulk.

I like Longs but there are so many plastic and far-away goods in there.

You might want to check out the book, “Better Off.”



Beth Terry
16 years ago

Jessie, I guess that’s what Jerry does? But I have a small roof garden. I don’t even have a yard to dump it in! Beth

16 years ago

Beth – the easiest way to buy potting soil or manure without plastic bags is to buy a “truckful” and have it dumped in a pile at your garden – then you haul it in with wheel barrow and mix it in – not really much help to the personal gardener though! Jessie

16 years ago

Popped by because of the post you wrote on ‘Envirowoman’s’ site. Good on ya for reducing your plastic intake. Intake? Is that the word I want to use? Anyway, keep it up. I love the awareness you’re creating by pointing out just how much comes wrapped up in the stuff. AND writing letters! WHOA! Awesome! : )