It’s spring. Are you starting a garden? Right now, the plastic-free garden I planted last year with assistance from Organic Gardening’s Eric Hurlock is totally overgrown. The chard has become a huge bush of pretty white flowers and stalks that are taller than I am. Most of the rest of the yard and garden are taken over by little yellow flowers (some would call them weeds) and some kind of lily that has spread from its spot by the wall, due to my having dug up the bulbs last year and haphazardly tossed them behind me. (I didn’t realize they would still grow even on the top of the soil.)
I’ll get to work on my garden again eventually. Just as I did last year, I’ll be attempting to do it plastic-free. (See my “Gardening Without Plastic” series, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). And this year, in addition to the tips and advice I gave last year for plastic-free gardening, I’ll add a few more tricks, courtesy of Ro Kumar, a local blogger and urban farmer whose family converted their suburban house into a sustainable farm in 2010. I asked Ro to write about more ways we can avoid plastic in gardening. Here is his post.
3 Cool Tips for Plastic-Free Gardening
by Ro Kumar
Although gardeners are becoming increasingly obsessed with composting, you’d be surprised how much plastic is still involved in gardening these days. From the tools, to the containers, to the storage, pesky plastic tends to be involved along every step of the way.
In 2010, my family and I converted our suburban house into a sustainable farm. As part of the shift towards a more green lifestyle, we wanted to avoid the use of plastics. There are many reasons to avoid plastic while gardening. Most concerning, however, is the possibility of plastics leaching toxins into the soil, which can in turn enter our food.
Here are some simple and easy tips to avoid using plastics while gardening:
1. Use a seed blocker to start your seedlings
Seed blockers are an easy way to start your seedlings without using any container at all. Although they are available in many stores these days, you may have to go online to buy one. Simply pack your starter soil (example: a mix of compost, coco fiber, and vermicompost) into the seed blocker. Then, pull the handle of the seed blocker. A block of soil will be pushed out of the device. Just drop your seeds into the block and add some more soil on top. You’re done! You can leave the block outside for sprouting, or plant it directly into the soil.
2. Use seed balls for planting your seeds
Seed balls were popularize by Masanobu Fukuoka — a gardening legend. They are an easy to start your plants without using a plastic container. Use 2 parts clay, 1 part compost, half-a-part ground mesquite charcoal, plus a small handful of seeds (all of these ingredients are available without having to use plastic). Mix by hand and add water until the mix is malleable. Shape the mix into small gumball sized balls. Let the balls dry. You can chuck them anywhere there’s soil, and plants will start growing!
3. Store your seeds in old glass jars
Glass jars are an extremely common form of food packaging — and they happen to be one the easiest and best way to store your seeds! Save your old jars and gather up jars from your friends. It’s very easy to start your own seed bank with a few handfuls of seeds in jars. You can even label and grade your seeds (for example: Winter Squash, Grade A).
I hope this article was helpful for you! What are your favorite plastic-free gardening tips?
Based in the Bay Area at UC Berkeley and Stanford, Rohit Kumar is a passionate advocate for a cleaner planet with healthier people.