I first ran across Orta plastic-free self-watering seed pots last Spring at the Temescal Farmers Market in Oakland, CA. I wanted to review it back then, but what with buying a new home in Maryland, caring for my dad, and then the extreme heat of the Maryland summer, it never happened. So, here I am in Spring 2019 trying again.
Anne Fletcher from Orta sent me a plastic-free, zero-waste seed starting kit to review. The kit came with two sizes of self-watering terracotta seed pots (handmade in Oakland, CA), seed starting mix in a paper sack, a and a few packets of seeds.
If the wrapper around the planters looks like plastic, it’s not. It’s actually a type of naturally-translucent vellum paper.
The kit came surrounded by 100% recyclable cardboard “honeycomb pads,” which protected the terracotta pots just fine.
And the seed starting mix came in plain paper without plastic.
I love that Orta explains its plastic-free packaging … Read the rest
Adding to the continuing series of posts on gardening without plastic, here is another guest post from Ro Kumar, who gave a few tips for avoiding plastic in the garden back in April.
It’s been said by environmental leaders like Michael Pollan that one of the best and easiest things we can do to reduce carbon emissions is to start a garden. Starting a garden can also help to dramatically reduce our use of plastics and improve our health. Here are two great benefits of growing your own food and herbs:
The supermarket in your backyard has no plastic packaging
Everything we buy at stores tends to involve plastic packaging. By growing your own food, you effectively step outside of this plastic supply chain, and enter into your own plastic-free one! I currently have a bounty of sugar snap peas growing on a trellis in my front yard. I use a stainless steel bowl to collect the peas — there is ZERO plastic involved in this process.
Grow your own herbs to
… Read the rest
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… Read the rest
My plastic-free gardening project is coming right along. I’ve been eating chard for days! Some plants are doing well, and some are doing not so well. I have questions for you. Please read through to the end of this post to see some of my plant problems and offer suggestions. But first, here are my solutions for plastic-free mulching and watering. (Catch up with Part 1 about soil and Part 2 about buying and planting seeds and plants here.)
Don’t laugh, but I honestly didn’t know what mulch was or what it was for before speaking with Eric. According to Organic Gardening:
Mulch prevents weeds from sprouting up in your garden, keeps soil moist and aerated, protects your plants from soilborne diseases, replenishes the soil as it decomposes, and keeps your yard and garden looking well tended. But which mulch is best for your needs?
Mulch can be grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, or other organic matter. Eric recommended… Read the rest
A few weeks ago, I began my plastic-free gardening project in my tiny Oakland, CA yard with the help of Rodale.com and Eric Hurlock of Organic Gardening. I built a raised bed with sustainable wood and filled it with bulk gardening soil that I had delivered without any packaging. So far so good. But buying plants and watering them has proven to be a little more tricky, plastically speaking.
I bought Botanical Interests certified organic seeds, which come in paper envelopes and are readily available at garden centers where I live. I’ve got: Swiss chard, spinach, baby carrots, wax beans, cucumbers, marigolds, and nasturtium.
Ideally, I would have started some of my seeds indoors, but I could not find a single sunny spot in my house that would not have been accessible to the Furry Ones Who Reign Supreme and their propensity for Total Destruction.
If I had been able to start seeds inside, I could have done it plastic-free. Browsing … Read the rest
Last Fall, Rodale.com’s Dana Blinder contacted me about plastic-free gardening. What she didn’t know was that I had already failed miserably in the gardening department several times and wasn’t sure gardening was my thing. That’s when we came up with a brilliant idea. Rodale would teach me how to grow an organic garden, and I would figure out how to do it with the minimum plastic possible.
My guru for this project is Rodale’s Eric Hurlock, Associate Online Editor for “Organic Gardening.” First, I sent him photos of my postage stamp front yard, the only space available for a garden. (My neighborhood in Oakland, CA, is in Zone 8B, according to the USDA Hardiness Zone Finder.)
I explained that the yard is basically hard clay that is overrun every Spring by tough little yellow flowers that refuse to be pulled up. Each year the landlord sends some guys over to chop the weeds down, but they’re never uprooted.… Read the rest
This was our postage stamp-sized front yard on Saturday. Michael and I thought it was pretty. But I was concerned that neighbors would report it as a hazard. The flowers weeds were over a foot tall and harboring who knows what furry little beings. Something had to be done, and I was not ready to pull it up and start our veggie garden.
I decided to just mow the weeds and leave some green. But we don’t own a lawn mower. Remembering my success with the Craigslist crockpot, I once again subscribed to a Craigslist search, this time for “push mower.” But after several weeks without success, I decided to just go ahead and buy a new one. Michael, bless his conscientiously frugal heart, talked me out of it. “Beth,” he said, “How often do we ever have to mow? You’re going to buy a mower for the one time a year when we actually have rain and the plants grow by themselves?”
He was right. Still, I didn’t want to pull … Read the rest
Sorry for the quality of the photos. For some reason, my camera and the sun would not cooperate last week when I took these. Anyway, here’s my very little front yard garden grown almost entirely without plastic. Yep. Little. And late. Because I didn’t get started until June. But it is what it is, and maybe you can offer some advice for next year.
If you’ll recall, the soil/fertilizer for my garden is a mixture of front yard dirt, my own homemade compost, and recycled potting soil from my dismantled roof garden. No new plastic bags of anything.
On the left are my four tomato plants, which are probably way too close together. They arrived plastic-free from my friend Jennconspiracy in little coconut coir planters. I removed them and tossed the planters in the compost. Then later found out I should have put the whole thing into the ground.
I was mocked and derided back in June for thinking that I could use one metal cage for four plants. I had… Read the rest
Yesterday, I mentioned recycling the potting soil from my dead roof garden as well as harvesting the compost (finally) from my Urban Compost Tumbler to add to the dirt in the front yard where we planted tomatoes. Back in March, I whined about how the Urban Compost Tumbler was just not as great as I’d hoped it would be. I stopped filling it because it had become too heavy to actually tumble by myself, and we switched to dumping our food waste into our curbside green bin instead, to be sent away to the city’s commercial compost facility.
Feh. I’d rather we could keep our food scraps and use them ourselves. Maybe now that we have a bit of yard, we can switch to the kind of composter that sits directly on the ground. As I mentioned in the March post, we’d had great success with one of those before. (A worm bin is not an option at this time. We have no place to put one and would probably let the worms die, anyway, just like the plants.)
So okay, this… Read the rest
Inspired by Life Less Plastic’s excellent Step By Step Composting Guide and info about her Compost Tumbler, and also after many questions from readers about my experiences composting with my Urban Compost Tumbler, I thought I’d post a quick update.
Back in August I wrote a detailed post about the various composting options for someone in an urban environment without access to a yard: Compost Tumbler: a solution to the potting soil problem? So I won’t rehash every option and the reasons why I chose a compost tumbler instead of worms or bokashi. But I will reiterate that I ultimately chose the Urban Compost Tumbler over other tumblers because it is made from 100% recycled plastic rather than new plastic. And I had heard about rust issues with metal compost tumblers.
I’ve now been using this one for over 7 months, and I’ve found it’s not as wonderful as I’d hoped. It’s a little over half full now, and… Read the rest