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Plastic Free July-How to Achieve a Plastic-Free Garden

By Larraine Roulston:

Is breaking up with plastic hard to do? Once alternatives have been sought and people adopt different habits, it’s really not so difficult after all. For the most part, the major hurdle is changing one’s habits. For example, most grocery shoppers have opted to provide their own reusable tote bags and are now starting to include small reusable bags for produce as well as containers for baked goods and deli products. What’s more, employees are  beginning to accept them without staring at customers like deer caught in headlights.

Gardeners also have opportunities to avoid using an abundance of plastics. Here are several steps for residents to decrease plastic use when gardening:

  • Start by building your own wooden composter from discarded pallets. By creating compost, as well as taking your own containers to your community’s Environmental Days during their free compost giveaway events, you can avoid buying fertilizers in plastic bags. You can also purchase topsoil, compost, mulch and manure from local suppliers who will deliver to your home.
  • If you are a new homeowner, you may be the lucky recipient of surplus hoes and rakes from relatives who are downsizing; otherwise, find what you need at secondhand stores and garage sales. When purchasing new items, you have the option to go plastic free! Choose gardening tools with wooden handles and metal ends. If your yard is small, there is no need for a plastic hose when a metal watering can that won’t become brittle and break will suffice. Avoid black plastic, as that color is difficult to recycle. Inquire whether the plastic tools you admire are manufactured with recycled content. A name to look for in quality gardening supplies including many small plastic-free tools is Lee Valley.
  • If you wish to smother weeds before planting, use pieces of flattened cardboard or layers of newspaper instead of purchasing plastic sheets.  
  • Seedlings can be started in toilet roll cylinders (snip and fold one end to form a base) or use egg cartons, both of which can be placed directly into the soil. Beth Terry with My Plastic-Free Life  talks aboutOrta’s seed pots, which are self-watering and plastic free.
  • If purchasing seedlings from a greenhouse, ask if they will start them in wooden flats to be cut out and wrapped in newspaper. Select wire hanging flowering baskets set in coconut fiber. If you do acquire seedlings or plants in plastic containers, ask if they can be returned for reuse. Most garden centers will accept plastic hanging plant baskets, should you be given one as a gift; otherwise, rinse out and place in your recycling collection if they are accepted in your region.
  • Tomatoes, beans and peas require support. For these types of plants, use wooden stakes or wire cages.
  • Popsicle sticks or crafted wooden markers make ideal name tags. Also, look for sturdy cloth gardening gloves. 

Growing a garden gives you effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint by eliminating the necessity of purchasing produce and flowers wrapped in plastic.

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Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure stories on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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