Seedlings and plastic: starting seeds from what is about to go into the trash.
Friends! Last year saw a wild uptick in the number of regular folks like us who wanted to garden. Maybe you got seeds & started seedlings at home and then put your little green friends into their own gardens come May. Maybe you dug up some of your lawn for that. Maybe you went to a local nursery or outlet and bought seedlings to plant out. Maybe they went into a newly-assembled raised bed or container garden. Maybe you dug a hole and planted a new fruit tree or a shade tree. This is all in all, an amazing and great shift: part of where we need to be going as planetary inhabitants. There are a few lessons learned though from watching that big gardening boom...and the Fall and Winter aftermath of it all. And so, happily, there are some adjustments that can be made this season. Small adjustments we all can make, with cumulative positive impact.
It's about plastic. Sigh
Each of us on the TASC team all worked in commercial greenhouses and taken part in on-going plant research in some form or other: field trials or laboratory-growing.
You can't help but notice that growing flowers, herbs, trees, grass, vegetables is exceptionally plastic-intensive. Mountains of every size plastic pot imaginable inside every Walmart, Hardware Store and Garden Centre in North America. Towers of seed trays and small "in-home" greenhouse kits. Skyscrapers of potting soil, sheep manure, peat moss, triple-mix have appeared outside every Zehr's, Canadian Tire, and Nursery, each one is a high quality plastic bag one rip away from the landfill. Here's an insider secret: You don't need any of those new, often expensive items to have a successful growing season. You need a container + seeds + soil. We'll talk about the last two next time. For today, let's focus on the containers. You can start seeds in just about any plastic or paper "vessel" that would otherwise go into the garbage (recycling!): a cut-open pop bottle, an empty peanut-butter jar, egg cartons, Tim Horton's cups, even coffee bean bags, which are strong, durable and often lined with a waxy water-resistant paper.
The Truth about Containers: 1) Needs to hold soil. 2) Needs to be able to have water poured in it without fallingapart instantly. 3) Needs to have holes poked in the bottom for water to drain out because seeds hate swamps. 4) In an ideal world, would have a lid that also gets holes poked in it, to keep the humidity in while the little green friends germinate, but you can look after that with anything see-through: a clear plastic bag, the wrappers that come with store-bought flowers, a Pyrex lidHere are three pictures showing some of our "seedling" operation this Spring. (Lots more
underway but this gives you an
idea). There are 3 plastic containers that we bought salad
greens in. Sort of can't stand them but find ourselves buying them anyhow. There is a small
plastic container that I bought sour jube jubes in at Angelino's (busted!). There are three of
those black-bottom+clear lid round jobbies that we got take-out from Na Ha Thai or Diwa in
There is even a small golden plastic thingy with a very sturdy lid that held fancy individually-wrapped Raffi chocolates. Perfect teeny little cups in which to start our perfect teeny little lemon grass plants. It's all working! And, honestly, didn't some of us go a little overboard on the take-out this COVID-y season?
We are trying to support local businesses yay and we should if we can, but holy moly, then the planet is drowning in more plastic take-out containers. Here is a teeny way to make good on that unfortunate aspect of eating: grow plants in them!
Rinse them, set them aside, poke away until your stress is alleviated, and then soil + seeds + a little mistygentle watering. Finally: we wanted to give a shout-out to any local food take-away operations that are using PAPER containers (if not tops, yet) rather than styrofoam or plastic. Two of them from Grassroots on Gordon Street are pictured here. FABULOUS. You can use these fellahs to start your seedlings! The paper holds up long enough! And, the best of all, once you have transferred your little green friends out to bigger ceramic pots or raised beds or a community garden plot, you can COMPOST these. Thisis truly the best of all possible worlds. Please, consider gently inquiring at your favorite take-out joint whether they might be moving to using paper containers? while you thank them (front line workers!) profusely and please leave a solid tip.
So there you have it: Happy Seeding! Happy Eating. Happy Seeding. Happy Eating!
The TASC team.