Wow! What a group of concerned citizens, food warriors and green advocates we are, following links to learn not just how to deal with food packaging in a more ecologically responsible way but also how to do so in the garden, presumably growing our own food. Aren’t we all just amazing and deserving of pats on the back, even before we begin here? Take a moment before scrolling and do just that!
Now, enough self-love, it’s time to get down to work, get our hands dirty and use our supermarket garbage for growing downhome, whole food. We’ll be making mulched up garden beds. We’ll be making plant pots and seedling starters. We’ll be getting vertical with hanging gardens, and we’ll be going below the surface with irrigation.
The obvious best choice is to avoid food packaging when possible, but these days, it just seems to happen. Here are some great gardening tips for when it does.
1. Cardboard, Newspaper, and Other Paper
Firstly, cardboard, newspaper and just non-glossy paper in general can be included in composts, counting as a carbon contributor, the contents of good compost being a 25 to one ratio of carbon to nitrogen. When in doubt, shred them and throw these things in the composting bin right alongside those vegetable scraps. It’ll be a while, but they will make it out to garden.
Otherwise, there are many other ways to use these organic packages. Cardboard and newspapers are fantastic for creating sheet mulch in the garden, a no-dig method of constructing a garden bed with built-in weed-prevention. A layer of cardboard or a few layers of newspaper kills the grass and weeds below, enriching the soil beneath, and it also prevents new weeds from being able to grow up from below. Then, it’s just adding organic material, soil and mulch atop that. It’ll all compost in place for a more fertile spot to grow stuff.
Newspaper and paper can also make pots for seedlings (or like this). The great thing about these pots is that, when it time to plant, the whole thing — pot and all — can go into the ground.
2. Plastic Tubs, a la Blueberries and “Butter”
Berries are a food we all love to buy and are just too delicious too skip out on; unfortunately, they often come in these plastic containers with little slits every inch or so (so they can “breathe” and won’t spoil). We needn’t throw these away, but they can be used in the garden instead. And though you don’t want to go for dairy butter—or even processed options when you can make your own—sometimes, some of us do go for the occasional ready-spread vegan butter, which alas comes in another plastic container. Both berry containers and vegan butter containers can be used for seed starters with the added bonus of draining well (just poke some holes in the “butter” container).
Otherwise, some ingenious gardeners have been known to use them for keeping large crops, like melons, off the ground so that they don’t rot. Things like watermelons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and cantaloupe often sit on the soil too long and suffer for it. Reuse old plastic tubs to hold them aloft, keeping them dry and safe.
Also, re-sealable containers such as those used for margarine make great organizers for seeds or containers for storing dried herbs.
3. Plastic Jugs and/or Bottles
Those large gallon jugs, the two-liter or three-liter bottles, and the bulk purchase of vinegar or cooking oil — all of these can do some good work in the garden. First of all, these guys can be cut in half, the top turned upside down into the bottom to create self-watering planters; just fix a piece of cloth so that it dangles from the top piece to the bottom. Fill the bottom with water, fill the top with soil, and plant something in the top. Watering (by filling the bottom part) will become an every now and again type thing.
A similar thing can happen in the garden as well. First, poke a few holes around the bottle or jug. Then, bury it in the garden bed so that just the top clears the surface. Fill the bottle, and it’ll slowly release moisture beneath the soil’s surface, avoiding losing valuable irrigation water to evaporation or runoff.
Plastic jugs or bottles also make fantastic water cans: Just a few holes in the top and that’ that. Or, they can be skillfully carved and attached together to make tremendous suspended, “hanging” gardens, which are especially good for lettuces on the patio.
4. Glass Bottles of the Wine Variety
Wine bottles are an absolutely amazing resource, both aesthetically and practically. They can be used to further beautify the garden, say making a wine bottle tree (these are so cool). Another aesthetic option is turning them upside down, burying them half in the ground to create funky garden bed borders; however, this does require maintenance and special consideration of their being glass in the garden.
Wine bottles also have some practical uses in the garden. Filled with water and turned upside down next to thirsty plants, wine bottles act as a pinpointed, slow-release irrigation. Or, they can be used to make more attractive self-watering planter (as seen with plastic bottles) for the house. They can also be used as a building material in retaining walls or garden sheds, both saving money on concrete (or requiring less cob) and helping the environment by using less. (It also looks pretty cool.)
Note: Wine bottles are not the only option here. If forty-ouncers are more your speed, the same possibilities still exist.
5. Glass Jars (Don’t Buy the Plastic if Possible!)
On a reusable scale of one to five, glass jars are a ten. They are containers that can be cleaned. They can be sealed. They can be stored. They can help with organizing. They can hold all sorts of things. They are obviously awesome in the kitchen, can work well for the DIY shampoos and toiletries, and even make for some pretty decorations in the house. Now, as for the garden…
Glass jars are a really cool way to grow windowsill herb gardens, allowing growers to see the roots systems and visually monitor the moisture levels. This can make for a memorable project with children. They are perfect for saving seeds, keeping them dry and safe until its time to plant. Then, when it’s harvest time, the garden abundance rolling in, glass jars supply the means by which to pickle, preserve, and ferment the bounty (Plastic is no good for this!).
Glass jars, of course, fell out of favor because they are breakable, but they are a much more conscientious—and sometimes healthier—choice than the plastic jobbies that have replaced them.
So, forget the landfill. Get that garbage out in the garden and let it help with the DIY food supply. We could all be eating better, the world could be a little cleaner, and garbage could become a commodity as opposed to a detriment. Aren’t gardens just magical places?
Lead Image Source: Stacie Dapont/Flickr