Thursday, June 07, 2012

Plastic and People: The Plastic-Free Gardeners


Where is the plastic-free gardener who can help us with gardening, as The Plastic-free Chef  does with cooking?  That person has not yet stepped forward.  Instead a bunch of people are tinkering, and sharing their experiences.

Shreveport, 1950's:  my Aunt Grace lets me "help" harvest produce in her lovely and productive backyard garden.  We feast on beans, tomatoes, boysenberries, figs.  No petroleum products, no  plastic.

NYC, 2012:  plastics have become deeply embedded in the gardening mindset and in supply sources.  Even organic gardeners often choose plastic pots, petroleum-based weed cloth and row covers, and buy organic fertilizers, composts, and manures in plastic bags.

However, along with all the plastic window boxes and plastic mulch, hints and help with alternatives do exist.  For instance:

  • Beth Terry of My Plastic-free Life , entertaining and informative as usual, shares her plastic-free gardening adventure, parts 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 .
  • Organic Gardening offers thoughtful posts on oil-free gardening and on alternatives to plastic in the garden.
  • Jenna Spevack, artist and PSFC environmental committee member, recently did a gallery show, 8 Extraordinary Greens , that featured salvaged furniture retrofitted with stainless steel trays, hemp-wick sub-irrigation, and grow lights, in a system that beautifully grows vibrant plastic-free greens indoors.
  • Even YouTube has a few relevant offerings, e.g., 4 Tips on Plastic Free Gardening, and how to start seedlings in old cardboard toilet paper tubes.

This gardener wishes today that she'd paid more attention long ago to Aunt Grace's gardening expertise, instead of devoting herself to eating boysenberry cobbler.  I find that plastic-free gardening in 2012 is, even given the available information, an experimental activity.  Try something, observe results; if it fails, change it and try again.

Odd though, isn't it, on a planet with an 11,000 year history of agriculture, approximately 10,950 years plastic-free, that so many of us today don't know how to grow food without using plastic?

My own most recent opportunity to learn:  the bamboo tripod I made to support climbing beans and avoid the big-box plastic-coated gizmo, fell flat on the ground in a big wind.  It's maybe fixed now; I await further developments.  Notwithstanding the collapse of my first plastic-free vertical gardening attempt, Aunt Grace would be pleased, I believe, to hear that I and many others are now learning again to garden plastic-free.

Do you have experience with plastic-free gardening?  Please share with us.

Photo by Vilseskogen, on flickr

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