Earlier this spring, I returned after a lecture to a large collection of empty plastic garden pots on my front porch. There was no note, and judging by the plastic plant id tags that were left behind, the only clue I had was that this mystery gardener had been swept away at the nursery and bought a wide variety of different plants, which led me to think she/he was probably a newbee when it came to planting a garden.
I was miffed at first, since I have my own collection of empty plastic pots and know that they can not be recycled. But then comforted to know that this first time gardener was making an effort to recycle, by leaving them with me. I have to assume that she thought I would either reuse them, or know what a good solution to the issue of waste.
But the sad truth about gardening is that it is not a very environmental hobby. We buy plants in plastic containers that are not recyclable. We buy fertilizers,potting soil and compost(!) in plastic bags. We use plastic on the ground to keep out weeds and encourage tomatoes and squash to grow faster. Plastic has become a cheaper, easier, lighter solution to many things in our lives. But not in my garden, thank you.
Back before plastic, there was terra cotta. Long ago when we ran a garden nursery business, we occasionally would find stacks of terra cotta pots left behind the farm stand, from neighbors cleaning out their barns. It did not make sense for us to use them in our business, since they are relatively heavy, breaks easily, and dry out easily. But now that terra cotta is almost extinct and relatively hard to come by, I wish I had kept more of the old collection.
I don’t buy compost in plastic bags, but I do buy plants and am dismayed at the amount of plastic waste involved in my gardening endeavors and know that I am not alone. There are alternatives to plastic just emerging in the garden industry, and while it costs a little more, it’s our responsibility to encourage gardeners everywhere to say NO to plastic pots unless they can be effectively recycled.
Terra cotta is long lasting, ageless and beautiful alone or together with other pots. I love the way it takes on character the more it is used. This summer be on the look out for terra cotta at tag sales and neighbors barns. Here are some photos of beautiful ways to use clay pots in your home landscape.