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Low-waste gardening tips

Spring in Minnesota is a joyful time when our dreary landscape finally returns to vibrant color. Gardeners come out of hibernation ready to bring green plants to life. However, this yearly ritual of rebirth can easily create a lot of waste. Keep the following techniques in mind to make your gardening as green as possible in more ways than one.

Reduce packaging

Unfortunately, most seedlings, shrubs and trees tend to be packaged in nonrecyclable containers. Black plastic nursery pots, terra cotta or ceramic pots, and even some pots labeled biodegradable should not be recycled or composted. While this may seem frustrating, you can practice the first “R” of the three Rs: reduce! To avoid purchasing black plastic, start as many vegetables and flowers as possible from seed. You may also be able to get perennial plants for landscaping from neighbors (like hostas, daylilies, irises, or peonies) rather than buying from a store. Utilize your compost from a worm bin or backyard bin to offset some bagged compost and mulch, and if you do find yourself with large plastic bags, consider using them as trash bags rather than simply throwing them out.

Practice reuse

Gardeners are often known for their creativity and thrift. Some reuse is simply utilitarian in nature, while other projects are an expression of love and creativity. Consider starting seeds indoors with small reused containers like egg cartons, yogurt cups, seed starting trays or those pesky plant six-packs. Before buying new, look for supplies like planters and pots at thrift stores or yard sales. Get craftier and create plant markers from old cutlery, steel can lids, corks, Popsicle sticks or rocks. Make your garden whimsical with fairy gardens made from broken ceramic pots, or add funky toilet, kitchen sink, or bed frame planters to your design.

Prevent pests carefully

When it comes to keeping your garden green and healthy, you may turn to an arsenal of herbicides, pesticides or fungicides. These can be dangerous if used improperly and must be disposed of as hazardous waste if you don’t use them up. Consider incorporating more organic pest control methods like rotating vegetable types year to year, learning when and how to mulch, or using physical controls like fences or netting when possible. You can also try certain plants such as marigolds to discourage pests or grow more plants you know won’t be targeted by your regular backyard visitors (like deer).

Grow with your community

Lean on your friends and neighbors to help you garden while creating less waste. Use them for borrowing and lending tools, sharing advice, plants, and excess produce. If you don’t know anyone to contact, see if you have nearby resources like an online gardening group (for example, NE Minneapolis Home and Garden Surplus), a tool library, or a hardware store that does equipment rental.