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Bubble wrap, polystyrene foam & cardboard use in gardens

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James Kilkelly
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Joined: 30 May 2006
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Location: West of Ireland

PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:57 am    Post subject: Bubble wrap, polystyrene foam & cardboard use in gardens Reply with quote

Bubble wrap, polystyrene foam & cardboard use in gardens.
by GPI

How was your Christmas, peaceful I hope? For myself it was peaceful at times, hectic at others, topped off with meeting and greeting those people that I really should have made more time for during the year.

The present giving on Christmas day with my immediate family was my main highlight, as it is every year. Ripples of laughter and applause ran around the kitchen table as everybody took their turns at ripping the wrapping to reveal what lay beneath. Some of the presents were very thoughtful, some comical, and others quite practical (a gardener can always do with another pair or gloves, as I found out five times).

But what a mess this present giving creates. Someone is always left to deal with mounds of wrapping paper, blocks of polystyrene, bundles of bubble wrap, and not forgetting all sizes of cardboard boxes.

This put me thinking about whether this "waste" could be put to good use in the garden, rather than ending up binned. After a few minutes thought I came up with the following list, one that should help you cope with the waste and save you a few bob in the process.

Bubble wrap, photo / picture / image.

Bubble wrap.
This plastic padding has good insulation properties, so can be wrapped around outdoor taps to protect against frost. Use it to insulate your greenhouse during cold periods or providing basic shading for days when the sun is particularly strong. You can also line the insides of your outdoor plant containers with bubble wrap to protect roots from frost in winter, and to reduce your need to water in summer.

Polystyrene foam.
Still on the subject of container growing, if you have poor drainage in your pots and window boxes then your plants may suffer from oxygen starvation due to excess water. To prevent drainage points at the base of containers becoming blocked with compost, I suggest you reuse Polystyrene packing foam by breaking it up into golf ball sized pieces and placing a layer of it over the drainage holes.
As a younger and less grizzled gardener I had often used broken terracotta or rocks to fill up the base of the containers, but this of course added extra weight, which was especially noticeable when moving the container. Lightweight Polystyrene foam puts less stress on the gardener's back, which has to be a good thing.

If you break up the pieces of polystyrene even further then they can also be mixed in with compost to fill the main body of larger containers; this will reduce the amount of potting compost needed overall. Potting compost saved equals money saved, unless of course you make your own (compost that is, not money).

Wrapping paper and cardboard boxes.
Do you compost correctly, resulting in the fastest turnaround possible of that "brown gold" which plants love to sink their roots into. Or do you compost incorrectly in the manner of a big grass-only silage heap at end of garden. The type of heap which makes you realise why cow manure smells the way it does and why it attracts so many flies.

With composting done correctly, the wet "green" material (grass clippings, veg peelings etc.) should be roughly balanced out by dry "brown" material (newspaper, cardboard, etc.), reducing nitrogenous materials and allowing air to circulate. By adding a bag of torn up wrapping paper or Christmas cardboard for each bag of grass clippings you add, you will ensure the clippings cannot overwhelm your heap. Result, a use for some more of your Christmas waste, and no slimy silage heap within your garden exuding all manner of smells and juices.

That's just some of the uses for the Christmas leftovers, if you have any more I would love to hear them.
Any queries or comments on Bubble wrap, polystyrene foam & cardboard reuse in gardens, please post below.

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