Friday, June 27, 2008

Green Industries - Why Aren't They Greener?

"Gardeners will send 320 million pounds of plastic pots to the landfill this year."
quote from Bonnie Plants, June 27, 2008

Fifteen years ago I happened to mention to a local grower (soon to become a competitor) that I was not going to grow in pots. No! (shock registered) I was going to do a better quality of plant production and grow in the ground(gasp!). Talk about shock factor, the man was aghast at my stupidity.

"You'll never sell a thing," he stated haughtily. "Its all about container growing, thats the way things are done in the modern nursery industry."

Yes, I grew in pots when I was in the nursery business. I tried some ground growing in the old horse paddock. Why do horses NOT digest the seeds of the weeds? Maybe someday I will be able to ask the force behind the invention of the horse as to why their digestive systems were not created correctly ... why is the nitrogen availability not up to par for using as a fertilizer without 50 years of composting? Needless to say, we couldn't weed fast enough or long enough to keep that mess under control.

Point taken, Patrick the hoighty toighty one. I grew in pots. Many nurseries - trees, shrubs and perennial growers, take an unsold plant that has outgrown it's current pot size and repot it 2 sizes up to grow on for a bigger ticket item. This is to be expected in reality. The problem is that they throw away the original, smaller sized pot turning it into trash headed for the landfill if they can. The reasoning behind this is to ward of the spread of disease in the nursery or greenhouse. Landscape companies are just as guilty, if not more so. Many contractors don't want all that dead plastic cluttering up their company yard and the pots are deposited in the nearest hidden dumpster. How do I know this? A bunch of birds told me.

The plastics that nursery containers are made of are not recyclable. I didn't invent this system, I even tried to emphatically buck their neat little easy-to-carry-home-cleanly marketing plot, and lost thanks to horse's digestive systems. While I was aware of the damages from the salt in horse urine to annual bedding plants (a.k.a begonias, marigolds and impatiens, etc.) I was not expecting all them dang weeds in my phlox production area! Had I been wise to the weed corruption, I would have potted the darn things! Loosing 300 out of 500 plants is mighty expensive.

In retrospect, I lost most of the plants to the dad-gummit weed population. No one wants to pay the added cost of hand weeding that is a necessary evil of in-ground growing. Which is why field grown perennials are a dinosaur manufacturing method, not to mention the fact that trying to recoup the cost of labor to harvest in a Walmart world is just not going to happen.

The landscape and nursery trades are known as the "green industries" though that does not necessarily mean that the participating contracting companies and specialty farmers are embracing green living. Market growers are not going to use all that plastic if they are going to embrace a green culture in the green industries. (How's that for sarcasm?) Coming from that arena personally, I can vouch for a number I knew personally downgrading me as a "dam tree-hugger". Hmm, shady thing for a man who makes his living off of trees to say to moi who promotes perennials don't you think? I would look more like a flower-hugger if you were to give me an embracing label. Seriously though, shouldn't a business owner literally embrace the reason there is food on his table? Myself, I didn't even grow trees and I was embracing the dang things!

To promote a more green living kind of gardening, I suggest that you all boycott any grower who is not supporting that which he earns a living off of. If they cannot grow in peat or fiber pots, then why would you want to promote non-green agriculture, let alone gardening? Gardens are the most green kind of landscaping on the planet, so why are we producing all this poisonous landfill accumulation in the pursuit of being green? Perhaps it is time for recyclable nursery containers. It makes much more sense just to use the fiber pots. You don't even have to remove the plant, the container will completely return to dirt in less than a calendar year.

A grower who recycles nursery containers does have his own issues as well. They have a tendency to multiply like butter tubs to the fifth power. My own barn was so packed with the recycled pots they were almost spilling out the doors. Granted, plants that go unsold on the first potting do require larger pants if they are going to be sold in the next go round a few weeks later. Unfortunately, storing multiple pant sizes for thousands of plants is a bit space consuming. But you see this is the problem - in a nutshell.

If the green industry cannot promote green living then should all the players be allowed to state they are in the green industry? Doesn't make a lot of sense does it? Gardeners need to make a statement to the growers in this country. Homeowners really should fall in behind gardeners in demanding that the green industries promote green living. IF you are going to be green, then please for Pete's sake ... BE GREEN! If not get out of the way before the green people run you all over.

'Nuff said for today. Enjoy the sunshine ;O) G.G.


Leslie said...

WHOOO HOOOO!!!! You GO, Girl! :-D :-D

G.G. said...

It never occurred to me until yesterday that the floral and nursery industry is a huge problem with all these plastic pots. All because I went to peek at my new article that just published on Friday. Rozanne Geranium ... if your are curious. There at the bottom of the page was this ad from Bobbie Plants about how they switched to fiber and peat pots because of the landfill numbers from people planting in their yards.

I never liked plastic pots! Plants grow far better and faster in a fiber pot than that black plastic. Also, why would they make them black? Like doesn't this tell a person's common sense that the heat will not only stress out roots faster than a lighter color, but that the temperature inside that pot will actually cause moisture to disappear more rapidly or even start to boil. Plants that do not do well in a plastic pot will thrive in a fiber one, making the growers job a lot easier. But hey, no one asked me my opinion.

Glad you enjoyed my new soapbox Leslie. Stop back in again soon.