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(Above: one Brussel with muscle.)

It’s the Olympics, so it must be time to start seedlings. That’s my measure. And whereas last week it was still solidly winter, this week Maryland will begin her flirtation with spring, rising to 70, before dropping us into the 30s again.  Another signal. Maybe a dare: get ready!  Suddenly, I find I am interested. Until this week the yard had become something I just hurried through. Until this week there wasn’t much happening there except the flapping of unfurling plastic sheeting around our failed temporary greenhouse creation. It’s rough being mocked by a piece of plastic sheeting.

Last issue Suburban Growing took a little sidetrack from it’s stated purpose and looked at the horrors of plastic for the environment: what plastic does, and how much of it is out there in all our waterways around the world and in our drinking water. Tiny particles.  Cancer causing. Given my low opinion of plastic as a material, anyone would ask how did we wind up with a massive monument to plastic in our garden?

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Sometimes we learn the most via failures. I’m hoping. The idea was to extend the growing season in an affordable way. The reality has been as ineffective as it is ugly: the wind pushed the plastic walls in on all sides, the chickens pushed in below and polished off the over-wintering greens, and the ice broke through from above. Oh and the plastic degrades: after a couple years of exposure to sun and water, the degraded plastic will not be suitable for recycling when we’re done.  One more for the ocean. Oh yuck.

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But we have big plans for the garden beds this growing season. The chickens we have decided need to go to a summer run and coop for the summer, under the shade of our tulip poplar. Then in their current run we will build up and plant garden beds, on the south side in full sun!

Going forward rather than a temporary plastic sheeting, or the expensive glass greenhouse we were considering to extend our growing season, we plan to put our energy into building cold frames on top of the raised beds we already use.  This way we can start plants early, or keep them going late, or lift up and lock the glass “lid” when we don’t need the extra warmth, in mid season. We can let chickens get in, or keep them out, bed by bed. For example:

Aren’t you inspired?

We could start easy this spring (we could, right Edward? easy!) with some old glass storm windows that I picked up from the end of someone’s driveway years ago. (I know – nightmare. Yes, it’s true, we have been storing these old windows in the shed for years.) The thing to know about using old storm windows for a cold frame is to remove the old paint first before you set it over a garden bed — because old paint contains lead. I am hoping to remove the paint with a power washing and scraping under the pine tree out back, in a garden that does not grow edibles. I will need to remember cover that dirt with other dirt, and mulch heavily too, since my chickens root around back there.

And what about the plastic sheeting? I think we may be able to use it still, as a two-sided wind break to increase the temperature on that south side and start some green beans climbing their poles early. Edward says usually they go in in May. It all depends on warming the soil enough to germinate beans, which are not cold weather lovers. But green bean are tougher than tomatoes or peppers. We eat a lot of greens beans, and they generally like our soil, so this would be a good food to make the effort to grow as many plantings as possible. (We have been getting 2-3 plantings during the summer.) One of the problems for planting early is the heavy rains we get here in spring – seeds rot – so the plastic sheeting could be used as a roof – even if the wind blows it about it could still shed some of the rain off a raised bed. A lady who saves and stores trash-picked storm windows is not going to throw out a pile of plastic sheeting! And when it finally degrades into pieces, unless they have found a better way to handle trash, I may bury it under the pine tree out back. R.I.P.  – No reincarnation for you.

More News from the Plastic Front:

Apart from the Monument to the Plastic King in our side yard, we really have been slowly phasing plastic out this winter with some success. Want to hear about it? I am kind of proud of us – it takes a lot of energy to swim up stream. See reviews on products and ideas below. And how about you? If you have discovered products or clever ways to replace plastic in your life, please share!  (check out my Instagram feed – suburbangrowing):

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Lush Shampoo and Conditioner bars – bite kindness of Owen

Shampoo Bars by Lush – these shampoo and conditioner bars are AMAZING smelling, and easy to use. (You can tell they smell good, since Owen took a sample.) They are expensive upfront, although my daughter tells me they last forever, so are much cheaper in the long run. The Avocado Shampoo and Conditioner bar – the triangular one –  is my favorite for smell, but will take a little getting used to since it doesn’t lather (the conditioner is in there too). The other lathers wonderfully. So far they work great for my hair.

Trash Can Traumas – I am trying out Lawn and Leaf Bags at the grocery store. Pretty affordable, but way too big. Not sized for kitchen trash cans. I chop them down, but My Simple Human Trash struggles to function. Inventors take note!! I have searched, and this product does not exist. Yet. I will also continue recycling old feed bags from the dog and chickens  – they fit pretty well. The key is what to do with WET garbage in paper bags – so far I am bagging it separately, in a small bag. But most of my non-compostable, non-recyclable trash is dry or only moist. Here’s our Garbage Breakdown: most veggie trash and leavings go to chickens; Non-chicken-appropriate Veggie garbage goes out to compost pile; metal, paper, glass goes to recycling bins; oil I pour out in garden behind the grill under the old azalea out back  (she’s tough).

Replacing Plastic Wrap or Foil — Plastic wrap should never touch your food, and neither should aluminum. Both leach stuff into food that causes disease.  So how do you put food away in fridge?  These beeswax wraps are wonderful! Highly colored ones shown are from etee – as in “everything touches everything else.” The other I bought at my health foodstore.   Find out more here:  etee wraps

Photo from the etee Food Wrap website

 

Spring is coming – and plastic is going.