Planting weed seeds straight into bio biodegradable
Starting your plants by growing from seed in biodegradable seed starting pots is one of the most earth-friendly methods of starting a garden. Homemade biodegradable seed starting pots range from: seed starting pots from newspaper, toilet paper tubes–even eggshells can be used. These are just some of the seed starting tips for beginners I’ve covered in the past. Then there are the commercially available biodegradable seed starting pots at your local garden center. However, not all biodegradable seed starting pots are created equal. Below I’ll offer some tips on selecting commercial seed starter pots, how to water seedlings, and how to plant these pots in your garden.
Selecting Biodegradable Seed Starting Pots
The first thing you’ll notice when buying biodegradable seed starters is that you have three options: There are square pots, round pots and trays of strips. The individual round pots and square pots generally come in two sizes–small and large– while the strips I’ve only found in one.
If you read any available packing for the seed starting pots you’ll notice that they are generally made from three things. They can be made from peat, coconut coir, “recycled materials” and dried cow manure. The pots made from cow manure aren’t as easily available, but you should ask for them at your garden center if you are interested in lessening the dependence on plastic in your seed starting operation.
Peat, Paper or Coir Pots: Which are Sustainable?
Peat Seed Starters
Over the past two years I’ve been involved in conversations with other gardeners about the use of peat. These conversations usually boil down to someone in the industry trying to convince me, or people around me, that harvesting peat can be done in an environmentally-friendly manner. I do not subscribe to this idea. Personally, I don’t want to contribute to the destruction of an ecosystem while trying to develop one in my own yard. If I’m giving peat pots I’ll use them. But I don’t go out of my way to buy them. You should read the peat page and educate yourself on the pros and cons of harvesting peat and make your own decision.
Coir Seed Starters
Seed starter pots made from coconut coir, a waste product, is a great substitute for pots made from peat. I like coir so much that I use it as my seed starting soil too. Recently, I’ve had gardeners express concern about the salt levels in this medium. I’ve never encountered a problem with it, and I wonder if it isn’t one that has been pushed by the peat industrial complex.
Paper Seed Starters
Finally, over the past three years I’ve noticed these pots made from “recycled materials” are becoming more and more available in dollar stores and big box retailers that devote a small section to seeds and seed starting supplies in the spring. I’ve yet to call the company to ask what exactly “recycled materials” they use, but given their low price, density, and how the pots react to water– I’m pretty confident that it the product is recycled paper.
Starting Seeds in Biodegradable Pots
The first thing I do when starting pots these pots made from natural fibers is to check if there is a drainage hole. In the case of the strips, I’ve noticed that the drainage hole’s size can vary from strip to strip, and from one cell to another. If you look at the picture above, you’ll see the irregular drainage holes in each of the pots that come in strips. These holes are rather large and a lot of your seed starting mix will fall out if you lift the pots and when you water. I like to take a small piece of napkins and just cover some of the hole to minimize the loss of my seed starting soil.
In the image above, the pot made from “recycled materials” is the only one with a precisely cut drainage hole. It’s another indication that makes me think it is made from paper as the cut is too clean for it to be peat or coir.
Before filling these pots with your seed starting soil I recommend you moisten the pots with either a spray bottle, or by dunking them in warm water for a few seconds. Not too wet, but make sure they are moist. I even go so far as to moisten my seed starting mix before adding it to the moistened biodegradable pots. Pots made from natural fibers will wick away moisture in your seed starting mix and from planted seeds resulting in poor germination rates. This goes for newspaper pots and pots from toilet paper rolls, too! Keep it an eye out for pots drying out when temperatures get warm and on sunny days if you’re starting seeds in your windowsill. They dry out real fast.
How to Plant Biodegradable Seed Starting Pots
After all danger of frost has passed, it’s time to take your seedlings that you’ve grown and tended to indoors and introduce them to your garden beds or container garden. Dig a hole or trench that is wide enough and deep enough to set your biodegradable pots in. The depth is very important. If any portion of the pot is exposed above the soil line, the air circulating above ground will wick away moisture from the pot. Then the pot will wick away moisture from the surrounding soil and you’ll be left with dead seedlings. This also applies to the paper tube and newspaper pots.
When you buy plants that have been commercially grown it is often recommended that you gently break apart the soil and roots to promote root growth, and counter the effects of the plants having become root bound. It’s a good idea to break or tear apart these pots when you are planting them in ground and in containers too. The second to last photograph shows an herb I planted in a pot and you can see that the roots grew through the pot. In the last picture the roots of a pepper plant didn’t grow as vigorously through the pot and would have benefited from the pot having been broken to allow them to penetrate the surrounding soil as the roots concentrated on growing around the surface of the pot.
Planting biodegradable seed starting pots in the garden, while better for the environment, require a bit of planning and thought. Don’t allow them to dry out completely when you’re starting seeds in them. Especially the seedling pots made from paper. They can be harder to initially water and will hold more water than the pots made from peat and coconut coir, but they are more durable.
After transplanting your seedlings into the garden ensure that the pot is completely covered in soil to prevent the air from drying out your plant and seedlings. These natural parts will break apart and decompose on their own, but it is a good idea to help the seedlings, and the decomposition process, along by breaking the pots when you’re planting them in the ground.
You can also look over the archive of my posts about starting and saving seeds from your garden for more tips, suggestions and recycling ideas for seed starters all in one easy to remember page.
Making Biodegradable Seedling Pots from Textile and Paper Waste—Part B: Development and Evaluation of Seedling Pots
This study evaluates the efficacy of using textile waste blended with paper waste to form biodegradable seedling pots. A bio-composite blend of cotton (20% cotton, 40% newspaper, and 40% corrugated cardboard) and polycotton (20% polycotton, 40% newspaper, and 40% corrugated cardboard) with an optimum strength was formed into seedling pots. The appreciated seedling pots (untreated blends of cotton and polycotton) were compared with the commercial pots (cardboard seed starter pot and Jiffy pot) in terms of mechanical properties (tensile strength and compressive strength), biodegradability (soil burial test and anaerobic digestion), and seed germination. The untreated blends of cotton and polycotton pots demonstrated a comparable optimum strength, while the Jiffy pot and cardboard seed starter pot obtained the least tensile and compressive strengths, respectively. The anaerobic biodegradability assay suggests that the cotton blend pot, polycotton blend pot, and cardboard seed starter pot can degrade anaerobically because of high biogas and methane generation potential. A 100% seed germination was observed from the four seedling pots tested. Thus, the results demonstrate the efficacy of utilizing textile waste and paper waste to develop seedling pots with desirable strength and biodegradability compared to the commercial pots.
Staggering consumerism and economic growth have generated an unsustainable amount of discarded textile and paper waste in municipal solid waste (MSW) that ends up in landfills. The global expansion of the textile industry along with the consumers’ fast fashion trend makes clothing disposable, generating a massive amount of textile waste [1,2,3,4]. Textiles such as cotton and polycotton (60% cotton/40% polyester) are the predominant fibers that comprised most of the consumers merchandised [5,6,7]. Moreover, paper and paperboard waste represent the largest fraction of the total MSW (68.05 million tons) generated in the U.S. and the 3rd largest fraction of MSW disposed of in landfills . Discarded textile and paper waste are fiber-rich resources that can be potentially used in the making of a biodegradable seedling pot. This study offers an environmentally sustainable option in diverting textile and paper waste from landfills by converting them into a biodegradable seedling pot.
Alternative containers or bio-containers were developed to promote sustainable greenhouse and nursery production that addressed the consumers’ “green” product perception and environmental sustainability. Bio-containers are made from biodegradable materials to provide alternative seedling pots replacing the non-renewable plastic containers. Bio-containers degrade naturally when planted or composted, which attracts sustainability and marketability . Bio-containers can be classified into plantable and compostable based on their usage requirement and degradation rate [10,11]. Plantable bio-containers are planted directly in the ground can enhance the survival rate of plants by reducing root damage and transplanting fatigue as it eliminates the need to remove the pot before planting . The factors that determine the pot biodegradation rate includes the nature of container material, soil quality (nutrients, moisture, pH, temperature, and microbial community), and climatic condition . However, plantable bio-containers can rapidly decompose, yet they are durable enough for short-term production to withstand watering and handling requirements. Unlike plantable bio-containers, compostable bio-containers are not designed to be planted with the plant, instead, the pot should be removed from the plant before transferring into the final container or planting bed, and the used containers are composted separately . Compostable bio-containers do not degrade quickly and the pot walls are strong enough to hinder the establishment of roots . For this reason, containers must be removed before planting to be composted in a proper compost pile or composting facility to allow complete decomposition in a relatively short time .
Biodegradable pots are produced worldwide and are already being used in many greenhouses and nursery production facilities that promote sustainable organic gardening/farming. Some of the known biocontainers are CowPots (East Canaan, CT, USA) made of composted cow manure, compressed and held together with a binder; Jiffy pots (Jiffy Products, Kristiansand, Norway) are made from peat and paper fiber; and paper containers (Western Pulp Products, Corvallis, OR, USA, and Kord Products, Lugoff, SC, USA) are made from paper pulp with a binder . Furthermore, the tensile strength of three selected biodegradable seedling plug-trays made from peat moss, wood fibre, and cow manure were in the range of 1.0–2.0 MPa . Biodegradable pots made from recycled wastes of tomato (90%) and hemp fibers (10%) with sodium alginate as binder demonstrated a tensile strength of 1.20 MPa .
The development of bio-containers has been progressively focused on utilizing the appropriate biodegradable waste materials, improving the strength of the container, and increasing its biodegradability. Seedling pots made of recycled wastes of tomato and hemp fibres with sodium alginate as a binder enhance the development of roots and growth of plants . Biosolids from wastewater treatment facility were utilized to develop a biosolids blend of cardboard and cellulose fibre with starch as a binder demonstrates an enhanced plant growth . In a different study, pineapple waste was used to make decomposable pots of 1 cm thickness was decomposed after 45 days with a nitrogen and phosphorus release of 0.34% and 7.97 mg-P/kg, respectively . Residues from sweet potato distillation with waste newspaper were potential to make recycled pots and observed that the plants’ roots penetrated through the pot without causing damage to the plant and the pot served as a fertilizer to the plant upon decomposition . Seedling pots made from biomaterials and banana peels suggested that the higher content of banana peels (70%) could accelerate the biodegradability of the pot .
Thus far, in terms of waste material utilization, no available studies have been conducted on developing biodegradable seedling pots using textile waste (cotton and polycotton) blended with paper waste (newspaper and corrugated cardboard). The durability of bio-container is one of the factors considered by the nursery and greenhouse industry prior to utilization . Tensile strength accounts for the handling capacity of biodegradable seedling pots . Typically, tensile forces are exerted on the container walls during plant growth and manually transporting the container . This study determines an optimum bio-composite blend of cotton and polycotton in terms of tensile strength and bending strength tests. The resulting optimum bio-composite blends of cotton and polycotton were used to develop a bio-composite seedling pot. Furthermore, these formulated seedling pots were compared with the commercially available seedling pots (cardboard seed starter pot and Jiffy pot) in terms of tensile and compressive strengths. A compressive strength test was performed on the seedling pots to determine the pot capacity to withstand compression load that can be exerted by the seedling roots along the walls of the container during plant growth.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Preparation of Bio-Composite Sheets
Blending of paper substrates (newspaper and corrugated cardboard) with cotton and polycotton to form bio-composite sheets and determining the tensile and bending strengths are worthy to be investigated prior to making a biodegradable seedling pot . The substrates used in this study include textile waste in the form of soiled towel (100% cotton), polycotton fabric (60% cotton/40% polyester), and paper waste in the form of used newspaper and corrugated cardboard. The polycotton fabric has a polyester component, which is synthetic and non-biodegradable. Three different blends of cotton and polycotton with paper waste were considered to form bio-composite sheets ( Table 1 ). Except for corrugated cardboard (soaked in deionized water), the substrates were soaked in 5% NaOH for 5 h and rinsed using deionized water. Thereafter, the substrates were blended into pulp using a blender (Pro-vita, electric power blender, 1400 W (Thinkkitchen, Windsor, ON, Canada) and a freshly prepared binder (20% cornstarch) was added into a drained blended pulp and weighed accordingly so that each sheet prepared for tensile strength and bending strength tests should have 0.5 g TS and 1.3 g TS, respectively.
Composition of bio-composite sheets.
|Bio-Composite Sheets||Substrate Composition|
|Cotton (C) blend||Cotton||Newspaper||Corrugated cardboard|
|C blend 1||20%||40%||40%|
|C blend 2||50%||25%||25%|
|C blend 3||80%||10%||10%|
|Polycotton (PC) blend||Polycotton||Newspaper||Corrugated cardboard|
|PC blend 1||20%||40%||40%|
|PC blend 2||50%||25%||25%|
|PC blend 3||80%||10%||10%|
The bio-composite sheet was formed using 5 cm × 2.5 cm and 12 cm × 2.5 cm molds for tensile strength and bending strength tests, respectively ( Figure 1 ). The compression method and instrumentation used to form sheets were common with Part A of this study . After the compression, the bio-composite sheet was removed from the mold and dried for 5 h at 105 °C and kept in the desiccator prior to testing. Six sheets for each blend were prepared and tested for tensile and bending strengths to determine an optimum bio-composite blend.
Molds for bio-composite sheet for testing the (a) tensile strength and (b) bending strength.
The addition of binder remarkably improved the tensile strength by 180–395%, while the alkali treatment (5% NaOH for 5 h soaking) increased the tensile strength by 14–21% only . From these results, untreated bio-composite sheets for C blend 1 and PC blend 1 were considered as control treatments to compare the tensile and bending strengths with the treated bio-composite sheets.
2.2. Preparation of Bio-Composite Pots
The bio-composite pots were prepared after evaluating the results of the previous tests. Untreated bio-composite blends (C blend 1 and PC blend 1) were prepared to form seedling pots. The formulated seedling pots from this study were compared with the commercially available biodegradable seedling pots, the Jiffy-Pots 2 and cardboard seed starter pot, bought from Dollarama store, Winnipeg, Canada. The Jiffy pot (size: 2 in diameter) is made of Canadian Sphagnum peat moss and wood pulp by Jiffy Group, Canada. The cardboard seed starter pot (size: 2.5 in diameter) is made of cardboard by Seeders, China. The average dry mass of the commercial pots (cardboard seed starter pot and Jiffy pot) was determined in this study and found to be 4 g TS per seedling pot and this was used as a basis to prepare the bio-composite pots.
The seedling pot was formed using a mold as illustrated in Figure 2 . The mold was drafted using Solid Works software and created by a 3D printer machine using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic material. The weighed substrate for each blend of cotton and polycotton was soaked in deionized water for 5 h prior to pulping. The resulting mixture after binder addition was manually placed to cover the entire bottom mold. Following that, the top mold was placed atop the bottom mold for compression using a load of 500 N. Six seedling pots for each blend were prepared and tested for compressive strength.
Instructions: How to use and plant your Bios Urn® in nature
TIPS BEFORE PLANTING:
– You can choose between 2 things to plant:
- You can plant seeds with the urn and grow the tree from seed. If so, make sure to read this article in advance of planting. FYI the seeds may need a few weeks of preparation before they are able to be planted in the urn.
- You can choose to plant a seedling, young sprout or sapling with the urn. If so, make sure to read this article in advance of planting.
– Before you plant your Bios Urn®, be sure to read up about the tree species you have chosen to ensure optimal conditions for growth.
– Check to make sure you plant during the best season. All seeds and seedlings should be planted during their correct planting season.
– TLC (all living things require some basic tender loving care – remember to give your tree some as well!)
We try to make the Bios Urn® as user-friendly as possible. The Bios Urn® itself is divided into two capsules: a lower capsule, and an upper capsule. The upper capsule comes sealed and contains a soil expansion disc made of coco fibre, vermiculite and paper.
Instructions for using the Bios Urn®
1. Fill the lower capsule of the Bios Urn® with ash (any amount, regardless of how little can be used.) The Bios Urn® can be filled by a crematorium, or by the individual user. Thanks to its double capsule design, the Bios Urn® locks into place, so that a crematorium can give the ash back to you ready to plant. Once the ashes have been transferred to the lower capsule, close the lower capsule with the top capsule by sealing it into place (place the top capsule on top, and then twist it slightly to the side). TIP: If you only use a portion of the ash, be sure to fill the remainder of the Bios Urn® with soil from the surrounding area as well so as not to leave a gap present.
2. Research and choose your preferred seed or seedling. The Bios Urn® works with every single kind, no exceptions! By sourcing your own directly yourself, it enables to choose a tree which is sentimental and meaningful to you. Fruit trees, flowering trees, evergreens or conifers are all completely compatible. We cannot stress enough how important it is to always choose a native tree species or one which is common to your location, to respect the ecological balance and ensure better growth. So be sure to check with a local gardening supplier or horticulturist for information on native tree species in your area. Remember you can also elect to use a seedling, or sprout instead of a seed. Or some people also chose to plant a flower, a plant, or a bush instead of a tree.
3. Choose the location or planting spot for your Bios Urn®. If you need assistance with this, contact us here, or check out our recommended places to plant as well as our tips on how to chose the right planting spot.
4. Plant your Bios Urn®! Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the Bios Urn®. Generally around 15-16 inches (36-37cm) is a good depth, with a width of 10-12 inches. Plant the Bios Urn® inside, leaving the soil surface a couple of fingers above the top of the urn. TIP: water the entire hole before you plant the Bios Urn® into it, as this will help begin the process of biodegradation.
Source: Bios Urn®
5. Fill the area around the Bios Urn® with soil from where you are planting without covering the top of the urn.
Source: Bios Urn®
6. Remove the seal from the top capsule, and unpack the expansion disc. Get your seeds or seedling handy. Place the expansion disc at the very bottom of the top capsule then add soil from the site you are planting the Bios Urn® on top of the expansion disc. Place a couple of seeds on top of the soil. If you are planting a young sprout (seedling), plant it on top of the expansion disc then gently add soil form the site on top and/or around the base.
Source: Bios Urn®
Source: Bios Urn®
7. Cover the Bios Urn® with soil from the surrounding area, and thoroughly water the spot you have planted it. There should be around 1/4 inch to ½ inc of soil on top of the seeds (make sure you don´t place too much on top!) None of the Bios Urn® should be exposed, it should all be covered by soil.
Source: Bios Urn®
Simply plant your urn where you want your tree to grow and take care of it. Always plant all of the urn, which is 100% biodegradable and won’t damage the soil. You can plant your Bios Urn® using a seed or a young sprout if you prefer. We generally recommend planting during the appropriate season according to your tree. If you have questions about when to plant your Bios Urn® according to your location, message us, and we will do our best to assist you with this process.
Remember that Bios Urn® can be saved for as much time as you want because it doesn’t have an expiration date. If you don’t plan on using your Bios Urn® anytime soon, we recommend only adding the seeds when the time for planting comes.
If you have additional questions, comments, or general inquiries, here are our Frequently Asked Questions. Or feel free to write to us at [email protected]
– The Bios Team
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