The Plasticine Era

Don’t bother searching the title.  It’s not the first time this blog has contained made up words and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but it’s just I’ve been thinking about plastic lately since it seems to be the material of the day.  It started with some comment I read, that all the plastic humankind has ever made is still in existence.  I know of course that’s not true since I can personally vouch for having thrown a plastic cup or two into a campfire somewhere along the line, but the main idea is that plastic doesn’t break down anytime soon.  My compost pile will attest to that fact.  I throw nearly every scrap of yard waste onto it and as the organic materials break down into a deliciously rich soil amendment I’m left with a constant peppering of plastic trash bits picked up by the mower or left behind by the kids.

garden plastic

I keep a (plastic of course) bucket back there to hold all the plastic scraps I pick out of the finished compost.  I’m always amazed by how quickly it fills.

I never catch all the trash and much of it gets dug into the soil with the compost.  I’m pretty sure that in a couple million years future archeologists will be able to identify this era of time based on the layer of plastic remains which we’re laying down each year…  assuming we make it that far of course.

So in addition to keeping some weak kind of transparency to my gardening budget this year I’m also going to try and reduce the amount of plastic I use.  I’d aim for recycling too but I’m just not convinced that’s a good solution, so the goal is just less of it.  Maybe I can start with the awful plastic based fleece and clingy ‘performance’ fabrics that just breed static and just don’t breath (as opposed to cotton of course).  Better late than never since people have been onto this movement for years, but I guess everyone makes their changes according to their own timetable.  …Now about that budget.

I love tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata). I should take better care of the ones I already have, but I’m sure a few new ones wouldn’t hurt either.

I’m going to confess to a few plant purchases and I’m actually going to count them this time.  For the record I recently celebrated a birthday and in all honesty I should be counting these as birthday presents to myself (and not apply them against the gardening budget) but a few comments have questioned the accuracy of my accounting and have implied that I play it a little too fast and easy with the numbers.  So just to keep things on the up and up I’ll admit to a $68 phlox purchase from Perennial Pleasures in Vermont and a $65 order of cold hardy cactus from The Cactus Man out in Colorado.

hardy cactus

Hardy opuntia seedlings in the rock garden last week before the latest snow.  Brutally spiny and unforgiving, kind of dull in the winter, and painfully torturous to weed around… obviously I need more.

Seriously this really shouldn’t count against the budget.  I don’t need any new phlox and I kind of hate the nasty little cactus I already have, but there they are, new plants pointed to and clicked on and now destined for this little patch of suburbia.  Of course I’m excited 🙂

$68 for six must-have new (and heirloom) phlox
$65 for several super spiny, wildly colored, completely exotic hardy cacti

$288 total so far for the 2018 gardening year

46 comments on “The Plasticine Era

  1. pobept says:

    Be assured your $133.00 investment is mostly an environmental investment. Good for both the environment and an investment in your property.
    Write your exotic hardy cacti off under your long term water conservation management project and your heirloom phlox purchase is an investment in erosion control planning project. 🙂
    Happy Gardening

    • bittster says:

      I like the way you think 🙂
      These are all practically charitable donations rather than garden expenses, and you’re actually making me feel generous about the dollars I spend!

  2. What we need to do is get the nurseries to ship our plants in something other than plastic pots. That way, we reduce our plastic consumption but still get to buy ourselves birthday presents.

    • bittster says:

      Yes, I don’t know what the other options are for plastic pots. I guess paper would work for shipping, but the combination of soil and something that can’t disintegrate in contact with soil is a tough one.
      I never throw out pots until they’re so broken up I can’t re-use them anymore. That’s getting plenty of use out of them, but they still eventually end up in the trash and as far as I know don’t recycle around here. Just imagine how many of the pots at a decent sized nursery end up in the trash…

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I agree with Linda. All of those plastic pots left over from those purchases that we keep account of…sometimes. At least now most of the plastic pots are recyclable. It would be nice to have pots you can just plant and be done with them.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve heard of a few compostable pots, but of course they decay, and they’re also pricey and heavier than the usual plastics.
      I thought my pots couldn’t be recycled, I’ll have to look into it again and see if that’s changed here as well.

  4. Christina says:

    Plastic is BAD – I think you’re right that trying to use less is probably more useful than recycling (though I do recycle all I can). As to the plant purchases 1. you were right to include them in the budget but 2. I don’t think they are unreasonable. You earn the money after all so should enjoy the fruits of your labour!! Look forward to seeing the Phlox; I think the cactus will die – cold hardy isn’t the same as growing and living in wet cold ground!

    • bittster says:

      Unlike many materials which can be recycled a few times or eventually decay away, from what I understand plastic can only be recycled once at most, and then it’s still with you for hundreds of years as trash. I’d like to avoid it as much as possible, but it really is everywhere.
      Yes, I have little guilt about spending on plants. I spend pretty responsibly, but even if it were much more, if you can afford it I don’t think it’s the worst habit!
      My fingers are crossed for the cacti. They’re all opuntia which should be among the hardiest, but we’ll see! I do have some heavy, cold and wet ground which I have to work around.

      • Christina says:

        I’m beginning to notice more plastic on the beaches here now, not just the stuff that’s just been thrown away but small scraps where it has been broken up but not degraded (obviously). They’re finding plastic inside fish quite a lot now so I think the problem is much worse than it was. A law has just been put into force that the bags the supermarkets and shops use have to be degradable. So in theory can go in the compost – I’m not 100% convinced so am still reusing them for other rubbish.

      • bittster says:

        Ocean plastic is one of scariest things. Either search for ‘Midway plastic’ or watch this video. It is frightening how plastic is permeating the planet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsJqMmuFWO4

  5. johnvic8 says:

    I recommend you go big this year. Life is too short to deny yourself that new hosta.

  6. Pauline says:

    The war on plastic is very big over here, being able to buy our goods without plastic will be wonderful but will take time. In the meantime all our plastic is recycled by the local counsil, our local nursery takes back our plastic pots and either uses them again or makes them into new ones.
    The border phlox will make your summer garden look wonderful !

    • bittster says:

      That’s hopeful, recycling seems to be so behind in this country. Freedom is sometimes taken as a justification to waste and plunder what should be conserved and shared with future generations in mind.
      I’ve been recycling many of my old pots this week by starting new plants! Now if I only knew where they’re all going 🙂

  7. Cathy says:

    I am always saying I will try and reduce the plastic I use, but it is hard when plants all come in plastic pots and I have shelves of them left over from previous years too! As to the budget… those phlox will no doubt be worth the investment, but I will need some convincing about the cactii… I hate prickly plants! LOL!

    • bittster says:

      I’m nearly 100% sure that the cacti will be one of those “it looks so nice in your garden, but…’ kind of things. Maybe it’s similar to having a flock of sheep on the lawn or a pair of peafowl wandering the grounds 🙂
      I was just looking at all the pots ‘stored’ in the garage. Amazing to think that each one represents a purchased plant, I wonder where they’ve all gone!

  8. Lisa Rest says:

    Happy belated. I abhor plastic and try to use less and less of it but as everyone else has attested, it’s impossible to avoid. I keep hoping for plastic made out of renewables to happen, but of course as long as the fossil fuel lords are in power we are doomed. But there is probably a species that will emerge from all the crud (after) we have left. In the meantime, I can’t believe your cactus. I have to be careful around my hawthorn. Lol.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks 🙂
      Someday there will be a renewable plastic. Right now the degradable ones worry me as well. I wonder if they don’t just break into tiny micro bits which we’ll find out are even worse for the environment.
      I just read an article showing newer research that shows plastic in the warmer parts of the ocean does break down. One of the byproducts is BPA which is a known disruptor to animal reproductive systems, plus the usual cancer agents. Samples taken across the oceans all showed levels of these pollutants which are not found in nature. Of course there are also the usual bird and other deaths due to plastic ingestion… the more you know the scarier it becomes, it’s like an oceanic DDT. Here’s the one article if you’re interested. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/08/090820-plastic-decomposes-oceans-seas.html

      • Lisa Rest says:

        Thanks. Yeah, I don’t know what the solution is. I’ve been eating less fish. And now after reading the article I’m beginning to feel like as much as I want to declutter, I’m almost afraid to throw anything away because I have no control over where it goes once I send it off to “recycling” or wherever… I’ll just keep toting reusable bags, etc. I reuse plastic bags as much as possible too but I’m not sure that’s so great either. Sigh.

  9. There’s a lot of much needed publicity about plastic in the UK at present and promises by companies and government to DO SOMETHING. They may. Expensive Phlox. I bought a number of snowdrops and hepaticas since January. There are worse sins but I wish mine was cheaper.

    • bittster says:

      he phlox prices are about average. My grandmother used to visit from Germany and wonder why all the plant prices are so high here, especially for shrubs and trees. I think it’s a demand thing plus the further distances they travel.
      I can’t even consider a hepatica addiction. Once you start admiring Japanese cultivars you’re doomed.

      • Ian Lumsden says:

        Hepaticas are something to pass quickly by. But if you do pause for a second leave the credit card with the kids because it will be cheaper. A cheaper means of admiring them is to glance at my blog in a week or so as my modest collection will be paraded for all. And given the cost it will remain modest. (I have however commenced a collection from seed. This year the first will come into flower.)

      • bittster says:

        I’ve already put your blog to good use in admiring many of the hard to find (particularly in the US) snowdrops. Now I’ll add hepaticas to the list! Hopefully you’re able to put up a few photos of the first babies, the ones from your own seed are always the best 🙂

  10. I get plastic stuff but also iron (old nails, bits of barn hardware) and crockery.

    • bittster says:

      Now some of that sounds pretty cool. Helps when you’re digging around a 100+ year old farmhouse! -even though when I was living at the old house (~100yr) there was nothing worthwhile to be found. Not even a peony or old nail!

  11. Eliza Waters says:

    What I find annoying are those little plastic labels on fruit that end up in the garden, bright yellow tags that last forever. My compost supplier used to pick up school scraps, but had to give it up because of all the darned plastic kids would throw away. sigh.
    Isn’t it so easy in the age of the internet to order online? Hit check-out before you even have time for second thoughts. A winter weakness, for sure.
    Your phlox and cacti hopefully will give years of pleasure well beyond your birthday – belated felicitations!

    • bittster says:

      Plastic is so useful and cheap but it’s everywhere! I was especially disappointed when I realized nearly all my newer clothes were mostly plastic based. Somehow I don’t think the appeal of digging up an old bottle or coin will be the same as unearthing a pink Northface fleece.
      Yeah, I have a strict 24+ hr waiting period requirement on all online orders. It’s so easy to be tempted when you’re snowed and frozen in!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I’ve never liked the feel of synthetics, they pill easily and don’t breathe. However, I do wear fleece in winter over cotton shirts. They wash a whole lot easier than wool, which require a separate hand wash.

  12. haroldCross says:

    Frank. Your puny amount of funds spent thus far this early gardening season will only explode on March 3rd when you come home from the snowdrop Gala. My wallet is so thin you can see thru it. Wishful shopping ahead.

    • bittster says:

      Shhhhhhh. Those are snowdrop expenses and as such are part of the midlife crisis fund rather than gardening budget. I plan on buying a witch hazel too though, and don’t know where that money will come from….

  13. hb says:

    You hit a nerve–I pick up bits of plastic (and bigger pieces–bottles, bags, toys) in our local park every single day. I get angry about it–here it washes into the ocean to kill sea life and sea birds. Grrr!

    You work hard, sounds like your spending is done thoughtfully and carefully, the garden is your interest, your results are stunning, so…continue!

    • bittster says:

      Glad to hear you’re going above and beyond in helping. It amazes me to think that every little tiny bit which you pick up is one less bit cluttering up the environment for the next few decades. Plus I think people are more inclined to not litter and are offended more when the area is already clean versus the feeling of defeat one can have when seeing a spot completely filled with plastic trash. Every effort helps!

  14. I always feel bad about the plastic pots when I buy plants. A good argument for buying bare root, I guess. Shouldn’t those phlox be included in the Pollinator Support Budget?

    • bittster says:

      I’m lucky in that I have a little extra space to store old plastic pots, but even with that they eventually end up in the trash… I’m going to keep my eyes open for either recyclable or sustainable pots. Paper cups aren’t the worst idea for my seed starting.

  15. Chloris says:

    I wish you’d stop this garden budget thing you make me feel guilty when I tot up mine. I’d rather start each week afresh and forget what I spent last week.
    I wish they could sell plants in bio degradeable pots. I have a shed full of plastic pots which are not only a monument to my extravagance but obviously a grave danger to the planet if ever they escape.

    • bittster says:

      Oh no. I guess I never considered my budget tracking as some kind of plant-shaming effort! On my part, keeping track of garden purchases is almost a thing of pride…. ‘Look how good I was to myself’ runs through my brain more than oh dear. Plus I like to think of all the thousands of dollars I wanted to spend and didn’t! The ignored and unplanted pots alongside the driveway do far more to fuel my guilt, but fortunately our ‘strong’ winters help motivate or put an end to that problem each autumn.

      • Chloris says:

        And thanks to your amazing system of accounting, think of the money you save. I have spent a fortune on seeds this year. But actually, I have saved a fortune by buying seeds rather than plants. Without you I would never have realised how much money I have saved.

  16. Peter/Outlaw says:

    There’s a nursery in this area that grows 90% of what they sell and they’re very happy to have plastic pots to reuse. Taking the pots to them feels good because it cuts down on the number of pots stacked in the greenhouse and lets me believe that I haven’t spent far too much on plants. My goal this year is to greatly reduce plant purchases. You’re an inspiration. However, these really are birthday gift plants so shouldn’t count against the garden budget!

    • bittster says:

      Nooooooooooooo! Being an inspiration to buy less plants is like being the diet guru who inspires people to cut icecream, cake and cookies out of their diets! I can’t be the person who makes this world a less-fun place! Please Peter, if only for my sake, please consider buying more plants this year. You know you want more bromeliads.

  17. Indie says:

    How good for all of us to cut down on plastic, as it’s really getting out of control! Here I’ve made an effort to not use plastic baggies with making my kids’ school lunches after realizing the millions of plastic baggies that must be out there. I try to reuse all those plastic pots, but I fear I buy more plants than my reuse of pots can keep up with! I do think those purchases of yours should obviously count as birthday gifts, and not be held against your gardening budget!

    • bittster says:

      I’ll have to see how things are going in May. Maybe I will need to move these purchases over into the birthday ledger 🙂
      I’m convinced children are the worst source of plastic. Their meals, snacks, toys, and accessories are nearly all wrapped in or end up producing plastic trash. I guess my wallet opens a lot faster for them and because of that they go through a lot more stuff. I’m thinking of all the ice pop and yogurt stick wrappers right now. That alone must fill a trash can each month.

  18. First, happy belated birthday! 😀 Not that any of us are actually getting older, of course. 😉 Second, “plasticine” actually isn’t a made-up word, it’s an actual brand of modelling clay patented in the UK. If I’m not mistaken (and our British readers may correct me on this) “plasticine” is kind of a generic word for modelling clay, somewhat like we sometimes say Xerox for copies not actually made on a Xerox machine, or Kleenex for other brands of tissues. Anyway, you’re definitely not guilty of illegitimate word-birthing, lol. As for budgeting, I always tell myself that because I have no other vices such as smoking, drinking, or ingesting weird chemical substances, money spent on gardening is thus de facto A Better Use Of My Money. (I can rationalize almost anything, lol)

    • bittster says:

      Thanks for the birthday wishes 🙂
      Good to know my word-birthing really isn’t polluting the English language after all… although my writing might still be up for debate. I was a big fan of modeling clay throughout my grade school years, I’m surprised I don’t remember coming across the word earlier, unless I did and just don’t remember. I had masses of clay villages, animals, forests, whole ecosystems all out of clay and I was their mostly benevolent overlord. Oh the things we did before video games.
      I absolutely agree on the white collar nature of garden budget crimes. Yes there’s an occasional trip to the emergency room but nearly always it’s self inflicted and often a Darwinian type of deserved.

  19. Chatsworth Lady is correct. Plasticine in England is a putty-like modelling material for children’s play. When I taught elementary school there, we used it in art class. See how educational your postings are, Frank! BTW — excellent conversation here about plant budgeting (don’t do much of it myself) and conservation (I try.) P. x

    • bittster says:

      Look at that, even more education! I did not know you taught in England prior to moving here, very interesting.
      I’m trying to count birds this weekend. Yesterday (Friday afternoon) there wasn’t a soul, today it’s mobbed… although it’s all the usual mobsters.

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