By Brian Barth
Trips to the garden center can set you back plenty, as can the many high-priced garden designers that are eager to come explain your soil needs for $125/hour.
Here's a few tips for taking control of your garden, without relying on fancy gadgets and experts.
1. DIY pH Test
Sometimes soil is too acidic or alkaline and must be amended to support certain plants. Some folks pay a lab to find out their soil pH, but you can get a rough idea on your own with household cleaning supplies. Mix a handful of soil with water to make a clump of mud and pour white vinegar on it; if it fizzes, it's alkaline (pH above 7). If it does nothing, make a fresh clump of mud and add baking soda; if it bubbles, it's acidic (pH below 7). If it still does nothing, it's neutral (ph of 7).
2. Egg Carton Seedling Planter
Instead of using those disposable plastic cell-packs to start seeds in spring, simply save up your egg cartons (you can cut off the lids and discard). The egg-shaped depressions are just the right size for seedlings — fill them with potting soil or seed mix and plant. Water sparingly; the cardboard will absorb the moisture and keep the soil from drying out too quickly.
3. Low-Tech Automatic Wine Bottle Waterer
One advantage of drinking a lot of wine is you'll have all the materials you need to keep your garden irrigated when you go away on summer vacation—without investing in one of those costly, complicated irrigation systems. Simply drill a small hole in the cap or cork, fill the bottle with water and stick it upside down in the soil. The water will leak out very slowly over the course of several days to a week. Plan on about one bottle per square foot of soil.
4. Ladder Plant Stand
Grow more plants on your patio or balcony with less space by upcycling an old ladder. It's easy: place planks horizontally across each set of rungs. You want the planks to extend a foot or so out from the rungs on either side, so cut them and position them accordingly. You can orient one side off the ladder toward the south for sun-loving plants and the other toward the north for shade-lovers.
5. Upcycled Cloche
What is a cloche, you say? It's an old French term for bell-shaped glass enclosures placed over single plants to protect them from cold weather, which was popular among the aristocracy in Victorian times (the word translates literally as "bell"). You can make your own version with any large jar or bottle, whether glass or plastic, as long as it's clear. Or use a clear plastic tote to make a mini-greenhouse over multiple plants in spring, so they don't get nipped by late frosts.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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