The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Don't pitch garden pots

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

As gardeners we spend a lot of time with "re" words. We relive BJB (the time Before Japanese Beetles). We redo and rebuild garden beds while we rebuke the weeds and the rabbits. We reinvent new uses for caste off items. Old plastic window blinds become plant labels. Curtain rods become hose guides to protect our gardens from an unfortunate quick whip of the hose dragon's tail. We reuse plastic pots. Or at least we think we will reuse them. We stack them, and stack them, and stack them until we need to have search-and-rescue dogs alerted every time we venture into the garage. If we can't reuse all those pots, do garden centers want them? Are pots recyclable?

First when you purchase plants ask the garden center if they accept used pots. If they do, ask for details on how and when. Most garden centers accept only pots that were purchased from them originally with good reason. For quality plant production, consistency is crucial. Since I have spent many hours watering plants in greenhouses, I know what a nightmare it is to care for plants in a hodgepodge of pots. In addition remove as much soil as possible. Keep in mind pots have to be sterilized at the garden center before they are reused to lessen the risk of plant diseases.

Or consider other ways to reuse plastic pots. Dress up large tree or shrub pots to make containers to grow herbs or vegetables on your patio. New spray paints good for outdoor plastic are available in bright colors. To contain herbs that are inclined to travel beyond their intended home, cut out the bottom of a large pot and sink into the ground until about two inches remain above ground. Plant your wandering herbs such as mint or lemon balm into their new restricted housing.

Garden pots are recyclable. Check with your waste hauler about recycling pots with other recyclables. Not every plastic is recyclable and/or collected.

An additional opportunity to recycle the pots you thought you would reuse is coming Saturday June 6th from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm at our first plastic garden pot recycling day at Illini FS Farmtown at 1509 East University Avenue in Urbana.

To participate we ask that you:

  • Recycle only the pots or trays marked with the recycling triangle symbol usually found on the bottom of the pot. The appropriate marks are #2, #5 or #6 on the inside of the triangle.
  • Separate and stack pots according to type (#2, #5 or #6) and size regardless of style or color.
  • Nest all pots and trays of same size and same plastic type tightly together.
  • Remove all loose soil.
  • Remove all metal hangers or metal rings from hanging baskets.
  • Do not bring plastic food or beverage containers or any other plastic items not associated with gardening.

Please wait until June 6 Recycle Day to bring your items to Illini FS. The Champaign location of Danville Gardens at 1413 North Prospect and Schuren Nursery in St. Joseph will serve as a pre-event drop off points but please wait until after Monday, May 18.

We hope to add drop off points so stay tuned for more details. Thank you to Illini FS, Community Resource Recycling, Danville Gardens and Schuren Nursery for working with us at UI Extension in Champaign County to make the recycling day possible.

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