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Plant pots have many reuses before they are recycled

(C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Sustainable landscaping can be a challenge, especially when you consider reduce, reuse, recycle.

Each year the garden industry puts plants in more than 2 million pounds of plastic pots. The pots are usually No. 2, 5 or 6 plastic, which can be recycled through many curbside programs. Some garden centers allow you to return pots as part of a recycling program, so ask what’s available where you shop.

Check with schools with garden or horticulture programs to see if they accept pots for their growing projects. The first Saturday in October, the Indianapolis Museum of Art Greenhouse accepts clean pots for reuse in its operation.

Many avid gardeners also reuse these containers. Four-inch pots are perfect for starting seeds, growing seedlings or for propagating plant cuttings. These also are a good size for holding pencils, pens and plant tags.

One-gallon pots or larger work well for holding transplants or plant divisions until ready to plant. These pots also are handy for taking plants with you when you move from one home to another or to share with friends.

Three gallon or larger nursery pots can be filled with potting mix and planted with tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other vegetables, herbs or small, fruit-bearing shrubs, such as blueberry. The nursery pots usually are black and not wholly unattractive, making them usable for ornamental plants, too, such as annuals or small shrubs, such as a rose.

These larger pots are handy for stowing hand tools, gloves, plant tags, twine and other garden essentials. Nursery pots make a useful receptacle when weeding or cutting back plants.

As far as reduce, some growers have started providing pots made of papier-mache, plant fibers called coir, paper or other biodegradable materials. These pots decompose, so they can be planted with plants in them. Or, the plants can be removed and planted and the pots tossed in the compost pile, where they will break down.

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