Notes from Seattle: Container Gardening

For those of us living in cities, one of the easiest ways to connect with Nature is to grow and care for plants. While there are often limits to yard space in the city, particularly for those living in apartments or condominiums, it’s still easy to get our hands dirty: gardening using containers.

On a recent visit to Sky Nursery, a wonderful plant nursery just north of the Seattle city limits, I came across an innovative product: EcoForms™ pots. While many affordable gardening containers are made of plastic these days, EcoForms™ are made from grain husks (primarily rice hulls) and natural binding agents (starch-based, water-soluble binders and biodegradable additives). They contain no wood or petroleum ingredients, do not deplete natural resources, and decompose in the landfill. No pollutants are used or produced at any stage of the manufacturing process. And because all scraps are recycled in the production process, no materials are wasted. Only a small amount of water is used in the binding formula, and the organic pigments are environmentally friendly. Heat and pressure cement the ingredients to produce EcoForms™. Plus, they are attractive and reasonably priced!

There is something else special about this particular potted plant. Rather than using a chemical fertilizer, I opted to use biosolids instead. Biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic matter that is produced by the treatment of wastewater. Here in King County, our wastewater treatment facilities have been turning wastewater solids into this natural resource for over 30 years. Biosolids contain nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and other nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth.

Until about 40 years ago, sewers discharged raw or partially treated sewage directly into Lake Washington and Puget Sound. In Seattle and elsewhere, improvements to wastewater treatment facilities helped to reduce pollution to waterways, but solids were still considered a waste and typically dumped into landfills or released into the Pacific Ocean. Today’s wastewater technologies separate the solids from the water during treatment. The solids are then biologically decomposed in heated digester tanks, and once additional water is removed from the biosolids, they are ready for use in agriculture, forestry, and landscaping.

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