Digging up truly green gardening supplies

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Q Where can I buy organic cotton gardening gloves, biodegradable pots and other eco-friendly gardening supplies in Toronto?

A Ding, dong, the frost is dead, and gardeners are out in full force doing what they love best – playing in the dirt. While you’re stocking up, remember that keeping your backyard happy and healthy means doing it in sustainable style (and I don’t mean wearing designer garden clogs). Finding the right tools, soils and pots can start you off on the right foot.

Want pots that don’t linger for centuries in landfill? Biodegradable recycled cardboard pots are available at most good-sized garden centres, like East End Garden Centre on Queen East and Canadian Tire. These babies do decay and can, of course, be planted directly in the soil, but the people at East End Garden note that it takes a few years for them to fully break down a pain in the ass for annuals.

Peat-based pots (peat is also an ingredient in potting soil) aren’t an ideal option, since there’s some question about whether it’s harvested sustainably. The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association says it works with environmental orgs to ensure that peat producers are doing the right thing but it admits it takes hundreds of years for peat to fully grow back in bogs.

You won’t find pots there, but one of your best one-stop shops for green gardening supplies is Grassroots, on Bloor West and on Danforth. Both locations carry certified organic native plants and seeds , drought-tolerant grass seeds (see below), all-natural fertilizers and pesticides , bird feeders made from scrap metal and rain barrels made from old olive barrels . Grassroots also carries those cool Coco Fibre Gro Brix made from coconut husks that are excellent peat replacements in soil and hold water really well. (Soak for 10 minutes, than break it up and add to soil.)

Bustan Urban Gardening Essentials on Harbord sells certified organic fertilizers by companies like BioBizz and specialty products like beneficial microbes, bacteria and fungi as well as everything you need for hydroponic planting .

I’ve yet to find organic cotton gardening gloves in town or even online. What I did discover was hemp gardening gloves , but several brands came with PVC nubs across the palms. No, thanks. sells plain hemp work gloves and some dotted with natural rubber (now, that’s more like it). Otherwise, just snag regular cotton gloves at any garden centre and get planting.

Q What is a good grass seed to plant?

A Stay away from the water-sucking pesticide-hungry Kentucky bluegrass sold everywhere! The stuff only makes it tougher to reduce your lawn’s water and drug consumption. Instead, look for drought-resistant rye or fescue grasses that are less likely to need all those chems. (Grassroots carries them.) Then feed your lawn corn gluten fertilizer like Turf Maize to fend of procreating weeds.

Q The city doesn’t accept ashes in green bins for composting. Is it okay to add fireplace ashes to my garden?

A All those leftovers from winter fires definitely have some value as fertilizer. Ashes contain calcium carbonate as well as potash, a little phosphate and traces of micronutrients and heavy metals.

But only small amounts should be added to soil a little sprinkle twice a year at most. Otherwise, you’ll raise the pH of your soil too much (same goes for your backyard composter). If your soil is already alkaline or neutral, add none, although a few alkaline-loving crops like asparagus and juniper can take it, according to a Purdue University horticulture specialist. It’s hard to guess what your soil’s pH is, though, unless you have it tested. Ask your local garden centre.

Another thing you can do with it, according to the Montreal Botanical Garden, is sprinkle it between rows in your vegetable garden if you have a slug problem. You can also spray a handful of wood ash mixed with 8 litres of water on leaf beatles.

But if you have a big mound of fireplace ashes, you might end up having to put most of it in the trash. Sorry.


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