By Courtney H. Diener-Stokes
Reading, May 13, 2012

Courtesy of Leigh Ann Adams editor says eliminating it will keep harmful chemicals out of your food.
Given the negative rap plastic has increasingly received over the years and our effort to aid in reduction of its usage, the home garden shouldn’t be ignored as a place to purge plastic.
“It seems like everyone wants to go plastic-free'” said Leah Zerbe, 30, online editor at, a division of Rodale Inc., Maxatawny Township. “The garden is a good place to start.”

Zerbe said the major concern is the leaching of some chemicals from the plastic, which in turn end up in the food we grow and have an impact on our health. From the garden hose to seed starter trays to tomato cages, plastics are lurking everywhere in the garden.

“When you are talking about gardening, you are growing food and there are these chemicals you don’t want in your food source,” said Zerbe. “A lot of things you use are plastic.”

The main concern lies in the plastics being exposed to high heat, in turn harming more than just the environment.

“Different types of plastics have all sorts of chemical components and additives,” Zerbe said. “(Their release) is greatly accelerated when there is heat. Studies have shown how some of these chemicals affect your hormonal systems and even promote diabetes and obesity.”

According to Zerbe, it all starts with the plastic trays, containers and pots used for starting seeds indoors. Instead, she suggests using the compostable peat moss variety or clay pots.

“Compostable pots are not always effective, due to cost, to do on the farm scale, but for a home garden they are great and they really are not that expensive if you have a backyard garden,” Zerbe said. editor says eliminating it will keep harmful chemicals out of your food

Aside from her work at Rodale, Zerbe and her husband, Greg Hoak, operate Potter’s Farm in Washington Township, Schuylkill County, where they offer community supported agriculture – basically subscription are offered for produce.

“We use plastic, but we really try to cut down,” she said.

When it comes to seed starting, they use soil block makers, another alternative to plastic pots she highly recommends.

“They are these old-fashioned devices – these metal blocks you can make various sizes and you plant in this tightly formed seed pack,” said Zerbe. “It’s really good for the plant because the roots don’t become compacted.”

Another culprit Zerbe stressed as one of her biggest concerns as of late is the black, plastic many farmers use to act as a weed barrier.
“It is a black plastic matt to lay down on a garden to prevent weeds from growing,” she said. “In the July heat with your veggies, that is something that concerns us.”Instead, Zerbe suggests using organic straw, dried leaves or untreated, dried grass clippings to help control weeds.

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