Poinsettias

When we see Poinsettias most of us naturally think of the Christmas holidays. A single potted Poinsettia has the ability to make any room festive – from a messy college dorm to an austere auto body reception area. Multiple pots of red, pink and/or white Poinsettias create instant holiday decor for bank lobbies, government offices, museums and other public buildings. I usually purchase one or two every winter to admire and enjoy in my home. (A common myth is Poinsettias are poisonous. While their milky sap may cause skin irritation in some allergic persons and accidental consumption of the plant may cause an upset stomach in kids and pets, exposure is typically not serious.)

I personally prefer the traditional deep red Poinsettias, but I believe the white, pink and new marbled varieties look amazing in certain settings. White poinsettias look classy in a neutral room or a room filled with predominately gold Christmas decorations. The pink and marbled varieties compliment rooms adorned in pastel hues or blue and silver toned decor. And, most recently the stores have offered Poinsettias sprayed with glitter – adding a little extra bling to the season.

Of course, I normally wouldn’t recommend spraying glitter or anything toxic onto a beautiful plant, but Poinsettias are plentiful, relatively inexpensive and have been hybridized to the point they may or may not return in following years with the same vibrant color. Thus, I treat them as “annuals” or “seasonal” interior plants.

As such, below are a few tips to keep your seasonal plants happy:

·  Place your potted Poinsettias in bright or sunny areas if possible.

·  Indoor temperature around 70°F is ideal for long plant life.

·  Avoid severe temperature fluctuations and warm or cold drafts.

·  Water only when the soil is dry.

·  Do not fertilize when the Poinsettia is in bloom.

If you are up to retaining your Poinsettias after the holiday season, you should certainly give it a try! First of all, remember that due to hybridization, your subsequent plants may not “bloom” quite as vibrantly as before. Also of importance is the fact that what we consider as the blooms of Poinsettias are actually their modified leaves, also known as bracts. The true flowers of the Poinsettia are the small yellow centers of the red (or otherwise colored) bracts. As such, Poinsettias make attractive, GREEN, potted plants that can be placed outdoors in temperate zones after the last frost of spring. They enjoy sun, but should be placed where they will receive afternoon shade during the summer months. As fall approaches, the plants should be moved back inside. Secondly regarding blooms, Poinsettias are perennial tropical natives to Mexico and, like the Christmas Cactus, are photoperiodic. This means their blooming (or leaf-turning) is dependent upon them receiving just the right amount, or lack, of light. Eight weeks prior to blooming season, Poinsettias require 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness per night. You can accomplish this by moving the plant to a dark room or closet to mimic their light requirements, however be careful to treat with “kid gloves” for again, like the Christmas Cactus, Poinsettias can be finicky when it comes to their environment.

I have to admit when you enter my home, you are met with at least 25 -30 live plants throughout my abode. Off the top of my head, I have a Ficus Tree, numerous Philodendrons, English Ivy, Coleus, Sansevieria, Dieffenbachia, several varieties of Dracaenas, and a Gerbera Daisy In addition, I have one deep red Poinsettia as the centerpiece on my dining room table.

I admit, I simply am not a fake flower or fake plant person . . . until it comes to Poinsettias, that is. I love to decorate my Christmas Tree with them!

In years’ past, I would place Poinsettia stems strategically on my Christmas Tree after having adorned it with ornaments. I focused not only on balancing the decor of the tree, but on filling in the bare spots that allowed a person to look through to the trunk. Red is my favorite color, so I fell in love with this practice. This year, having tired of my usual tree topper, I decided to go easy on placing Poinsettias in the body of the tree and instead, I created a bouquet of Poinsettias as my topper. Needless to say, I am very pleased and next year, I may spring for a few more Poinsettia stems to make it even more full!

Well, I hope that no matter your religious persuasion, you choose to brighten your home and/or workplace during this gray winter season by adorning it with a colorful Poinsettia or two. After all, December 12th is National Poinsettia Day! -And if you are up for the challenge, I wish you much success in keeping them around for many more National Poinsettia Days to come.

In my research for this post, I came across a wonderful and very comprehensive site from the University of Illinois. For more detailed information about the beautiful Poinsettia and its history, see http://urbanext.illinois.edu/poinsettia/index.cfm.


Until next time –
Cindy

Originally published 2012


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Ranunculus – Persian Buttercup

Ranunculus

A very good friend of mine, Stella, surprised me with a gift of a brilliant yellow potted Ranunculus at work one day recently. She knows I very much enjoy flowers and had seen this plant at the local home improvement store and was spellbound by its gorgeous springtime-reminiscent blooms. She thought I might know all about the plant, but alas, I only knew its name! I had often seen the paperflower blooms in catalogs and gardening books but for some reason I did not think Ranunculus grew very well here in Zones 7/8.

I believe I’ve been wrong.

From what I’ve read, being on the cusp of Zones 7 & 8 can offer two choices when planting Ranunculus and the good news is, since it is early March, it isn’t too late to take part in one of the choices. If you live in Zone 8-11, you could have planted the bulbs/tubers last October/November for a display of flowers right about now. This is good advice for next year for those of you whose winters never reach below 10 degrees. For those of us that live further north and overlap a bit with the above zones – say Zones 8 and northward, you can plant Ranunculus bulbs this month and enjoy their vibrant colors come late May or June.

Ranunculus, sometimes commonly called Persian Buttercup, produce full, rose-shaped blooms in a variety of bright colors. They are indeed cool weather plants. As mentioned above, they grow from tiny bulbs or tubers and hence, they prefer dry soil. They do not take to the heat very well, and perhaps, knowing how hot our summers (and sometimes springs, falls and even winters) are here in North Texas, this is why I pretty much wrote them off early on. However, after having witnessed their beauty and resiliency (my stunning lemon-colored gift has resided in a pot on my patio all week and still looks great) I have indeed had a change of heart. I can now attest that Ranunculus are very worthy of planting along with other cool season ornamentals such as pansies, dianthus, and snapdragons. Of course, you may wish to simply plant a few bulbs/tubers in pots and enjoy them on your patio or front porch. In my opinion, their greenery is just about as pretty as their blooms, reminding me of full, healthy chrysanthemum leaves.

While it is possible to dig up the bulbs/tubers after the greenery dies down and store them in a cool/dry area until the next fall or spring, most folks treat Ranunculus as an annual. The tubers are indeed quite small and inconspicuous and usually when the earth becomes warm and wet with early summer rains, they are prone to having rotted anyway. Considering on my lunch hour today I purchased 15 tubers for $4.98, it certainly isn’t expensive to grow new plants from year to year.

Ranunculus Tubers

Well, when I arrive home from work today I plan to locate a few high-ground, mostly-sunny spots in my backyard to plant my Ranunculus tubers. After researching the best way to sow these tubers, I learned it may be a good idea to soak them for about 30 minutes to plump them up before planting. (The claw-like tubers actually look like dried up mini-tarantulas if you ask me!) Once plumped, you should plant them right away at about 2 inches under the soil, with the claws pointed downward.

So . . . within a couple of months, I hope to enjoy a rainbow of Ranunculus in my backyard. I hope you find time to plant your rainbow this spring too!

Until next time,
Cindy

P.S. Ranunculus are touted to be among the best of cut flowers as not only are they beautiful, they stay fresh for 7 days in a vase.

Originally published March 2012

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Elephant Ears

If you wish to create a bold and beautiful tropical background to your landscape this summer, now (March/April) is a great time to plant Elephant Ear bulbs.

For about the past 15 years, I have been fortunate to enjoy Elephant Ears in my back yard with very, very little garden work involved. There was only one really very cold winter that I recall when I had to plant a few extra bulbs the following spring, otherwise my Elephant Ears have reliably sprouted and multiplied throughout the years. (That really cold winter I’m speaking of was the very unusual February in 2011 when we had freezing temps and ice on the ground for 3 -4 days straight – during Super Bowl weekend of all inconvenient times!) At any rate, the reason I mention this is because Elephant Ears are tropical plants and thus, are considered annuals in Zones 7b and northward. You will most likely have to dig up the bulbs and overwinter them from year to year if you reside in the less than tropical zones of the U.S. The good news about this practice is it will give you the opportunity to split the corms (or eyes of the bulbs) and produce more plants the following year. I personally live in Zone 8a and as I stated earlier, although my Elephant Ears are 95% of the time perennial, there is always a little wiggle room with the annual/perennial designation depending upon the location in your yard that you plant your bulbs and if you have a particularly cold or warm winter. (For a detailed garden zone map, including lookup by ZIP code, see http://www.garden.org/zipzone/index.php.)

Elephant Ears are fast-growing, huge foliage plants very similar to, but much, much larger than their close relatives, caladiums. Depending upon where you live, Elephant Ears will grow 3 – 6 feet tall and their leaves can become as large as . . . ummm . . . Elephant Ears! Because of their bold appearance and need for ample space both in width and height, it is best to plant Elephant Ears in corners of your home or landscape – or on the back row of your beds. They will give a tropical, summertime feel to any landscape and thus, are especially attractive planted in yards with pools or ponds. You may find bulbs that produce green, variegated or dark purple leaves. So – depending on the color of your home’s brick, rock, wood, etc. you are sure to find striking specimens perfect for your surroundings. Various leaf margins can also be found among the exotic species, such as smooth, ruffled or scalloped.

Black Magic Elephant Ears in a bed of Coleus
Black Magic Elephant Ears in a bed of Coleus

Unlike most bulbs & tubers, Elephant Ears enjoy warm, humid and oftentimes wet conditions. In very hot areas of the U.S., such as south Texas and Florida, Elephant Ears do best if planted in full to almost full shade. Areas north of these states can plant the bulbs in mostly sunny to partly sunny locations. My Elephant Ears are planted in a corner of my backyard that is mostly shaded and stays a bit damp. They thrive in this (relatively) cool, damp locale, although they do get a burst of sunlight for a couple of hours in the late afternoon – amazingly from the reflections of a couple of my neighbors western facing windows! Sometimes the sun is so intense bouncing off the windows in the Texas heat, I will find the leaves of my plants will have temporarily wilted and dipped to the ground. However, after a quick spray of the water hose they usually perk up by the next morning.

Once you have found the perfect location in your landscape for your Elephant Ears, you will need to plant the bulbs, pointed end up (or sideways if you have a bulb that is hard to differentiate), at about 2 inches under the soil. Typically, the bigger the bulb, the bigger the plant, thus, depending on the size of your bulbs you may wish to leave about 1.5 to 2 feet between each one accordingly.

As I mentioned earlier, in the ornamental sense, Elephant Ears are grown specifically for their large and beautiful leaves. However they do flower on rare occasions. The flowers remind me of those of peace lilies (although about 10 times larger!).

Tree Frog in Elephant Ear Bloom
Tree Frog in Elephant Ear Flower

Another interesting fact about Elephant Ears (also called Taro) is their bulbs have been cultivated for many centuries in the tropical areas of Oceanic, Asian and African countries, and still are today an important part of the Hawaiian diet. In fact, Taro is considered a “tropical potato”. Different cultures utilize the bulb (and sometimes the stalk and leaves) in different ways, but it is always cooked thoroughly. If not, the plant can cause quite an upset stomach, among other problems, as it contains calcium oxalate crystals which can produce gout and kidney stones in humans. Since pests are hardly a problem with Elephant Ears, it is thought the spiny calcium oxalate crystals within the raw plant actually deter insects from eating the plant as well.

Elephant Ear (Taro) Bulbs

Incidentally, as I was researching Elephant Ear, or Taro, I came across many photos of people eating Elephant Ear pastries at county fairs. At first I thought they were actually deep fried Elephant Ear leaves! Well, come to find out, it is just another name for a huge pastry – one that does not include chlorophyll, by the way. Elephant Ear pastries, no matter how authentic they look to deep fried leaves, are simply another tasty carnival tidbit similar to funnel cakes and Belgian waffles. Either they don’t routinely bake them in Texas or I simply have overlooked this treat all of my life (which is hard to believe since I love funnel cakes!)

Well, at the close of this post, I’d like to point you to a couple of websites that provided me a wealth of information – but the main reason I’d like you to visit them is to gaze upon the photos to see just how huge an Elephant Ear leaf can get. Truly amazing.

I hope you find the perfect place to create your tropical paradise this year!

Until next time,
Cindy

Originally posted 2011


References:
http://www.elephantearsplants.com/elephantearsgrowing.htm

https://www.gardenia.net/plant/colocasia-gigantea-thailand-giant

http://www.tarofestival.org/

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Electrifying Lobelia

I believe I have found the perfect blooming plant for my hanging baskets, the ones that are positioned to get only morning sun. Blue is a cool color that usually fades into the background, but the electric blue of Lobelia is exquisitely vibrant. I personally love blue flowers and I have been admiring this low trailing, blooming plant in other people’s yards and containers for several years now but I just hadn’t come across any to purchase in the nurseries. This year, I found some early and scooped them up. I also ordered seed via catalogue and have a few planted in 4-inch pots. I see sprouts (not many) so I’ll have to let you know how growing from seed turns out in one of my later updates, perhaps.

Well, I’m going to go on and on about this plant’s color. Actually, Lobelia is the genus name for a large group of plants of a variety of heights and bloom colors. For example, Lobelia cardinalis (otherwise known as Cardinal Flower) grows up to 3 feet tall and blooms red in color. Some types, including some trailing types, bloom in pink or white. The particular type I am discussing in this post is Lobelia erinus. While the other types and colors of Lobelia are indeed beautiful, I have found nothing more intense in color as the electric blue of the trailing Lobelia erinus. It is a floral hue that makes you do a double-take when walking by because you simply can’t believe the blooms are real.

http://images.quickblogcast.com/5/5/5/9/7/288139-279555/Lobeliaerinus.jpg?a=11

Lobelia erinus
Picture compliments of http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene3417.html

Now, having boasted about this plant’s color I’d like to reiterate that it is an low profile edging, hanging basket, and/or filler plant. Its vibrancy indeed makes a powerful statement wherever you choose to place it, but the plant itself is a bit dainty. And being dainty, in general, usually means a little extra TLC may be involved. Such is the case with Lobelia.

Lobelia erinus is a tropical perennial, and thus, in areas north of Zone 10 (pretty much the entire US) it should actually be considered and treated as an annual. Although it is plant of tropical origin and is accustomed to warmer temps, Lobelia is not a full sun candidate – especially in my part of the US – Texas. Lobelia enjoys part sun, part shade and thrives in moderately moist (but well-drained) soil. Thus, if you choose to plant Lobelia in a container or hanging basket you will need to water it more frequently than you would more drought-tolerant plantings. In fact, no matter how beautiful the colors may mix, avoid grouping Lobelia with drought tolerants such as Lantana, Purslane and Moss Rose. Instead, add Lobelia to containers and landscapes that host Liriope, Caladiums, Coleus, and Impatiens. Sweet Alyssum, which benefits from the same part sun conditions, is a great companion to Lobelia in both texture and color.

The Lobelia pictured in my hanging baskets below receive morning sun from about 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and I water them daily since they are housed in coconut liners (and thus, the soil dries out rapidly.) I am very pleased with their performance thus far as it has been difficult to find a suitable blooming plant for the area. Fortunately, Lobelia fits perfectly with its part sun-part shade needs, moist but well drained soil preference, and its trailing habit!

http://images.quickblogcast.com/5/5/5/9/7/288139-279555/LobeliaHangingBaskets.jpg?a=94

With regard to pests, the only thing I’ve found in my research that bothers Lobelia are thrips. Thrips are those tiny “invisible” bugs that sometimes land on and bite humans if you happen to walk in their path. They are especially attracted to white, yellow and yes, you guessed it – blue flowers. The best method to rid your Lobelia of thrips is to give them a spray of organic Insecticidal Soap. Since thrips are so tiny, you might give your Lobelia a spray now and then for preventative measures – just be sure to treat when your plants are in the shade or you may burn them.

An interesting side note about the Lobelia genus is that several plants in this group have medicinal properties. Native Americans historically smoked Lobelia inflata (otherwise known as Indian Tobacco) to alleviate respiratory conditions. In the 19th century, it was used to rid the body of toxins and as such, it earned the name “puke weed” in addition to Indian Tobacco. In today’s herbal medicine world, it is still used (in moderation) to help with asthma. An extract of Lobelia inflata is thought to have properties that may assist with drug addiction and treatment of cancer. Keep in mind herbal medicine is just as powerful, if not more so, than traditional medicine – so never try to diagnose yourself. The “puke weed” reference above should keep you from partaking on your own!

In closing, I hope you are as fortunate as I have been and are able to seek out a few Lobelia pottings in your nearby nursery or garden center. Surely you have a spot in your landscape that can benefit from a little blue electricity this season!

Until next time,
Cindy
originally posted 2012

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Early March in North Texas – A Pictorial

March 6, 2020

Budding Elm Tree
https://natureisnurture.net/february-observations-and-robins/

My last blog post was so very long that this time I decided to give everyone a break and simply post a pictorial of some of the beautiful items in my yard that are showing promising signs that Spring is very near. If you get a chance this week or next, take a moment to look closely at the trees, vines, shrubs, and perennials (and animals) surrounding you. You will be surprised to see the preparations being made for the warmer months ahead! Enjoy –

Mallard couple hanging out in our pool – they arrive every morning promptly at 6:30 a.m.!
Bluebonnet Sprouts – Volunteers!
https://natureisnurture.net/bluebonnets/
Clematis Awakening from a Dormant Vine
https://natureisnurture.net/clematis-a-show-stopper-vine/
Arching Abelia
https://natureisnurture.net/adaptable-aromatic-abelias/
Bridal Wreath Spirea
Close Up of Bridal Wreath Spirea
Heuchera
Dwarf Indian Hawthorne
This shrub suffered a little damage from the building of our new fence,
but is blooming well.
Fringe Flower
Dwarf Azalea Buds

Until next time,
Cindy

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Making the Best of Used Coffee Grounds and Plastic Pods

February 10, 2020

***Unfortunately, due to a temporary glitch with my hosting program earlier this month, I lost connection with some of my subscribers. If you did not receive this post via your email subscription or FaceBook sign-up and you’d like to remain a subscriber, please kindly do so again. Thank you-

Enjoying coffee while considering composting and recycling

Right off, I am going to tell you this post will likely frustrate you.  I have been waiting weeks to complete it as I continue to research the benefits (and detriments) of using coffee grounds in the garden, along with how to properly dispose of those little individual coffee pods that have become so popular.  Not only have I arrived at opposing views on using coffee grounds in the garden, I’ve also come across a lack of consistency regarding if and how to recycle the plastic pods.  However, I’d like to share what I’ve learned and you can be the judge of the best course of action for you on one or both topics.  If you’d like to delve into the topics further, trust me, there are plenty of varying opinions to review on the internet! 

Coffee Grounds

Researching the benefits of adding coffee grounds to soil, I learned used grounds have been scientifically tested and the consensus is there are minerals such as potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and nitrogen found in the spent product.  These are all good nutrients to add to your soil, but in small doses unless you are aware you are greatly lacking in one and in that case, you would handle separately and differently.   The minerals found in spent coffee grounds are minute and slow absorbing, which I personally believe is a very good thing if you are supplementing already healthy plants.

It is the other ingredient found in coffee grounds – the caffeine – that is considered not so good for plants.  (Yes, even used regular and decaf coffee grounds have traces of caffeine left in them after brewing.)  Of course, it is the very effect of caffeine (increased alertness) that is the primary reason most of us drink coffee.  However, in the horticultural world, caffeine is the substance emitted by some plants that ensures other plants do not crowd them out.  Usually found in seed pods (of coffee & cocoa), it is a survival ingredient these plants discharge into the soil that stunts the growth of surrounding plants.  Most of my surface internet research found articles greatly touting the benefits of used coffee grounds in gardens, but researching a little deeper led me to an interesting study.   I came across a couple of articles that cited the same experiment whereby a researcher planted two identical gardens (of non-caffeine producing plants) and consistently mixed coffee grounds into the soil of one but not the other.  The garden that was supplemented with grounds did not grow as fast, tall or healthy as the other garden. It seems the caffeine was doing its intended job – stunting the growth of potential “competing” plants.  It is believed, however, there are some non-caffeine producing plants that are not particularly affected by this characteristic of caffeine – namely and fortunately, acid-loving plants such as azaleas and blueberries. 

Recycling Coffee Grounds from Plastic Pods
Dump spent coffee grounds into a wide mouth container to help keep mold from forming before you mix into your soil.

I live in a part of North Texas that has mostly alkaline, clay soil so the addition of a tad of coffee grounds now and then indeed seems to keep my azaleas happy.  (Azaleas are not the best shrub to have planted in my part of the state, I admit, but we have a rather shady front yard and my husband is quite partial to them.  Thus, we planted a dwarf variety and, consequently, we must supplement the soil around them more so than we do our native plants.) 

I also add a tad of coffee grounds every six to nine months to some of my leafy indoor plants.  I think it adds the needed minerals mentioned above that eventually become leached from potted plants’ soil.  So far, I’ve had no ill effects adding the grounds at such infrequent intervals as my indoor plants are thriving.

In addition to adding minerals and acidity to the soil, some people swear that spent coffee grounds also act as a great insect repellent. I read where one business applied the grounds around their electrical landscape lighting specifically to prevent ants from invading the wiring. I also read where coffee grounds work well to prevent snails and slugs from munching on your hostas and other tender seedlings in the spring. And, continuing the theme of this post, I read the contrary – that worms LOVE coffee grounds and applying them to your soil will create a healthy environment for these particular invertebrates!

So . . . in light of the contradictions and based on my personal experience, I suggest that whether adding coffee grounds to outdoor or indoor areas that you mix with organic potting soil to dilute their effect before applying.  Applying straight grounds can eventually cause them to bind together like wet sand or cement, negatively affecting the density of soil – especially that of clay. (Note: Do not make a habit of placing large amounts of coffee grounds in your garbage disposal for this reason!)  And, I never place grounds or the mixture directly onto a plant’s base.  Spreading a mixture of coffee and soil several inches from the base of the desired plant is far better than stacking grounds immediately around its stem/trunk.

My best advice is to use moderation as your guide when mixing spent coffee grounds into beds as a soil amendment or a pest repellent.  If you compost, adding them to your pile now and then should allow you to reap benefits without worrying too much about the effects of caffeine. If you collect a lot of grounds, try sharing with others who compost in your area and who may not be coffee drinkers so that you are not inadvertently overloading your mixture.  Also, and this is my personal thought, if you sometimes drink flavored coffee, you may wish to forego using those particular grounds in your garden as there may be artificial additives that have additional adverse effects on certain plants. Lastly, if you chose to use grounds solely as a pest repellent it may simply be best to use them away from any prized plants.

Coffee Pods

Now that we have the pros and cons of recycling coffee grounds out of the way, let’s move onto recycling coffee pods!  This is another area of which I have discovered different viewpoints in my research.  In the end, however, I think doing what we can to reduce items in our landfills (and other areas) is simply worth the extra time and effort.

Coffee Pod with Tab to help with recycling
Some coffee pods have tabs on the aluminum covers that make it easier to separate the contents from the recyclable plastic.

I won a pod coffee machine in a contest a year or so ago.  I use it and admit I like using it on “work days” when I’m in a hurry in the mornings. It is no secret that the coffee pods used in the machine are much more expensive than purchasing ground coffee in a bag.  The time saved, convenience, and ability to serve each individual in your household their preference of flavor, strength and level of caffeine are very attractive features of a pod coffee machine and are what make it worth the added expense for most.  Still, as I stacked the spent pods on my kitchen counter to recycle their grounds this past month, I was amazed at how those little plastic cups accumulated in my two-person household – especially when we are mostly one-cup-per-day drinkers.   (We make coffee in our traditional coffee maker on the weekends!)

Traditional coffee maker
Traditional coffee maker with tap water set aside in open bottles to help evaporate chemicals.

Before I move forward with this topic, I must disclose if you aren’t already aware, that there are refillable coffee pods on the market and, in fact, I ordered one last night. (See pic & details in the right sidebar.) These refillable pods will also allow you to individualize your coffee experience as you use your preference of ground, bagged coffee with each serving.  There is the added effort of washing the pod after each brew, but it shouldn’t take but a minute or two.  I have seen where some refillable pods suggest using tiny disposable paper filters inside, but, in my opinion, that defeats the purpose of protecting the environment from excessive debris.  Yes, paper is compost-able, but if you are going to use a refillable pod, I’d suggest using one that doesn’t require the addition of yet another filter.  My 2 cents.

If you are like me and have an abundance of plastic pods at home currently and/or you feel you will continue to use one-time pods, below are a few tips regarding recycling them.

  • Look on the underside of the pod and make certain it is stamped recyclable and make note of the “number” it is labeled.  Most companies, including Keurig, are producing their pods in recyclable plastics nowadays.   I have a variety of brands in my home and most are recyclable and stamped with the number 5. 
  • Most cities accept plastics 1 – 7 in their recycle programs.  Even though the pods are labeled number 5, I have read there are some cities that will not accept coffee pods at all due to their small size.  In fact, I was advised by telephone that one local city will not accept them, yet a neighboring city I called does.  I understand this relates to the sorting machinery used at each recycling facility.  It is highly recommended you call your city or local recycling facility to determine their policy before you go to the next step. 
  • If your city or facility accepts the pods, they likely told you they only accept the plastic portion, therefore you must separate the pod components in order to recycle.   I first separated my pods manually, but I admit it was difficult as some of the paper liner inevitably remained on the rim of the cup – which might further negate its ability to be recycled.  Therefore, I purchased a handy dandy, “recycle-a-cup” device. (See below and in the side bar.)
  • Whether using the recycle-a-cup device or separating the pod manually, dump the grounds into an open, wide container that will allow them to dry.  You do not want your grounds to mold, if at all possible.  I use a plastic, wide-mouth jar that I recycled from a snack product.
  • Some pods come with a tab that allows you to easily pull off the aluminum top. (See above pic.)  This is an easy way to get the grounds out of the pod, but the paper filter will likely still remain attached to the cup.  In this case, I peel the tab first, dump the coffee and use the recycle a cup device afterwards to remove the paper filter for a clean cut of the plastic. 
  • If you are composting, you can simply dump the paper filter in your pile along with the grounds.
  • If you are not recycling coffee grounds, use the recycle-a-cup to separate the parts and just toss everything in the garbage except for the plastic. 

Lastly, if you found your area does not recycle coffee pods at this time, you (or your employer) can pay for a mail-in service to do so for you. Yes, I know, paying for this seems a little odd and extravagant but the cost includes shipping the containers to and from your location and there is no need to go to the trouble of separating the pods.  I found two services such as this by performing an internet search.  The two I researched accept the pods in their whole state – they will separate the contents at their location and recycle accordingly.  Based on the criteria, I’d say a business is more likely to benefit from this type of service more so than an individual since each mail-in container supports about 150 pods and they need to be mailed in before the pods have time to mold.

Amazingly, I found a company that will accept separated plastic #5 coffee pods at only the cost of mailing them – and because there is no perishable content, you can send at the least expensive ground shipping rate. In fact you can double your recycling efforts by mailing your #5 pods in a previously used mailing box (think Amazon!). The company uses the plastic pods to create other useful items. Check out their program at Preserve Gimme 5. This is what I am doing with my remaining pods –

Plastic #5
Recycle “Triangle” Logo Stamped
on Bottom of Pod – Plastic #5

I admit this may be a small gesture in the whole scheme of world trash, but I feel I am doing my part by recycling coffee pods in return for having the convenience of a fresh, personalized cup of coffee in the morning.  And, as I mentioned earlier, I have ordered a refillable pod to begin using right after I finish up recycling all the plastic pods I purchased on holiday clearance last month! 

Summing up, I think the key word for this blog post is moderation – whether it is moderation in drinking coffee, moderation in applying spent grounds to your garden or moderation in what devices you use to brew your coffee.  Most of us shouldn’t drink coffee all day as it has unwanted side effects if consumed in large amounts.  We shouldn’t overdose our plants with coffee grounds (or any type of fertilizer for that matter) as it, too, will have unwanted side effects.  And, modern life yields appliances and devices that make things quicker and easier – i.e., the coffee pod machine – which, also, comes with unwanted side effects of excessive trash.  I’m not suggesting everyone give up this modern invention, but I am advocating we balance our use of coffee pod machines by investing in refillable pods or at least by recycling the plastic ones.

Until next time,

Cindy

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