Archive for June 24, 2012

CowPots: gardening with cow poo

The time for planting seeds and potting-on has passed, but I wanted to tell you about an eco product that will make your gardening life easier next year: the CowPot.

CowPots are a new type of seed starter pot made entirely from cow manure. Being a farmer’s daughter that does not phase me, but before you city types get anxious, let me assure you that they do not smell.

CowPots are similar to the peat pots the you see at most garden stores: you can start seeds in them or pot-on into them, and then bury the whole thing in your garden, thereby not disturbing the plant’s roots (and making your life easier).

CowPots have two main advantages over traditional peat pots. First, they actually do biodegrade over time. Peat pots are supposed to break down, but this is often an unfulfilled promise. You need to rip or shred them to enable the roots to penetrate. (Or, you can do as I do, and treat them as plastic pots that you reuse year after year). If you don’t do that, your plants suffer.

Second, they are not made out of peat. When I first came to north America, in 1998, I was shocked to find that the anti-peat message had not yet reached this great continent. During my 14 years here, not much has changed.

Extracting peat destroys biodiversity and releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere (the peat acts as a carbon sink, when disturbed the carbon is released). In the UK, the government is looking to phase out the horticultural use of peat by 2020. Here in Canada, gardeners continue to use peat with gay abandon, but I hope that will change.

Other eco advantages of cow pots are that they provide an outlet for excess manure (getting rid of animal waste is a big headache for farmers) and that energy is extracted during the manufacturing process. But if you imagine they will also fertilize your baby seeds, think again. They are 1-0-0 (so contain a bit of nitrogen, not much else).

CowPots come in various sizes (round, square and seed cells) and are widely available in the US. For stockists, see here. In Canada they are harder to find. Some natural products stores stock them (I bought mine at Rainbow Foods in Ottawa and they are available at the Big Carrot in Toronto). A limited range of pots – all square – are available on-line through Lee Valley Tools and West Coast Seeds.

If you are in Europe, you are also in luck (see here) though I do have some reservations about the shipment of cow poo over the Atlantic.

I wanted to wait to write this posting until I had seen how my CowPotted tomatoes did in the garden. I can assure you that they are doing very well. I may not spring for these year on year (my tomatoes that I transplanted naked – pulled out of plastic pots – are doing equally well), but if you go for ease, these are the pots for you. Better than peat on every axis.

Rechargeable (and cool) LED lights

pebble light

I am a little hesitant to write this review. Not because I don’t love the product (I do), but because it can hardly be said to fulfill a pressing need. (Unless, of course, you are someone who is desolate without funky design items round your house.)

The product in question is an DeLIGHT sold by Toronto-based YUP Inc. (tagline: pioneering an eco lifestyle).

This is a rechargeable LED accent light that comes in two cool shapes: the pebble (my favourite) and the glow, which is more pointy.

The lights themselves are very light-weight, being made of robust white plastic with a matt finish that makes them look organic when lit. They are entirely portable and can be used indoors or outdoors, even in the depths of the Canadian winter, I am told (for ice fishing, perhaps?).

You simply charge the batteries for about four hours and then the ultra-efficient LED light will remain illuminated for more than 16 hours straight (up to 29 hours, according to YUP’s proprietor, VJ). Using the light’s handy remote, you can choose a single color or rotate through 10 cool colours, including a flickering orange that suggests a candle burns inside.

The LEDs are supposed to last for 50,000 hours (so 2,500 charges, if you get 20 hours from each charge). The batteries seem to work well and the good news is that they are regular rechargeable AAs so you can replace them if they are getting sluggish. Mine don’t keep their charge for very long if I don’t use the light, but that is a general problem with rechargeable batteries.

The lights are available largely through the company’s website. They are not cheap at $69.99 each (both shapes) with $15 per light shipping (to Canada and the US: dispatch is quick and efficient). The good news for ecoproductsthatwork readers is that you can get 15% off any light purchase you make before 30th June, using the coupon code ECOPROD.

I am just hoping that the reasonably high price tag means that pebbles and glows will actually stay the distance.

So, there you have it: a guilty pleasure or a nice gift for your favorite friend. Maybe you could even share one with your neighbour: that would cut down on the eco-stress.

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