There are so many plant products and care items out there. From nursery pots to neem oil to old soil, there are so many things out there that can pile up or become old and outdated. But how do you know when you can throw them away? Or if it’s even safe to dispose of some of your plant care items in the trash? Most items that you toss should be okay in the garbage, even better, some of them can even be composted or recycled. So instead of letting your nursery pot collection topple over in your kitchen (we’re guilty of that), why not dispose of them? Getting rid of any useless or old plant care items will create space for you to add even more plants to your collection. So, what can you get rid of? We spoke with a couple of plant experts to find out what you can toss.
Meet the Expert
- Nick Cutsumpas is the plant influencer @FarmerNick and author of Plant Coach: The Beginner's Guide to Caring for Plants and the Planet.
- Tyler Thrasher is the author of the forthcoming Grow a Damn Plant Journal. He's also an artist, chemist, and botanist who was recently on Vox’s The Future Of series on Netflix.
- Sarah Burrows is the co-founder of the online plant product company Modern Sprout.
“One thing we don't think about 'throwing away' is our compromised soil," says Nick Cutsumpas, the person behind @FarmerNick. "Of course, soil can be amended if it is not ideal for the plant, but sometimes it is best to completely remove soil that might be infested with pests or have some kind of disease, fungal infection, or bacteria."
Instead of spreading these things, you should definitely start from scratch. “In cases where a plant has suffered tremendously, I will remove the suspected soil and start fresh with something completely new after I've treated the foliage and roots,” explains Cutsumpas. “You may be tempted to compost it, but if there is a serious issue, it may spread to the rest of your compost.” If it’s simply old soil you have laying around, you can definitely compost it, but if you’re concerned, put it in a bag and throw it in the trash instead.
“Shiny leaves aren’t nature’s guarantee. In fact, the windswept, sand coated, rain stormed leaf is a staple in nature,” says Tyler Thrasher, author of the upcoming book Grow a Damn Plant Journal. But for people who expect their plant's leaves to be glossy, there's a product called leaf shine that you can spray or rub on the leaf to give it that just-rained-on look. But leaf shine isn’t actually good for your plant. “Leaf shine sometimes remove the glaucous waxy layer that protects most succulents and arid plants. Toss it,” recommends Thrasher. Instead of using products like this, you can opt for a damp cloth to help keep your leaves clean. Keeping them dust-free is especially important so they can absorb all of the light they can to grow even more healthy leaves.
Inefficient Spray Bottles
“Unless you enjoy sporadic dribbles and cramped forearms most of these products are a huge waste," says Thrasher. "They’re designed for cleaning a couple of windows, not quenching the thirst of a trillion plant cells." There are so many misters and spray bottles out there and most aren't great quality. They often get clogged, spray over too wide of an area, or simply stop working. “Until an invincible spray bottle is designed you’re better off showering your plants once a week or buying a humidifier!” says Thrasher. You can easily create a humid environment without using a spray bottle at all by adding a humidifier to your space or placing the humidity-loving plant on a pebble tray with water.
“It’s important to transplant pots out of nursery pots so their roots can flourish and grow. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of waste,” says Sarah Burrows, cofounder of Modern Sprout. “Ask the nursery if they will take them back, or drop them off at The Home Depot, which launched a plant pot recycling program that reuses old pots.”
We’re all guilty of hoarding nursery pots. While they can definitely be re-used if you sanitize them with a bleach and water mixture you don’t need to hold onto all of them. If you’re not keen on throwing them out, recycle them or use them for other projects. “It can get overwhelming when you have a large plant collection, but in general, I like to keep my nursery pots in case I need them for seed starting, emergency repottings, and putting them inside of decorative [cache] planters,” says Cutsumpas. “They're also helpful for filling tall raised beds so you don't have to use as much soil.”
Damaged or Rusty Pruners
Slamming those rusty old pruners together over and over to get the plant cutting you need? Maybe not. “No one needs a trip to the doc,” says Burrows. If you have any old plant tools that are damaged or rusty, it’s time to toss them. You're more likely to cut yourself when you're using a dull blade because it requires more force to use. Keep yourself safe by wrapping them up in an old dish towel or tapping cardboard around them and then putting them in the garbage can. And if you have pruners that still work and aren't rusty, make sure you keep them clean so both you and your plants stay healthy.
Old Neem Oil
“Neem oil over two years old has lost its potency. Although natural, this is still a pesticide so dispose of it in a secure trash bag,” recommends Burrows. There’s simply no reason to keep any plant products that aren’t going to work anymore. It’s not worth the space! It’s also going to be pretty depressing if you continue to spray that Neem oil on your plant hoping it’ll get rid of fungus gnats, but those fungus gnats just never die. Toss it and restock with some fresh Neem oil. And maybe don’t buy as much as you did before.
Working With Sharp Office. University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health and Safety.