OM is all you need

manure pile
The dung heap comes plastic bag free and contributes to much of my fertility. OM (organic matter) is all you need.

For the past few years I’ve been steadily knocking off the plastic in the garden shed. I’m still on the job – not quite plastic free, but getting there. The thing is to take it one product at a time. There’s a bit of effort in researching a replacement… if indeed you need one, you may well find you can let that plastic bagged thing go. Streamlines the shed, the wallet, and best of all the waste.

Here’s my plastic replacements, let-it-gos and the things I can’t!

No more plastic seedling trays

Awapuni pick and mix seedlings in cardboard punnets

When I run out of time to grow my own seedlings – Awapuni flower and vegetable seedlings to the rescue! Love these guys and really appreciate them providing good quality seedlings in paper and card. Buy them online or at New world and Pak’n’Save supermarkets. They come rolled in recycled newspaper with biodegradable labels. Or pop into Mitre 10 or the Fielding farmers market for their pick and mix selection (I love this) in recycled cardboard punnets.

Streamline the plastic bags

2 bags of fert and 1 bag gypsum in my garden shed
3 bags full – gypsum in paper, Fodda and Agrisea full spectrum mineral fertiliser in reusable plastic sacks.

The good news is that as far as fertiliser is concerned you only need one. One good quality full spectrum mineral fertiliser will do all the jobs at your place – fruits, vegetables, citrus and pasture.
Find an NZ made, sustainably-sourced one that comes in a robust reusable sack. Have a google and choose your favourite. I can recommend Environmental fertilisers, Fodda and Agrisea.

You do not need all those bags of plant specific artificial fertiliser eg tomato, potato, citrus etc. Many of you feel worried that your garden will fail without them at the same time as you struggle with issues like outrageous populations of whitefly or passionvine hopper – artificial fertiliser induced sucking insects!

Artificial fertiliser puts the mineral nutrient exchange in your soil to sleep + disappears the soil life (they cant eat it) ergo poor soil + low resilience + full dependence on you and those little white pills. The health of your soil, crops and good self are long term stronger when you use a full spectrum mineral fertiliser.

leaf mulch in the winter greenhouse
Leaf mulch in the greenhouse

Become an OM collector. Start today. Leaves, seaweed, seawrack, pond weed, manure are all mineral rich and all round us and plastic bag free. If you have room grow mineral rich goodness at home with deciduous trees and wonderful herbs. Travel with a sack and gloves and shovel in the boot. Forage respectfully, take a little, leave a lot and never from a reserve. Rot leaves in a covered pile with a little lime or use them as mulch. Lay seaweed or pond weed beneath the mulch or turn into liquid feed. Stash manure in a pile under cover and use in heavy feeder preps and for subtropicals and citrus.

trenching foodscraps
Trenched foodscraps

Recycle all your nutrient rich food scraps and greenwaste at home or get them collected by a local programme. When you stop putting your food/ green waste in the bin you are making a huge contribution to climate change – makes the top 10 for best impact on the planet. Its pretty bonkers to throw away that amazing source of free fertility and then go and buy a plastic bag full of other stuff. Wormfarms, bokachi buckets or my favourite – trench your foodscraps are all easy as.


Lime flour and gypsum come in paper if you buy them in 20kg bags. Split them with your mates or have a roadside stall. I’m anticipating one of you pointing out that paper does in fact grow on trees, the water used etc. Yes I hear ya, but at least a paper bag melts back into your soil.

Plastic bottles

plastic bottles in my garden shed

This is where I get a bit stuck. These are the bottles I have remaining in my shed. I love them all, but as I use them up I am going to have to let them go. I feel a wrench when I think about my favourite EM and slow ferment seaweed foliar …. I love those guys, but times are such that sacrifices need to be made.

  • I’m going to have a play with this cool toy from our friends at Crafty Gatherer. Properly aerated compost will replace the EM.
  • Homemade liquid comfrey + herb brew will replace the seaweed.
  • As for the biodynamics, I will need to learn new things, but those bottles will last me for ages yet so I have time.
  • When plastic free July rolls round next year I’ll have but one remaining bottle – Neem, and I will have to work up to that. I cannot imagine how I will possibly let that bottle go.

Be a plastic free change maker! With mobile devices it super easy. Whip out your phone, get online and ask companies why the plastic? Let your favourite companies know that you’ll have to stop buying unless they lose their packaging.
Do it there and then in the shop. I’m becoming annoyingly demanding. Power to the squeaky wheel!

Bulk buy at garden centres

Yay! What an idea! Why is no one doing it? Bring your own bag and fill it. Or maybe pre filled bags that you swap out each time – boomerang garden sacks. Lime, blood and bone, compost – the possibilities are endless.

How else are we going to replace compost in plastic bags (being sealed up like that kills the compost by the way – just saying) I’d love to hear of any garden centres’ or councils that are moving towards this so I can applaud loudly and share their goodness all about.

mid jan garden

The irony is too great to ignore – all our lovely organic food gardens creating tonnes and tonnes of plastic waste.


  1. Cree Hatfield says

    Hey Kath, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your newsletter. Thank-you.
    ……….I now have a hankering for the Aerated compost tea brewer which looks like a great idea.

    Here’s to good old compost

    • Thanks Cree! Yes doesn’t that aerator look fab and love how Crafty Gatherer use recycled buckets et all. Even though giving up the plastic is bit sad for me at times with my fav products, I’m loving paring my garden back to the basics. love Kath

  2. Shannon Hunter says

    Hi Kath,
    I enjoy seeing your monthly ‘to do’ posts and I agree 100% with this one!
    Seems counter intuitive to be creating so much waste while gardening. I have been running a compost and worm farm program at work which has really inspired me at home. I have some big compost piles which I’m excited to add to the garden come spring.
    A good initiative in Auckland is the Sharewaste campaign. People who can’t have a compost bin can find people (like me) who have bins they can contribute to. More goodness for my garden and waste diverted from landfill.
    Happy composting 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your note Sharon! Love hearing about compost piles and worm bins – especially at work places. So many exciting initiatives regards recycling food waste, Sharewaste looks fab, lucky you to have that option.
      Compost on! Kath

  3. I’ve bought neem in glass before from kereru oils. I’m sure it’s probably more expensive than three plastic bottle but an option to consider?

  4. Roz Grant says

    yes we know about plastic & things are changing – but I have used my big plastic bags to protect my tree planting from hares & rabbits – just cut air holes on 4 sides & place 3 bamboo stakes inside each bag to stand up – great use Roz