Newspapers get new life in the garden

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i preschoolers recently learned a lesson that combined the importance of recycling with food sustainability. 

Laura Kawamura of the University of Hawai‘i Cooperative Extension Service was working last Wednesday with Tiana Kamen of Malama Kaua‘i in previewing the Farm to Preschool program. It’s set to launch in the fall semester with about 18 preschools on the island, including the Head Start schools.

As part of the program, students created mini paper pots to plant seeds in which will later be transplanted into the garden.

“The pots are made of newspapers that have already been read, and in the case of The Garden Island, the ink is soy-based which means everything is biodegradeable,” Kawamura said. “So, in addition to being a part of gardening, the project is also part of recycling. This is what makes the project so appealing.”

A handout by Kamen from the Life Lab Science Program said the basic idea is to wrap newspaper strip around a mold, squish the bottom, fill it with soil and use it to plant a seed in.

Molds are available or, but people can simply use a V-8 juice can, the handout states.

Kawamura said what works better is a can of tomato paste, since it is more readily available in households.

The newspaper is cut into three 3-by 10-inch strips, the handout states, although Kawamura said with the reduced width of the local newspaper, people can just cut in 3-inch strips across the width of the page without needing to measure the 10-inch length.

Holding one edge of the strip, the newspaper is wrapped firmly around the mold and positioned so about an inch of the newsprint strip hangs over the edge.

Once rolled, the piece hanging beyond the edge is folded inwards and the can is squished onto a flat surface.

The completed pot is eased off the mold, filled with potting soil, seeded and watered.

Completed pots with seeds can be placed next to each other to provide support. Milk cartons cut lengthwise make good holding containers.

When the plant is about 3 to 5 inches tall, the entire assembly can be transplanted into the garden, the newsprint eventually decomposing.

A note of caution for those transplanting the entire pot — be sure no part of the paper is exposed above the soil. Paper exposed to air can wick moisture from the soil, resulting in a dried-out plant.

Glen Kojima of Kojima Store in Kapa‘a offered another gardening tip using discarded newspapers in last Wednesday’s food section.

While developing an unused corner of his yard into a garden, he laid out sheets of newspaper to prevent weeds from growing, punching holes where plantings were to be made and covering the planted area with soil (no air exposure to wick moisture).


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