adding styrofoam to heavy clary garden soil a good idea?

Greenwich, NY

I am having a hard time dealing with styrofoam. If I buy any appliance I am stuck with the stuff in big huge chunks, and I was wondering what my fellow gardeners thought of breaking it up into small pieces and adding it to the soil to help keep it light and aerated. I double dig as I have heavy clay under my topsoil. What do you think? Couldn't I just dump all my collected styrofoam into the clay subsoil to keep it less sticky? I don't think it would hurt anything, would it? Here I can either send it to the burn plant or the landfill. Both terrible ideas. Thanks for any feedback.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

I cannot exactly answer that, although I did add styrofoam peanuts to the bottom of huge planters one year so they wouldn't take so much soil. My only problem was getting the peanuts out of the roots when the plants died and I wanted to replant. It was a nightmare, but otherwise I saw no visible problems.

Note: these plants were flowers, not edibles, and the peanuts didn't get re-used the following year because of the mess. Nor were the peanuts the kind that biodegrade.

Windsor, CT(Zone 6a)

I would not advise adding styrofoam to your soil.

I understand your reluctance to send it off to be burned or landfilled, but it won't "aerate" your soil. And it won't decompose. And it will probably fly around when it dries out, getting little white bits everywhere, possibly to be eaten later by critters. Not to mention that it does have trace amounts of a certain kind of formaldehyde which is implicated in some forms of cancer.

If you want to lighten clay soil, you can add compost or grow certain covercrops and turn them under. But the key there is adding natural material that will eventually break down into humus. You'd be better off breaking up your styrofoam and putting it on top of your insulation in your attic, than putting it in your soil.

There's a terrific post in the Container Gardening forum about water movement in soil: It's primarily geared towards pots, but some principles will certainly apply to regular soil also .

Laie, HI

Some people use styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of orchid pots.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Seems like the mess of dead roots could just be re-used in the same pot. But maybe the formaldehyde would preserve the roots.

Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

Carol posted some photos of a University of HI project using styrofoam to float net pots in water for hydroponic gardening. I had a couple big boxes of the stuff saved up and never could decide what to do with it. I finally sent it to the landfill in a fit of housecleaning. It's definitely a problem somebody needs to work on.

I also tried the peanuts in the bottom of some pots and won't do that again. And don't ever leave an open box of that stuff outside because a gust of wind will come along and make your yard look like you just had a hail storm.

Regarding old pot bound roots...I just turn the old upside down into another pot, hack a planting hole and reuse. I read a long time ago that the old roots rot out and leave perfect air, water and root channels for the new plant. It works for me.

Ffld County, CT(Zone 6b)

If you are going to use the peanuts in the bottom of pots, it helps to put them in an old stocking or one of those netted bags that onions come in. Makes it easier to empty out the pot without picking peanuts out of the roots.

I often offer my stryofoam peanuts on freecycle for people who are moving or do lots of e-bay business and therefore lots of shipping.

My problem is that the majority of peanuts I have come from getting plants shipped. Many of these peanuts are a bit dirty, so I don't feel right offering them on freecycle or even bringing them to UPS, which I've heard accepts them. One of the plant companies will take the peanuts back - you pay to ship them back, and then you get free shipping on your next order. But last time I tried it (which admittedly was last year just when gas prices went through the roof) the post office wanted $22 to ship a box of peanuts! The darn box barely weighed a pound! No way. That box of peanuts, along with several others, is still sitting in my garage, waiting for me to decide what to do.

As far as the big chunks of styrofoam from the appliances, I would not break it up and put it in the ground. Painitedgardens, haved you tried looking around for a local place that recycles it? I know those places are few and far between, and unusually inconvenient to get to, but that's all I can think of.

Unless someone on freecycle can use it for something...

Greensboro, AL

After the hurricanes I used the big sheets of stryoforam as a temporary fix for some windows that blew out.
Some of those "temporary fixes" are still in place, but it did work until I can get the proper carpentry done.

Greenwich, NY

OK I guess I cannot add it to my soil. It seemed sort of inert, but it's not, as chemicals leach from it according to the earth source info provided. Hopefully it will be phased out soon, as there are also alternative materials listed on that earth source site. Perhaps soon styrofoam will be mostly a memory. I await the day! Thank you all.

Greensboro, AL

Cardboard is perfectly o.k. to use on soil - especially as a mulch to choke out weeds. I don't have any idea why someone decided styrofoam would be a better packing material than cardboard.

Carrollton, OH(Zone 6a)

I agree Styrofoam stinks.You get a newlypackaged anything and you've all this stuff flying off and sticking to everything is the room.And how can ya hide anything that you bought from DH when you have a football field of that stuff?Hate the stuff...........

Just had to add the pic

Thumbnail by synda
Huntersville, NC

ive had a lot of my plants shipped to me in clear plastic bags with wood shavings - and they did very well in those bags!

Come to think of it items shipped in peat moss and perlite did not look as well.

But I have that clay too. the only success ive had with clay is using a 1/3 mix of native clay, soil conditioner (sold at Lowes, Home Depot and numerous southern garden/nurseries) and store bought Garden Soil.
oh one last clay-garden altering option: a small tiller
got one from hsn or qvc for $70 - 80. Well Worth it!

Thank heavens for Coir - which Ive begun using this summer.

im going to do an intensive google search -
there HAS to be some beneficial way to use this styrofoam .

. . .ill b back.

- after reading the horrors of MiracleGrow fertilizers and GardenSoil
- Ive Totally moved-on to Coir products.

Last evening, noticing how poorly my mailbox plants looked
(were planted the day before with MG)
- I dug up each. added 5gals of Coir and re-installed!!
look WAY better now.

This message was edited Jun 3, 2009 9:36 AM

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Mail it to your congressman/woman along with your opinion.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Synda, that photo is SO funny! Please go post it in the Jokes forum!

Greenwich, NY

More ideas/thoughts:

This site offers alternatives that we could ask our college/people to use, or for us to buy ourselves and take if going to a take out joint / restaurant:

Also this site for 12 cubic yards of compostable peanuts for less than $20 if any of us need these for our livlihood. We could also request our favorite mail order nurseries to use these:

Yes, and write our Congresspeople. They should hear from us, and not just hear from those corporate lobbyists. Or call your Congresspeople, as the interns answering phones must write and keep filed all opinions of citizens. (My daughter is an intern in DC right now.)

I loved that pic of the kitty!!

Greenwich, NY

Do people know this eco artist, Chris Jordan? The above is a link to his styrofoam peanuts piece, to which he adds this title and statement:

Packing Peanuts, 2009

Depicts 166,000 packing peanuts, equal to the number of overnight packages shipped by air in the U.S. every hour.

I'm going to shave up some styrofoam and mix it with some fresh gardening soil and give it a shot. The way I see it, when it's our time, it's our time...and if one thing don't kill you these days another thing will. I'll try to send updates.

(Zone 5a)

I understand what you are saying, we all will die sooner or later. I would not put in in my garden, not only because of what we eat, but the fact styrofoam will not break down at all. One of the above comments mentioned the harm to wildlife. That is my biggest concern and it is sad that nearly seven years after the first post in this thread, styrofoam is still freely used. There needs to be a way to recycle it as easily as tin, newspaper, etc.

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