The Q&A Archives: Use Of Styrofoam In Soil

Question: I use styrofoam packing in seed starting mix to lighten it. Seedlings really like the extra oxygen and develop good root systems. However, I also garden organically and worry that a chemical breakdown may take place and vegetable plants may take up a harmful substance from the packing. Any help?

Answer: The best way to recycle styrofoam peanuts is to pack them up in a cardboard box and send them to someone! Using them in potting soil has the advantage of keeping the soil loose, but the peanuts take eons to decompose, and may even float to the surface if the soil gets wet enough. A better choice would be perlite or vermiculite, both are naturally occuring, both break down into tiny mineral particles, and both are readily available a garden centers. If you really want to use styrofoam peanuts in your garden, place them into plastic bags and put the bags in the bottoms of large pots or wooden containers to take up space. Then fill with potting soil and plant.

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