Biodegradable Plant Fiber Pots and the Environment

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blog3-1Plant fiber fabric bags and pots have been used commercial nurseries for many years and now these fiber containers from manufacturers have become popular with home gardeners too. Instead of buying pots and planters made from heavy plastic or ceramic, using lightweight biodegradable containers makes plants easy to move around.

Plant fiber containers are mostly made from a thick non-woven molded fiber. Whether you are a patio gardener, planting vegetables or herbs in pots that are easy to reach, or have a full-size yard garden, biodegradable plant containers are a great choice. They offer a better growing atmosphere and a better rate of success for growing healthy plants. They are kind to the environment and your budget.

Fiber bags and pots allow more air to circulate in the soil for a strong root system. Without proper aeration, roots can bind and circle within the container, becoming root bound and damaging the plant. Plant roots in fiber pots and bags will produce larger root systems.

Water tends to evaporate more quickly in plant fiber containers which help to keep the temperature of the soil cooler. Roots are protected from overheating in extremely hot weather. That means it is important to water the plants frequently. No need to worry about watering too much and causing root-rot because the additional water will wash out from the bottom of the pot or bag. For this reason, you will also need to replace fertilizer and nutrients more often.

Plant roots in fabric pots can grow right through the bottom into the soil. If you want your plant to remain stationary, this will improve plant growth, otherwise, you may need to re-pot the plant. Fiber pots come in various sizes and choosing the right size container for your plant makes a big difference in healthy growth.

Pots that are too large for the plant can hold too much moisture and cause root rot. Containers that are too small can cause plants to become root bound or cause roots to spread outside of the fiber pot into the ground.

Biodegradable Products

blog3-2In our disposable product culture, we need to buy and use materials that can be recycled. Biodegradable products like plant fiber bags and pots help the trends toward green living. Whether it is through gardening or other endeavors, we need to be aware of using recyclable and reusable products in our homes and at work that is environmentally friendly.

The word biodegradable was previously misused by manufacturers. Until very recently there were no rules, guidelines, or regulations for products that were labeled as biodegradable. Many were made of plastics and chemicals that were not. They should be items that are being made of renewable resources that can be collected directly from nature and can completely decompose with the help of micro-organisms. They do not have harmful chemicals, plastic coatings, require an excessive energy source to produce, and are plant based.

Repurposing and Decorating with Jute Rope, Yarn and Twine

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blog2-1With a little creativity and some jute rope, yarn or twine, it is possible to change the look and feel of your home without spending a ton of cash. Wrapping old furniture and decorative items in many types of cording can embellish or transform your environment.

When kitchen hardware needs replacing, but it is not in the budget, wrap the handles for a trendy new appearance. Twine comes in different colors or you can dye it yourself, otherwise, different shades of the natural color can create a rustic or nautical look.  Try it on dresser drawer handles too, and get a fresh and affordable solution to existing pulls, or remove the hardware entirely, loop the rope through the screw holes and tie a cool knot; play around with a variety of knot ideas.

Make the perfect beach house decorations like a rope-wrapped mirror. The rope glues to an attached foam board instead of directly to the frame for a smooth surface to work on. Think about doing the same thing to an old clock or picture frame. Coil some cord inside the lid of a mason jar to create coasters. Glue rope directly to the outside of an existing vase or bowl to change the style.

Wrapping the outside of a tired-looking lamp shade will rejuvenate it. Thread a string of fairy lights into jute or other rope and use it to accent furniture and provide ambiance.

Create a dream catcher-style headboard, for your bed. A simple wooden frame to run the cord across in different patterns or designs is all that is needed. Rope can be nailed or knotted in place. Whether it is a few lengths of rope widely spaced or a tight woven pattern, you will have a personalized masterpiece unique to your space.

Bracelets, necklaces, anklets, and even shoe accessories give your wardrobe a new look. Knot or braid pieces of rope, dip them in fabric stiffener and then paint them in any color. Wrap your old jewelry and make it look like you bought it in an artsy boutique.

Use rope to hang metal and glass lanterns to add charm to your home. Lanyard knots and a fishnet pattern can be used to suspend them. You can also coil rope around the lantern and attach a cord to hang from hooks on a pole or shelf inside the house, or from trees around the back patio.blog2-2

You can buy an inexpensive rug made of jute or sisal, but you can also make your own and put your creative spin on the designs. Gluing the rope in swirls works well as art, but if you really want to use it repeatedly, sewing the swirls together will last longer. Use a similar technique for smaller table mats.

Jute, hemp, cotton or other plant fiber ropes can change the look and style of your home and challenge your do-it-yourself nature; check out more ideas, such as an amazing wrapped tire ottoman, and pictures of rope crafts online.

Hunting for Reusable Jute and Polyethylene Livestock and Deer Corn Bags

Posted in Arts and Crafts, Burlap, Go Green, Grain and Feed Bags, Jute, Plant Fiber | No Comments »

blog1-1Even without any added chemicals, jute fibers create cloth, like burlap, that resist water damage, clean up easily, take little additional care, and are reusable. Manmade fabric can contain some natural materials, but the synthetic parts are usually derived from petrochemicals to manufacture fibers like polyethylene.

Jute and Polyethylene fibers are used to create different types of bags from burlap and poly shell lined burlap, to synthetic polyethylene bags. Both woven and mesh materials     are used for livestock feed bags and deer corn bags. They are environmentally friendly – either biodegradable and/or recyclable – and once they are empty, that can be used for     other practical and recreational activities around the farm.

Hunting Season

Take deer corn bags into the woods during deer season to fill feeders, bring the empty bags home and paint a target on them, then fill with sand for target practice in the offseason. You can find them pre-printed for this purpose. Burlap bags, roll out cloth, and mesh, are also perfect for your hunting blinds. Reused deer corn bags and feed bags already have an intoxicating scent to lure the deer. Natural heavy grade burlap and jute tarps are great for camouflaging deer stands, duck, and turkey blinds. The organic odor of new burlap will not be detected by the wildlife as an unusual smell. It gets cold out there too, so use burlap bags and rolls to insulate and block the wind to stay warm.


Hunting Tips:

Deer corn bags should be filled with corn and grain designed for livestock consumption and contain protein, fat, and fiber to meet nutritional standards. Deer would normally be eating twigs from trees native to their regions during the winter.

Deer are more active at dawn and dusk and like using the same paths repeatedly when they find food that is available and safe.

Practical Uses

blog1-2Large burlap and polyethylene bags can be used to cover smaller tools and equipment from dust and weather, slide heavy equipment and materials around, and protect truck beds and cab floors from heavy-duty mud and dirt. They can line ponds and swales and protect plants from frost and foraging animals. You can refill them with feed or other loose material that need organizing. Smaller bags can be filled with sand and used for temporary barriers during flooding and to redirect ground water.

There are plenty of places to find livestock and deer corn feed bags online. Check with manufacturers of burlap products for industrial, agricultural, and landscaping use. Find livestock feed stores and select feed packaged in these useful bags. Ask if they have empty bags that you can take home and reuse. Hunting stores and even Walmarts now carry deer corn.

Natural Plant Fiber Rugs

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blog4-1Most plant fiber rugs are awesome in high traffic areas, absorbing dirt and stains, and showing very little wear and tear while providing added warmth. If you have dogs, kids, frequent gatherings, or like eating food on the move, no worries. These rugs are good for an active home.

Cleaning is easy. A quick vacuuming or a little water and a rag picks up spills. These rugs naturally hide everything from pet hair, dirt, food stains, and more.

They have style down to the last fiber, especially for those who enjoy the vibe of a cozy cottage or natural look. They come in different colors and patterns, with weave and fringe, or the simple straight edge. Dress them up or down and even layer them.

They are reasonably priced and allow you to get bigger sizes or more rugs for your spaces. Even if you currently have rooms with wall-to-wall carpeting, adding area rugs defines different living areas like a sitting room or eat-in kitchen. Layering rugs has been a fashion trend for a number of years.

Sisal, Seagrass, and Jute

Depending on the look, use, and amount of foot traffic, you may want to consider which type of plant fiber rug is best for your home.

Sisal agave fiber rugs work well on hard floors because they let dirt fall right through the weave.  The fibers come from the leaves of the plant and are known for their ability to accept color which is why you often find them dyed.

Seagrass rugs can be used in rooms that tend to be high in humidity because they absorb some of the moisture from the air.  These historically unique mats create an eclectic look for any home. The reeds grow in rice paddies making them tough and resistant to most stains and spills. The fibers are normally found in their natural colors and forms.  You can find seagrass rugs in shades of neutral green tones like olive and sage, as well as beiges and browns.

blog4-2Jute fiber rugs will look great in any space but are best used in places that do not get heavy traffic because they tend to shed.  Jute fiber is made from the stem of the plant and is commonly used to make burlap bags and carpet backing. These rugs are great as a border under and around a bed or in a formal dining room. One hundred percent jute rugs have a texture that feels like a foot massage when you walk on them and can be made softer when blended with other fibers. They come in a variety of colors and patterns but are usually seen in neutral hues of brown.

The type of weave makes a difference in the appearance. The color, texture, and thickness variation of each type of rug are what make them a special addition to any room. Plant fiber rugs serve as decoration as well as practical use. They also keep those feet toasty in the winter season.

Plant Fiber Based Packaging

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A growing trend in packaging design and shipping insulation is the use of eco-friendly materials considered biodegradable and recyclable. Companies are becoming more and more socially responsible and aware that plant-based materials are a safe solution to reducing waste in landfills.blog3-1

Companies such as TemperPack create packing made from recycled burlap bags originally used to ship cocoa and coffee, replacing the consumer need for plastic liners in the e-commerce industry. Online businesses have boomed causing an increase in packing material that piles up on the consumer end. While plastic packaging doesn’t biodegrade and outlasts most of the items originally shipped, jute and other plant-based products can now be easily discarded for reuse or composted immediately.

Plated is a meal kit service that uses these recycled bags made of fiber from the jute plant. It chose the burlap material because jute is inexpensive to grow, durable, and renewable. It also creates the least amount of waste.

Jute is used to produce sacks for shipping dry goods and, in trade cities around the world, these bags number in the millions. Other plant fibers like flax and cotton work as well.

Here are some examples of how companies are using plant fiber for package design and packing material:

  • A company called 60BAG makes natural, biodegradable carrier bags out of flax-viscose non-woven fabric that break down in 60 days.
  • Apple has used jute cases as an alternative to the nylon covers for Mac Book Pros and Ipads to minimize package design. Using jute was also to create consumer awareness of recyclable and reusable options.
  • Many dried fruit and nut market vendors now reuse their distributor’s sacks to deliver the items to the market. The bags would normally be disposed of by the vendors, but are now being reused to reduce waste and differentiate their products. Many of these are made of recycled paper and lined with food grade poly material.
  • Online tea companies are using gunny fabric to wrap loose leaf tea safely and keep it dry.
  • A company called Natural Tableware creates disposable dishware made out of fallen palm leaves.

Shipping and manufacturing companies are providing more molded fiber. It was previously only used for interior packing, but with more creative design expertise, is now being used for attractive exterior consumer packaging. This product is made of recycled newspaper and water or molded pulp.blog3-2

The use of polystyrene or Styrofoam products for shipping frozen and refrigerated goods are quickly being replaced. A cooler can take 500 years to decompose completely and is bulky. Collapsible box liners made of dense polyurethane foam are lighter weight and more desirable to recycling companies for use in secondary markets like carpet padding or other bonded material. Cotton-based panels wrapped in an eco-friendly film are designed to biodegrade quickly and can be made collapsible to collect, recycle, and save space in the landfill. No more Styrofoam insulation or excessive product wrapping.

Packaging is for temporary use so why not make it out of temporary or reusable plant fiber materials?

Burlap’s Many Uses for Halloween

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blog2-1Whether its recycled burlap bags or actual bolts of burlap fabric from a craft store, this durable cloth is perfect for Halloween decorations, costumes, and bags to carry treats.

Burlap is often used for making masks modeled after movie characters. It can be glued to the exterior of a premade molded plastic mask, like those found in inexpensive holiday costume shops, to add a textured and weathered skin look. A breathable burlap sack over the head and tied loosely at the neck with jute cord can make a friendly scarecrow. It can also make a frightening Leatherface mask from the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre – the movie mask was actually burlap made to look like leather.

Recycled bags or rolls of burlap fabric can be used for an entire costume to create everything from zombies to ghosts. There is no need to be a great seamstress because the purpose of burlap at Halloween is to be shabby and worn with tears, holes, and patches strategically placed for effect. A hand sewn look and even safety pins will achieve the desired result. Burlap can drape easily over your heavier clothing on a chilly Halloween night.

Take a look at the characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas movie, Jack, Sally, and Oogie Boogie, with their sewn on smiles and scars as well as the ragdoll characters in the animated movie “9″ for ideas. Some spookier movie characters for inspiration are The Creep in Jeepers Creepers and the terrifying character in Scarecrow.

Even if you are not going out to collect Halloween booty, your home should welcome trick-or-treaters of all ages. A simple Halloween wreath made of scrunched up burlap on a re-formed wire hanger, or frame purchased from the local craft store, will greet your guests. Use burlap in its natural color, painted or stamped, or buy it already dyed in orange and black. Add some holiday embellishments with a glue gun.

Draping burlap with ragged edges, or suspending it from a porch roof, then adding some orange light strings, can delight younger children by creating a tunnel effect at your entranceway. Ghoulish looking creatures for the front yard can be made with a cross style frame, for a place to attach burlap at the shoulders of the cross, and mount a mask or pumpkin at the top. The flowing fabric will blow in the wind. Decorate the burlap cloth for a festive feel or a gruesome one; it works either way.blog2-2

Your visitors may arrive with used burlap sacks to carry their candy. Some bags may be sewn and include handles or be covered in Halloween inspired designs. They are easy to make by hand or with a sewing machine, but remember, imperfection is the style and imagination is the only thing necessary to create these bags. Line your own candy dish or bowl with burlap to continue the theme when handing out treats.

Burlap is durable and reusable. Halloween allows it to show its resourcefulness!

Plant Fiber: Winter Insulation

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As winter approaches, we bundle up and spend more time indoors. Adjusting the thermostat to keep warm would not work well without insulation to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. We now have numerous applications in jute-nonwoven insulation. This fiber is a great insulator of both heat and sound. By adding low-grade wool and cotton to the fabric, it improves on its thermal qualities as it increases in bulk. blog1-1

To maintain the comfort and warmth of our homes, we add this barrier within the walls of buildings to protect us from outdoor temperatures, which can vary greatly as we change seasons depending on the local climate. The fibers trap air within the insulation to prevent the transfer of heat from going in or out while still allowing ventilation.

There is considerable energy burned to maintain interior temperatures. Insulation made of jute and other plant fibers is considered a sustainable solution that provides energy savings. They can also be molded into virtually any shape or pattern, are easily installed and can be treated or modified to enhance their best characteristics like fire resistance and soundproofing.

Natural fibers are made of cellulose – the primary structural component of plant cell walls. They are structurally strong and resistant to chemical attacks, require little energy to produce, take in carbon dioxide, and release oxygen. Types of thermal and acoustic insulation include:

  • Flax Insulation – slabs made from flax and a polyester binding agent, then treated for fire resistance. It is used in wall construction, pitched roofs, and in floors and ceilings.
  • Hempcrete – developed in France and manufactured in the UK, it is precast, cast on site, or sprayed as a mixture of lime, cement and hemp insulation.
  • Hemp Insulation – slabs made from hemp, sometimes combined with recycled cotton or wood fibers using a polyester binding agent, and treated for fire resistance. It is used in wall construction, pitched roofs, and in floors and ceilings.
  • Wood Fiber Insulation – made from tree material left over from thinning forests and sawmill debris, then bound by a resin-based agent and enhanced with the fire retardant. It is used in wall construction, pitched roofs, and in floors and ceilings.
  • Cork Insulation – made from cork bark. Cork granules are expanded and formed into blocks by high-temperature heating and pressing. Applications include flat roofs and exterior building insulation.
  • Cellulose Insulation – made from recycled and hammer milled newspaper. It is usually treated to provide fire resistance and to repel insects and fungus. It is used in between rafters and joists in wall construction. It can be applied by pouring, spraying, or in a slab format to fit between metal or wood frames.blog1-2

All of these plant fiber insulations will keep us warm and safe throughout the winter season while saving on energy costs and helping to sustain the environment. It was discovered that it also works well as filler in winter coats and jackets. Bring on the cold weather!

Jute Blankets Provide Warmth for the Landscape

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Blankets are not just for decorating your bed or keeping you warm on the couch. Tender plants need seasonal protection too. Whether it is from snow, ice, freezing, thawing, high winds, and harsh sunlight, there are several things can be done to keep your plants warm and safe as we move closer to November. Plant blankets made of jute fibers – burlap – guard against cold without suffocating susceptible plants that are too big and well-rooted to move to a simple cold frame shelter or indoors.blog4-1

Expert gardeners and landscapers know they need to cover large shrubs and small trees with burlap in fall and winter to protect them from wind damage and sagging or broken branches from the weight of snow or ice. They know a plastic tarp will not provide the same breathable insulation needed to prevent frost damage while letting in light and moisture crucial for healthy plants.

If you garden throughout the year, then you probably already have burlap fabric rolls and tarps being used for other reasons and they can be recycled until they wear out, tear, and need to be replaced. Full-size tarps are conveniently cut into pieces to fit smaller shrubs and trunks of saplings preventing frost damage while creating a natural and aesthetically pleasing look. You may have used these tarps initially to:

  • Seed your yard
  • Conserve moisture to root new grass or seedlings
  • Reduce slope erosion
  • Shade plants from summer heat
  • Provide a windscreen
  • Protect from foraging animals and insects
  • Weed matting

One hundred percent jute tarps and rolls are great when you need bigger blankets to wrap large shrubs and conifers to protect limbs from damaging winds and heavy snow. Using bamboo teepee style frames keeps heavier wraps from direct contact with the plant, allowing more airspace and protection from frost down to 30 degrees. These work well around large boxwoods and prevent the branches from splitting, splaying, and even breaking under heavy snow and ice. This also shelters branches and foliage from freezing windburn.

blog4-2Garden ornaments can be protected from the weather too.  These investments have been carefully selected to accent your yard or garden and a snow or ice storm can damage them.  Burlap blankets help them make it safely to spring. Alternating freezing and thawing can crack or crumble stone and cement. Outdoor containers, like urns and birdbaths, can be drained and covered.

In the landscape industry, custom covers are made for contractors and haulers to protect your plants from wind burn while being transported. They know the open weave fabric allows air and water to enter which helps keep the plants cool in summer and warm in the winter. Caring for your plants means making sure you have plenty of burlap blankets on hand. You are guaranteed to get your money’s worth out of this material time and time again.

Permanent Flood, Debris, and Erosion Efforts Using Jute and Landscape Design

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The previous article dealt with temporary ways to avoid flood damage. You are responsible for maintaining your yard and slope areas. Every effort should be made to restore a damaged hillside and stabilize the property in order to prevent ongoing damage in the event of flooding or other disasters. Look for help regarding lasting solutions.blog3-1

Recurring problems need more permanent protection. Landscape design professionals and local nurseries can be consulted for long-term debris and erosion control using retaining structures that are effective as well as attractive. Through planting techniques, proper grading, swales, and stone, brick, or wooden barriers – often reinforced with burlap or plastic sheeting – flood waters can be controlled and diverted. Professional architects know to avoid disrupting the water flow patterns established when your property was originally developed.

Protecting large sloped areas from water, wind, and erosion by planting or re-planting after storms prevents or minimizes damage from erosion. Areas that already have sufficient planting only need minor repair and maintenance. Plants that are hardy and have a good root structure are the best choice and include grasses or other ground cover, evergreen shrubs, and trees.

Plant growth takes time to stabilize the soil and can be helped along using a heavy woven jute matting rolled over the slope face and staked to the ground. When properly installed, it will not blow or wash away or inhibit plant growth. It does not need to be removed because it is organic and slowly decomposes while being replaced by grasses and plants.

 Five recommendations to prevent slope failure in heavy rains:

  1. Make sure all drainage is directed to the street or another water path, such as drainage ditches, ground gutters, , or yard and surrounding area drains. Remove any dirt and debris that collects after storms.
  2. Some drainage features are community property and shared by neighbors. Work with your community to make it safe for everyone.
  3. Roof gutters and downspouts are often damaged or clogged with debris like leaves and twigs. Inspect and clean them to ensure that they are clear. Direct water from downspouts to avoid soil by using drain tiles or pipe socks and driveways or walkways to divert runoff to the nearest drainage path. Periodically check your roof for leaks or damage.
  4. Both concrete and natural swales around the perimeter of a structure are designed to direct water away from it. Make sure that these are maintained in good condition.
  5. Inspect your retaining walls over time for any listing, leaning, overturning, or cracking. Contact a landscape architect or engineer to correct problems.

Don’t let water run unchecked; assess slopes for loose soil, rocks, and debris before and after storms. During heavy rains and storms, inspect the slope for erosion to find any problems that need correcting.blog3-2

These solutions can permanently improve flooding concerns including injury and property damage should you live in a high-risk area. Using indigenous plants and plant fiber matting is a natural way to preserve your environment’s unique integrity.

Burlap Uses on the Farm and in Rural Communities

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Happiness and reliability can be measured in many ways including the number of uses you can get out of a common item like the burlap sack. Farm and ranch stores carry bins full of repurposed burlap sacks once used for carrying agricultural products like coffee beans and potatoes. Rural stores know that location limits the choices in the community and that quality along with multi-functional wares are what people crave. Large burlap bags can sell for a dollar each. A dozen or more bags provides plenty of material to get creative.blog2-1

Outdoor Work

Beyond filling these bags with dirt to grow more potatoes or other root vegetables, they can be used as dog mats and for sliding heavy objects around. Throwing a bag over a fence post in the garden, tying one of the ends, and letting it blow in the breeze, makes a quick and easy scarecrow. Of course, burlap sacks filled with straw and dressed in old clothes are the original and more traditional looking version and doubles as a fall decoration.

Burlap sacks can be used in lining the chicken coop to collect poultry droppings to save on cleaning time. Throwing them in the truck cab can keep the mud and other dirt off the seats and floors on particularly messy or rainy days. Use them for stocking food in cold storage or reinforcing or replacing ripped animal feed bags when you don’t have a larger container handy. Lining ditches and dry creek beds with burlap sacks, then covering with aggregate, is an easier way to drain excess rain water around the property. They biodegrade and won’t hurt animals, soil, or water.

Indoor Fun

If you have any craft-making abilities, try some rustic burlap coasters or small pillows for a sofa or chair. Use them for throw rugs, as a clothes hamper or hamper lining, or to decoupage your furniture drawers and cabinet fronts for a new look.blog2-22

Burlap bag sewing projects will save you money on a market bag or handbag, as kitchen curtains, and chair cushions. All you need are some scissors, pillow stuffing, a sewing machine, or needle and thread to put ideas together. Manufacturer logos make great designs but art is easily added with fabric markers or paint. Put some burlap on the walls and let the kids use fabric paint, sponges, and brushes to keep them busy too. Don’t hog all the fun!

Depending on how you use your burlap bags, you may want to soak them for a few hours in the tub in a whole jug of fabric softener combined with a couple inches of water to make them a little softer. Gently ring them out, put them in the dryer for a short time, then hang outside to finish drying. Loose string from the dryer is great for gift wrapping and other decoration. Burlap is a sturdy bargain that is undeniably useful on a farm and in the country.