Is it 'safe' to grow tomatoes in Styrofoam? - Albuquerque Journal

Is it ‘safe’ to grow tomatoes in Styrofoam?

Tracey FitzgibbonQ: I am strictly a patio gardener and I have some sturdy Styrofoam containers about the right size to grow tomatoes. Is it safe to do so? I’d cut drainage holes, of course. – A.N., Albuquerque

A: Are you asking me if, since the containers are made of Styrofoam, would the tomatoes pick up any chemicals leaching from the Styrofoam? That I don’t know. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen, tended to or grown in Styrofoam containers before, but nothing comes to mind.

At the grocery you do get produce sometimes contained in Styrofoam containers, but again, not sure if your containers would be, in your words, “safe” used as planting containers.

I think that since you are searching for containers and have a few at the ready, to go ahead use them. Like you said, the containers must allow for drainage. This coming spring I’d plant them with patio varieties of tomatoes so the plants don’t get too big.

But is it “safe?” I don’t know.

Q: I want to cut some branches of photinia and boxwood that I have growing to use for indoor decorating this time of year. Are there any suggestions or concerns with doing this that I haven’t thought of? – I.D., Albuquerque

A: Before you cut the branches or smaller limbs off your shrubs, remember that the “mother” plant will look pruned for the rest of the season, so don’t go cutting huge gaping spots.

Next, give the plants a good spraying off to dislodge any critters that could be hanging out. For added peace of mind, I’d suggest you create some sort of a bathing system, too. Get a large, fairly deep storage bin and fill it with soapy water. Dish soap will work great. Once you cut off the pieces you plan on using, give them a good swishing in the soapy water. I’d consider allowing them to soak for 15 to 30 minutes.

Once the bathing is done, lay them out or hang the pieces from a clothes line to drip dry. You certainly don’t want to bring in any interlopers that could infest your indoor space while you are decorating with those evergreens.

Once the season has ended and the decorations come down, go ahead and cut the pieces into manageable lengths, collect them in black plastic bags and keep them until next year’s green cycle event.

This year’s green cycle collection has begun. Through Dec. 9, on your regular trash collection day, set any collected green waste curbside for it to be gathered by the city and made into mulch for various projects. The bags should weigh no more than 40 pounds. Branches or limbs should be bundled and be no more than 4 feet in length, again weighing no more than 40 pounds. Place the collections off to one side of your trash containers, keeping several feet between the cans and your green cycle.

This collection is for things that were alive and aren’t any more. It’s a good way to help keep Albuquerque a bit tidier and the green waste will be put to good use.

Happy Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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