During a social occasion a few years back, my husband and I noticed a wine cork wreath hanging on a friend’s wall, made completely of corks saved from bottles our hosts had enjoyed. Clever … and since I can be handy with a glue gun, we started saving our wine corks thinking I might eventually create our own wreath of wine memories.
As time progressed we stacked up a pretty sizeable collection. But, as the saying goes, hell is paved with good intentions. In other words, being handy with a glue gun does not mean I take time to actually use the glue gun. So how does this relate to gardening? Well, my plant junkie brain came up with a solution to reuse our ever-increasing wine cork collection – no glue gun involved.
You know those really large outdoor planters … the ones that will throw your back out if you try to lift them without the assistance of a fork lift? A good way to minimize the heft of these containers – and save some bucks on potting mix – is to fill the lower third with a light-weight non-soil material. Many gardeners use Styrofoam – in solid chunk or packing peanut form – but clean-up at the end of the outdoor planting season is a pain if you intend to separate the non-compostable Styrofoam from the compostable soil and plant material. Either tiny pieces of broken Styrofoam mixes with the soil or you have to deal with tons of soggy, dirty peanuts. Even plastic-bagged packing peanuts make for a messy clean up.
Instead, I turned to our wine cork collection. Cork is light weight, does not absorb too much water, and does not spoil the soil. Twelve-inch pots only need one layer of corks, while larger pots can handle a layer up to about a third of their depth. At the end of the outdoor growing season I dump my planter contents – corks and all – into the compost pile. In the spring and summer, when I screen my compost for various uses, it’s easy to pick out the corks – they do not compost down in one season – and reserve them for reuse.
Cork is a natural material of limited supply, so reusing or recycling cork makes good environmental sense. If my cork reusing method is too daunting a process, then consider recycling your wine corks – West Coast readers might find ReCork America a useful resource. More craft oriented? See 5 more ways to reuse wine corks or for crafty moms, Crafty Reuse: Ten Projects for Old Wine Corks. Alternately, chopped up wine corks – not their plastic cousins – can be composted, but in my case this chore would likely end up in my “good intentions” pile.
If none of these ideas float your boat, check out the cork-creativity of someone with access to lots of wine corks.
Or, let me know if you’re any good at using a glue gun … I still have a decent supply of saved corks waiting for a chance at wreathdom. Any other ideas?