The Nickel Pincher: Grow Your Own Grass for Natural Easter Baskets

Make this Easter plastic free by making recycled Easter baskets and growing your own basket grass.

Jean Nick March 24, 2010

Forget plastic grass; there's time to grow the real thing for your Easter baskets.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Save some money on your Easter shopping this year by forgoing those cheap plastic baskets and that fake grass, which will just wind up decorating a landfill when the holiday is over. Dig through your closets and storage spaces for creative, recycled alternatives to plastic, and instead of buying grass, learn how to grow your own! It takes only a few days, and even if you don't celebrate Easter, you can use your fresh grass as a pet treat or houseplant.

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Green Easter Baskets
If you have last year’s basket(s), dig them out (I’ve had some of the current baskets for 20 years and they are still going strong, since they spend most of the year tied up in bags). If not, swing by your local thrift store and pick up some natural wicker baskets. Vacuum any dusty ones, or wash really dirty baskets in warm water with a little dish detergent (test colored areas for colorfastness first), pat them dry with towels, reshape if necessary, and allow them to air-dry.

You can also recycle empty household containers into ecofriendly baskets. Plastic gallon beverage jugs are easy to cut into traditional basket shapes and quite pretty when decorated with cloth or paper scraps, glued on with nontoxic glue. You could even leave rabbit-ear-shaped tabs sticking up and decorate the basket with organic cotton balls. Two-liter soda bottles can be cut in half, with a ribbon strung through either side of the bottom half as a handle. Likewise, you can string a handle through any butter tub, large yogurt container, or anything else large and strong enough to hold little ones' Easter treats. For older kids who may not need to carry their baskets around, containers without handles, such as cookie tins or shoe boxes, work well, too. Creating these “baskets” is a great ways to get kids involved in recycling!

Keep reading to learn how to grow Easter basket grass.

Plastic-Free Easter Grass

If you already have fake plastic “grass,” certainly, use it up. But for goodness' sake don’t buy any more! Instead, use shredded paper, which can be recycled, or grow your own real wheatgrass—it’s super-easy, grows quickly, and the end result is stunning. Plus, you can toss it in the compost (or feed it to your pets) when the holiday is over.

What you need:

• A basket lined with a sheet of aluminum foil (a good way to reuse foil—it's okay if there are a few holes), or a takeout container that can fit into the basket later on

• A small sack of organic potting soil (or vermiculite)

• Wheatberries (whole, raw wheat grains sold in health-food sections or stores). About half a pound will fill one good-sized basket, or many small pots.

Seven days before Easter—or whenever you're giving the gift—poke a few drain holes in your foil or container, and fill to within about a half inch of the top with moist potting soil, which should feel like a wrung-out sponge but not soggy. Next, spread a generous single layer of wheatberries over the surface of the soil—the berries should be almost touching, but not piled up on top of, one another. Carefully cover with ¼ inch of soil. Set the planted container on a tray to catch drips, and put it on a sunny windowsill. Water as needed to keep the soil moist. Usually, a little bit every day is best.

In just a couple of days, your grass will be a few inches tall. If it gets taller than you want, or you prefer a sheared look, give it a haircut with a sharp pair of scissors. Come Easter, the Easter Bunny can nestle treats inside the grass, as if he's hiding eggs outdoors. (Check back next week for advice on dying eggs naturally).

Keep reading for ways to use wheatgrass, even if you don't celebrate Easter.

Edible Grass for Pets or Decorative Grass for Your House

No kids? Grow your grass anyway, and serve it as a spring treat to your pets. A few years ago I saw small plastic pots of wheatgrass being sold at a big-city farmer's market as “pet grass” for a truly awesome price, considering the cost of the raw materials. Both dogs and cats, as well as rabbits, birds, and many other pets, will seek out a little grass when they head outdoors. It's a healthy addition to their diets, and having some available in the house may keep them from nibbling on your other houseplants (some of which may be dangerously poisonous). Grow wheatgrass for your pets as described above, but use small pots, three to four inches in diameter, or similar-size recycled food containers with holes punched in the bottom. Starting a new pot at least once a week will give you a continuous supply. To serve: Snip off a small bunch and offer it to your pet, perhaps at regular mealtime. Some pets will eat more if you snip it into bits over their food. Others may prefer to have access to a whole pot, but it can create quite a mess if they get excited and rip the grass out of the pot and roll around in it (which some do). So you may want to stick with the snip-and-serve method to make each pot last longer and save on clean-up time.

For those of you who have no pets and no kids, grass grown in attractive containers makes a great decorative piece. The grass will last a few weeks, depending on the amount of light it gets and your home's humidity levels.

Farm gal, library worker, and all-around spendthrift Jean Nick shares advice for green thrifty living every Thursday on Rodale.com.