As a lazy gardener and someone who forgets to water his plants, ice gel packs can be a great way to provide hydration to my plants even when I forget to water them!
In the past I've ordered food from services like HelloFresh and they arrive chilled by gel ice packs. Sure I could throw them away but I do love to reuse items wherever possible – especially if it can help keep my plants alive.
Ice pack gel is safe to use in your garden as they are similar to “hydration crystals” sold in hardware stores. They absorb and retain water which you plants can then drink from. Dig the gel into the soil in outside gardens or pour into the bottom of pot plants to help retain moisture.
By using the ice pack gel in the garden you will really start to notice the improvement in the foliage growth and general health of your indoor and outdoor garden.
I still need to remember to water my plants, but when I go a few days longer without watering them I've noticed my plants aren't going as brown as quickly.
Why Use Gel Packs in Your Garden?
You don't need to throw away your gel packs. You can use the ice pack gel in the garden because the gel is often the same as the hydration crystals that you can buy from the hardware or gardening stores – see the full details on what gel ice packs are made of.
These hydration crystals are excellent for retaining water in the soil and improving the overall quality of the soil.
The gel from ice packs can help retain the water in the soil, all the way down to the roots of the plants and this is what promotes healthy growth in a garden.
So even if you're like me and forget to water your plants from time to time, the added gel will keep the plants hydrated for a bit longer until you remember to water them next. The water is less likely to evaporate away or drip away out the bottom of your pot plants or down through the earth.
How to Use Ice Pack Gel in Your Garden
Those gel ice packs can build up really quickly. So before you know it, your freezer is stuffed to the brim with gel ice packs.
I like to be environmentally conscious where possible. Instead of disposing of your old gel ice packs in the trash, you can reuse them in your garden.
The gel from the inside of ice pack can be used in the garden (it's non-toxic) but the plastic bag they are stored in can not be used.
To use the gel ice packs in your garden you'll need to cut open the ice pack and squeeze out its insides. Be sure to rinse the empty liner and drop it into your nearest recycling or rubbish bin.
It’s also really simple to use the gel inside the ice packs for your garden. Here are the best ways you can use the ice pack gel in your garden.
Using the Gel in Garden Soil
Before you begin planting your plants, you need to prepare the solid properly for planting. This usually entails digging up the solid with a spade or garden fork to break the soil apart.
You can use the gel from your ice pack in the soil. Simply cut a hole in the gel pack and pour the gel into the dug-up soil. A good ratio of gel to soil should be 4:1.
Once you have poured the gel into the soil, take your spade or garden fork and dig the gel a little into the soil. After doing this, you can begin planting your plants in this soil and gel mix.
Using the Gel in Pot Plants
If you’re not a big outdoors gardener, or perhaps (like me) you live in an apartment block without a garden, you don’t have to feel left out as the gel can also be used in pot plants for indoor and outdoor plants.
To use the gel in pot plants, you can simply pour the gel into the bottom of the pot plant before pouring soil over the gel.
Putting the gel at the bottom of the pot is a great way of increasing the water retention in the soil, which is needed for the roots of the plants.
One gel ice pack should be enough for a small to medium-sized pot. If you have bigger pots, you may need to use more than one gel ice pack.
Just remember to place your pot plant on a tray to prevent the gel from leaking out of the bottom of the pot onto your floors if the pot is indoors.
Using the Gel as Fertilizer
As if the gel from ice packs couldn’t get any more versatile, there are some brands of gel packs that claim that the ice pack gel can be used as fertilizer for the garden.
The Enviro Ice Pack creators, Frosty Tech, explain that nitrogen-based gel packs can be used as a fertilizer because fertilizer that you buy from a store is also nitrogen-based.
Whether or not this is entirely true, it is still safe to pour the gel directly into the soil for water retention.
You may find small gel crystals on the plants and soil, don’t worry about them. They will be dissolved over time.
Are Ice Pack Gel Safe for Plants?
Ice pack gel is totally safe for your garden and can actually improve the plants' growth and overall vitality.
This is because gel ice packs are made from non-toxic materials so they are safe to use in your garden and you can even make a variety of DIY gel packs and some of them use the same super absorbent polymer used to hydrate plants.
Gel ice packs are typically made of:
- Propylene Glycol
- Hydroxyethyl Cellulose
- Sodium Polyacrylate Superabsorbent Polymers(SAP)
- Silica Gel
So what are these chemicals I have just listed? Check out my article on what exactly is in gel ice packs.
Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, for example, is naturally found in the cell walls of plants. Therefore it is safe to use them in your garden.
Propylene Glycol is an additive that absorbs liquid and is found in many things like food products, cosmetics and even medicine.
Sodium Polyacrylate Superabsorbent Polymers (SAP) has amazing benefits when used in your garden. The SAP is the squishy beads that you find in gel ice packs and in diapers.
These are some of the awesome benefits of using SAP in your garden:
- SAP improves the water retention of crops throughout the year
- SAP slowly releases water into the solid and reverts back to its original form as crystalline particles. When it rains, these crystallines recapture water and release it again.
- As SAPs is a slowly controlled water source, you do not need to water your plants as much
Ice pack gel is a great way to enhance foliage growth while giving plants extra energy, all while lowering your carbon footprint!
Another Way to Reuse The Inside of Gel Ice Packs
This disposal method is for the artsy people. Simply place the SAP gel on a tray to dry for several days.
When dried back to crystalline, add water and food coloring to make pretty gel particles for flower vases!