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Glass bottles come in all sizes in colors. They are strong and last forever in the garden. Cut off the bottoms and invert them into leveled sand for an interesting garden path. Frame the path with redwood boards or mix the bottle bottoms in with a wet concrete slab and add pebbles and tile remnants for an interesting look. Ask local pubs and restaurants if you can have their recycled wine and liquor bottles-they should be recycling them anyway.
Birds will gladly use a metal garbage can lid for a birdbath. Attach it to a stump or a log for a readymade bath. For a hanging bath, paint the underside with floral designs, drill holes along the rim and let it swing freely from a tree branch or Shepard's hook in your garden.
Mammoth sized sunflowers are bright, cheerful, easy-to-grow additions to any sunny garden. After the sunflowers bloom, hang the sunflower heads by twine from tree branches around your garden. Add a little wild birdseed to the already present sunflower seeds and you have a cheap, disposable bird feeder.
Remember when those giant satellite dishes were all the rage? Now that the technology has changed, you can use your old dish as a gazebo roof or dig it into the ground as the form for the water feature or pond you've always wanted (make sure to line it with plastic to prevent rust).
(You can view directions on how to make a lantern from a tin can here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf697105.tip.html)
Ellen, thanks for the many great ideas, I for one will be using them..............Fran
I don't know if this is the right place for this tip but:
I use plastic soda bottles as "bells". I put them on top of my cuttings to keep them warm & humid until they root & I can repot them. I know some people use them outside too.
You can use different size bottles for different size plants.
Turn an old metal chair frame into a garden chair:
I work with cut glass art, but even non-crafters can do this. Take an old metal chair frame (mine was an outdoor chair); on the seat place a round or square stepping stone (measure to fit adequately) and place it on the seat being sure it is secure. Place this recycled chair in your garden to sit and reflect on life.
Cool! Oops-my age is showing! Thanks for an interesting "think outside the box" read. I'll be considering more than one of your ideas. kurtzfolk.