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Using Recycled Materials in the Garden

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Garden swing with wire woven between side bars and vine growing up the side
There are many ways to repurpose stuff in your yard and garden. This guide is about using recycled materials in the garden.
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June 9, 2011
My Frugal LifeThere is nothing better than something cold in the hot weather, and ice cream fills the bill for us! I frequently plant pinto beans in these wonderful containers. As you can see in the picture, they are so adorable.
I move them around as I need to. I find them easy to punch holes in, and they are easy to label with a permanent marker.
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I also use one of these ice cream containers to sift dirt from the garden when I am ready to plant another bucket of beans. If you poke holes in the bottom, the smaller the holes, the smaller the dirt will be that comes out of it. My sifting buckets have holes in the bottom of about an inch around. Any clumps of dirt that come through are easily pulled apart when I mix it together using recycled utensils from the kitchen or a sturdy stick or branch. I like my dirt to be soft and not packed. Packed dirt won't grow well, as I have found out before.

Of course, I use mine for a large amount of different seeds, and as you can see they are holding down the chicken netting around Phoenix's play area (Phoenix is a house rooster).

The ice cream containers are very useful for a number of other things around the garden also, such as dipping out water from my rain barrel which is really just a trash receptacle strategically placed at a broken gutter that happens to be by my garden. Everytime it rains, Voila! Water for the green beans! Plastic tubs work just as well too. Watch out for small children who like to go play in any kind of standing water. Kids could fall head first into a tall kitchen sized garbage receptacle. My yard is fenced and I still watch it.

I also like using old clear soda bottles for putting the seed packet upside down in then sticking the open bottle in a branch. It protects it from the rain, and you can see into the bottle to see a photo of what you planted.

Every time it gets warm, I place a two liter soda bottle high over my animals water bowl, with holes placed in the bottom, about two inches from the bottom of the soda bottle. It is too hard to punch holes in the actual bottom of the soda bottle. I punch the holes on the same side, so they will not over shoot the water bowl. It makes a little water fountain over the water bowl. I like the sound of it also. This also works when you set the bottle on two rocks and let it leak out onto the plant. I usually carry a teapot full of water to pour in the bottle once I have it set up.

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One of my favorite things to do is place a square of heavy plastic on the ground and surround it with rocks. Blue plastic looks like the ocean, and clear plastic hides the fact that it is there. The rocks anchor it down and then I push a little on top and make it uneven. Then when it rains or I place a 2 liter bottle above it by tying it on a string from a tree or setting it up with rocks, then it makes a little bird bath and it attracts birds.

I have three fire pits in my yard, mainly because the dogs run around them and at their age of eight they need them to keep fit. They are circles, and they are dug down a little, and I can put an old oven rack on top of the hole I have dug. I have pretty large fire pits and the oven rack does not cover the whole thing. I also have an old popcorn tin that I can burn little things in. I keep it out of the way when I am not using it. The fire pits are an area of interest, but lately I have been only burning logs in the fire pit or else cardboard since a lot of toxic fumes can come from trash.

I am always taking apart box fans to either clean the grates or to recycle them. We use them in the Summer and Spring to keep cool as we have no central air conditioning. I have one metal box fan housing that is acting as a fire pit. It is placed inside a circle of rocks. I can also use it for a flower garden and fill it up with dirt and then there you have a little flowerbed for flowers.

I like to use anything that I can in my recycle-garden. There is really no end to the things you can use to decorate your garden. Gardening this way is one of my favorite things to do, and I started it when I read about a Freedom Garden on this site.

Blessings and have a great warm gardening season!

By Robyn Fed from Tri-Cities, TN

Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml

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Comment Was this helpful? 10

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh4 found this helpful
August 10, 2011

After perusing your local garden store you'll realize that the summer growing season means big business for these companies. Whether they're selling decorative ornaments or coated tomato cages in high fashion colors, they're counting on you to invest heavily in your seasonal needs.
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However, when the point of the garden is to produce beauty and food with plants, you don't want to spend all your money maintaining it. Instead, look for some recycling options that keep your garden and your wallet healthy.

Protection Comes Cheaply

After seasons of watching black birds make a quick meal of my raspberries, I invested in a piece of netting to keep them out. Not only was the netting expensive, but it wasn't woven tightly enough. The birds reached between the weave and selected their pieces delicately. When the season ended, it stuck to every thorn and tore huge holes in itself.

It wasn't until I came across an entire bolt of heavy white tulle at a yard sale that I gave it another try. With a few guessing measurements and a pair of scissors, I wrapped sheets of the tulle around my raspberries. It worked perfectly.

The openings are too small for the birds to fit their beaks through, and if I double it on itself it works even better. It's much cheaper than the commercial netting, even if I buy it at a fabric store, and it's heavy enough to withstand a little tugging. When the season was over it easily folded up for winter storage, something the commercial netting never did.

Keeps Dogs In But Keeps Others Out, Too!

After crate training our dog, she decided that she'd had enough of the den. Resale on the crates is low, but it's non-existent if the dog has chewed and clawed her way to freedom a few times. It needed to be re-purposed.

In order to successfully grow a batch of my favorite sunflowers these days I need to erect the Fort Knox of barriers. Birds eat the seeds, groundhogs munch the seedlings, and deer eat the grown plants.

After dragging the dog crate into the yard, I set it on its side and placed it on top of the planted seeds, anchoring it in place with a few yard stakes. The plants could grow through the bars and very little could get inside the crate to bother them.

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It works for tomato plants as well, especially in deer prone areas. Dig the hole for the tomato plant, and place the plant inside the cage before planting. Settle the crate on top of the hole and work the roots through the bars so you can plant them. It helps to have someone tilt the crate and support it while you dig. Situate the crate so the door is on the side. This will allow you to access the tomatoes as they ripen. Keep in mind, you need a big dog crate to house a large tomato plant.

Refitting the Swing Set

Once your children outgrow their swing set, you're faced with a structure you can't use. Both metal and wooden sets can be retrofitted for garden use after their days of play are over. The hooks that hold the swings naturally adapt to hanging plant hooks. Ladders work as bean poles or trellises for attractive vines like clematis or morning glory.

Play sets that have "houses" on top can look quaint with flower boxes attached to the windows and large potted plants of various sizes filling the doorways and decks. Use the space under the roof for storage of tools and other gardening items that are rarely used.

By removing the slide, you'll provide extra access to your clubhouse storage. You can add more space for hanging plants since the slide doesn't convert to garden use very well. Add a cargo net from the ground to the attachment point of the slide, and you have another trellis support. Now your children's memories can be your garden's centerpiece.

Comment Was this helpful? 4

By 0 found this helpful
April 11, 2007

For a year I saved all the plastic bottles, paper egg cartons, towel and toilet paper cardboard rolls for such a time as this: When most of my seedlings got up with their first leaves, not yet with their "true leaves", I was in the midst of mixed weather, having to bring them in and outside a lot.

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By 1 found this helpful
August 4, 2009

Want to feed your plants while you are away for the weekend? Well I have carried out a school project where each child has a grow bag growing vegetables and flowers.

Comment Was this helpful? 1
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