Garden Cheapies

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

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.


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.

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.

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August 10, 20110 found this helpful

I enjoyed so much reading this article, and laughed at the part where the birds delicately picked the fruit...that was hilarious, and also the part about the netting getting torn by each thorn. Thisis how I have learned most of my frugal ideas, by trial and error~This is the best article on recycling for the garden I have ever read.


I am going to put a lot of this to use. I already have a bird cage in the garden as protection for some small plants. The idea of the swing set is great and it gives me so many here I come for a swing set!



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