Don’t throw it out; use it in the garden


Looking for a cheaper way to fertilize flowers or keep pests at bay? A better tool for planting tiny seeds?

Common household items like coffee grounds or old pie tins can become easy, eco-friendly tools to give your garden a boost without breaking the bank. Turn old boots or shoes into planters, or reuse packing peanuts by laying them at the bottom of large flower pots to aid in drainage and make for lighter lifting, suggests Stacy Tornio, editor of Birds & Blooms magazine.

“You can take anything you have and upcycle it,” she says.

Some simple, easy ways to repurpose household items for a bargain backyard:

Creative containers

One easy way to start “upcycling” in the garden is by planting herbs, flowers and houseplants in everything from worn boots to old teapots and even bathroom sinks.

“They contribute a touch of whimsy and even a ‘settled’ look to a garden scene,” Tornio says.

Cristin Frank, a 38-year-old author and gardening blogger from Williamsville, N.Y., uses yogurt cups and other recyclable plastic containers as small pots for her “starter” plants in the spring.

Justin Cave, an Atlanta-based landscaper and former host of HGTV’s “Ground Breakers,” recently turned old shipping pallets into a vertical garden by covering the backs and sides with landscape fabric, stuffing them with dirt, and planting succulents and flowers in the slated openings.

“It turned out awesome, and was very cost-effective,” he says.

Worried about your reused junk looking like, well, junk?

Tornio suggests covering old containers with wallpaper or fastening a ribbon to freshen them up and keep your front stoop looking good.

Tools of the trade

In need of some new garden tools? Check your kitchen drawers.

Table utensils like spoons, forks and knives are tough and sharp enough to separate flats, lift seedlings and tease apart dense root balls. Knives can also make a slim path for tiny seeds to fall into.

Even something as innocuous as old nylons can be reused in the backyard to tie up floppy plants or line the bottom of pots so water can get through but dirt cannot.

Homemade remedies

Old wives’ tales abound for solving all kinds of garden problems, but many of them actually work.

Coffee grounds, for example, can be sprinkled at the bottom of any plant to improve drainage in clay soils, and especially plants that like rich, moist organic soils like azaleas and blueberries, Tornio says.

Finely crushed egg shells can be used as compost or to add calcium to soils, while larger pieces keep snails and slugs at bay, according to Florida’s Manatee County Extension Service.

To keep deer from feasting on trees and plants, Tornio suggests breaking a bar of soap into pieces and hanging them from strings or in old nylons or net bags on trees near prime deer-feeding areas.


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