Gardening

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

 

Associated Press

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

The answers may lie in your home, where 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

It’s easy to spend a fortune on pots and vases. But 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.

Old take-out coffee cups serve as starter watering cans with their smaller, perforated plastic tops.

Birdbaths can also be made from household items like an old glass light shade mounted on copper tubing.

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.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

In need of some new garden tools? Save yourself a trip to the hardware store and check your kitchen drawers.

Table utensils like spoons, forks and knives are tough and sharp enough to do many gardening jobs without causing damage, according to Tornio.

Use them to separate flats, lift seedlings and tease apart dense root balls. Knives can also make a slim path for tiny seeds to fall into.

Tornio says she’s also seen people repurpose utensils as garden markers and borders for flower beds.

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.

Packing peanuts are also a good drainage medium, and lighten the load when large pots need to be moved around, Tornio says.

HOMEMADE REMEDIES

Old wives’ tales abound for solving all kinds of garden problems, from pesky deer to acidic soil, but many of them actually work.

And much of what you need may be sitting in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

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.

Tornio says soap can keep deer from feasting on trees and plants. She suggests breaking a bar of soap into pieces and hanging them from strings or in old nylons or net bags on trees or other structures near prime deer feeding areas. The scent could also keep other pests away.

Terry Grahl, founder and CEO of the Michigan-based nonprofit Enchanted Makeovers, uses the guts left over from her husband’s fishing trips as fertilizer for her gardens.

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

WHIMSICAL DECOR

Household items can also add a touch of whimsy to garden decor. Use an old musical instrument like a tuba to build a water fountain, or create a “bottle garden” by placing empty soda bottles over tree branches with your kids, says Sara Jenkins-Sutton, vice president of Chicago-based garden and floral design firm Topiarius Urban Garden.

“When your cheese grater starts to turn rusty, turn it over, hang it on a deck and fill it with flowers, plants or outdoor chalk,” she suggests.

Scatter vintage chairs or old farm equipment throughout your garden to add height and depth, and make a funky wind chime out of old wine bottles.

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

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

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Combs on their way to relocation. They were placed in the shade of a tree across the yard, and after about three days, the angry bees dispersed.

    Fairchild’s tropical garden column

    The honeybees in the house had to be evicted — humanely

    We’ve been hearing a lot about honeybees dying en masse, about Colony Collapse Disorder, even predictions that the honeybee is headed for extinction. There is no doubt that beekeepers as well as farmers who require bees to pollinate their crops are losing lots of bees — entire hives in fact. Some beekeepers have reported that 30 to 90 percent of their bees have died.

  •  
A lamp the author bought at Home Goods is made over with a shade and a new cord.

    Decor

    A new lamp needs just the right shade

    The other day I was lamp-shopping at one of my favorite bargain stores when I spotted a pair of antique-bronze-finished metal-based lamps. A quick flip of the price tag proved they were a score — only $29.99 each — especially because they were dead-ringers for ones I had seen days before in a fancy decorator showroom. The problem was their shades. Poorly constructed with a lumpy trim tacked around the top and bottom edges, the shades cheapened the bases the same way poor quality shoes do an expensive outfit.

  • Condo Line

    When do repairs need a vote of unit owners?

    Q: If the board of a condominium decides to do renovations and does not conduct a vote for approval by the owners, are the owners by law obligated to pay the assessment?

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category