Upcycling ideas for the garden

  • By Sarah Wolfe Associated Press
  • Tuesday, September 17, 2013 5:12pm
  • Life

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.

“You can take anything you have and upcycle it,” suggests Stacy Tornio, editor of Birds &Blooms magazine.

Some simple, easy ways to repurpose household items:

Creative containers

Plant herbs, flowers and houseplants in everything from worn boots to old teapots and even bathroom sinks.

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 slatted openings.

Garden tools

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

Repurpose old utensils as garden markers and borders for flower beds.

Nylon pantyhose can be used 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, Tornio said.

Homemade remedies

Coffee grounds 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 said.

Soap can 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 or other structures near prime deer feeding areas.

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

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.

Whimsical decor

Create a “bottle garden” by placing empty bottles over tree branches, says Sara Jenkins-Sutton, of Chicago-based 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 said.

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

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