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If you are buying everything you think you need to outfit your garden, you are not only wasting your money but missing a great opportunity to reuse, reduce, and recycle. Here are a few tips and tricks for having a "green" garden.
- When staking a new tree in the yard, cut up old bicycle tires to cushion the wires which hold the young tree taught against the wind. Place between the wire and the tree bark before tightening the wires.
- Great recycled containers for starting plants are those in which berries are sold at the supermarket. Use the ones which already have drainage holes in the bottom. Just be sure to set the container on a dish or tray to keep it from leaking onto the surface below when you water it.
- If you are worried about gourds falling off trellised vines, use old nylon pantyhose cut from the briefs to cradle the vegetables. Stretch out the center of a leg and place the gourd in it, then tie the ends to the trellis to secure. (Yes, some people still wear these.)
- Speaking of trellises, you should never have to purchase a ready-made trellis if you have woods nearby. Simply cut young saplings to length and nail them together in a pattern of your liking. Leave plenty of room at the bottom for driving securely into the ground. Whittle the ends to a sharp point for easier insertion into the soil. Prop the smaller trellises against a wall or other hard surface for extra support. These can be quite stylish.
- Paths between rows may be kept weed free by placing newspapers along the walk. Wet them down to keep them from blowing about. Once they have been soaked, they will generally stay put. If not, sprinkle a little soil or sand on them.
- A compost bin can be made of many different recycled materials, but our favorite is used wooden pallets. Set the pallets on end in a square and bind them together with wire coat hangers. Leave one corner easy to untwist and open it like a gate to turn or access the compost as needed. However, our resident master gardener (our daughter) just left the fourth pallet off and it works fine that way as well.
- To extend your gardening days in cooler climates, use old storm windows to fashion a cold frame. Any used glass will work, however. Build a simple wooden box with a sloped top to fit the size of the window. Some folks fasten their window to the top of the box with hinges, but we just set ours on top. We remove the window on warmer days and prop it up with a stick or piece of brick to ventilate it.
- Watering your garden couldn't be easier with an old garden hose. I'm talking about one with holes in it. Instead of purchasing soaker hoses, just poke holes in an old hose which has seen better days. Put in as many holes as you need for the flow you want, then snake the hose in and around the plants. Turn the water spigot on low flow and let it do the work for you.
- For container gardening, instead of purchasing new containers, you can save money by using things you would otherwise put out to the trash. For instance, a large, plastic bin with a hole in the bottom is an excellent choice, as are bulk detergent bottles with their tops cut off, coolers with missing lids, five-gallon buckets, and even old dresser drawers. Be sure to drill drainage holes in the bottom, and you're ready to fill and plant.
- Composting is the most "green" way to recycle in the garden. Nothing taken from the earth should be in a land fill. Scraps from peeling fruits and vegetables should always go back into the garden by way of the compost pile if you aren't feeding them to animals. Other materials suitable for the compost bin are coffee and tea grounds and their filters, clean shredded scrap paper, dryer lint, egg shells, hair from trimmings, sawdust, wood ashes (not too many), most leaves, and natural-fiber rags and clothing cast offs (shredded). More information regarding how to compost, including lists of what to add and what not to add, may be found at the United States EPA website:http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/rrr/composting/index.htm