Gardening with a (Re)Purposebackyard garden doesn’t have to involve spending a lot on containers, watering systems and soil additives. In fact, you could probably plant a rich, healthy and visually attractive garden right now with what you have lying around your house. Everything from that pile of recyclables to the yard waste sitting at the curb can be used to build a low-cost, low-maintenance source of kitchen herbs, vegetables and day-brightening flora. Following are a few ideas to get you started and to spur on your gardening imagination.
Consider using all those leaves, sticks and pinecones you rake out of your yard every couple of months as free and effective mulch in your garden. Leaves and pine straw are a great finishing touch to your garden beds as they help your soil maintain a consistent temperature and moisture level as well as help to keep out weeds.
Planters with a New Purpose
Instead of asking yourself, “What can I repurpose and turn into a planter?” you should be asking what you can’t, because just about anything that can hold soil and drain water can be used for your planting purposes. Assorted old coffee tins make great containers for flowering gardens and the two center holes of stacked, staggered cinderblocks can be filled with potting soil for a unique wall garden.
Have an old wooden wine box? Drill some holes in the bottom, fill with a short layer of gravel, top with potting soil and hang from sturdy eyelets screwed into the four corners for an intriguing and useful kitchen garden.
Old gutters can also be used as an easy, inexpensive and space-saving garden alternative. Gutters can either be suspended from gutter hangers or drilled into place, depending on whether you’re comfortable with drilling into the wall you’ll be using. Also, make sure to secure these properly since they will be holding quite a bit of weight after you fill them with water.
Start by drilling half-inch drainage holes every six inches or so along the gutter’s length and then suspend or attach it to your wall. Fill the gutter with a short layer of gravel to allow water drainage and top with potting soil. You won’t want to plant any deep root vegetables or top heavy produce in your gutter planters, but plants such as herbs, onions, strawberries and bush beans should do well. If you have the space, consider stacking the gutters for a visually interesting — and well-producing — wall garden.
Self-Watering PlantersSelf-watering planters come in all shapes, sizes and containers, but they all follow the same basic concept. All you need are two containers, one of which can fit in the other, and a wicking device to draw the water from the bottom (reservoir) container into the soil in the top container.
Innovative gardeners have created self-watering containers out of everything from to-go deli containers to storage bins to soda bottles. To make a soda bottle self-watering planter, for example, simply cut a plastic soda bottle in half and invert the top half in the bottom half so you have the planting container (top half) sitting in the reservoir container. Then drill a small hole in the cap of the soda bottle and run a thick piece of yarn half way through it. When you place the top half of the soda bottle back in the bottom half, the yarn will work as your water wick. Fill the bottom container with water and the top container with potting soil and your plant. Refill the reservoir as needed and you’re done!
For larger containers, of course, the wick needs to be a bit bigger. For self-watering planters with large plastic storage bins, for example, the wick could be a small plastic container with holes drilled in it, big enough to allow water to collect. Place it under a central hole drilled in the top container and fill the bottom container with water. You might also want to drill a hole in the side of the bottom container at a level where you can refill the water so you don’t have to lift the top container off every time it needs refilling. Once the sun hits your planter, the water will evaporate through the deli container and water your plants.
Planting a garden doesn’t mean you have to stick with any strict rules of gardening. As long as you have soil, light and water, you can plant just about anything in any style…or container.
What are some unusual containers you’ve used in your garden? What self-watering systems have worked best for you?
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About the Writer
Mike Tuma is a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area, where he has been helping customers since 2005. Mike focuses on outdoor living writing, ranging from tips on using a wood chipper to the latest in lawn mowers.