From the Producer 2/2

I’m convinced that it was a gardener who inspired “Recycle, Reuse.” It starts with the compost pile, where kitchen peelings, garden refuse, and the vacuum bag’s collection turn into rich plant nutrition.

But that’s only the beginning. Broken pots become toad shelters or filler to raise a bed for agaves on heavy soil. Old tools become yard art. Some people artistically arrange them on a fence. In my garden, I recycled a cute garden fork designed for England when it cratered in Texas soil. The fork marks a bed entrance, and the rotted handle cleverly supports a rain gauge.

Abandoned kitchen utensils find a new lease on life. Weary colanders, “icky” wooden spoons, and overly-microwaved plastic containers end up in the garage, not in the trash. Egg cartons start seeds that spice jars, hummus containers, and mustard jars have held in reserve. I keep an old serrated knife in my garden bag for slitting open mulch bags. I nabbed a rusty sifter to distribute diatomaceous earth. And I’m sure that I’m not the only gardener who selects vinegar or some such for its future potential as a vase!

Some convenient kitchen tools may still be on active duty, like my butter knife (used once a year) that is perfect for pricking out seedlings. If the family cook is missing the measuring spoons, you know where to find them (though once they’ve measured liquid seaweed, the cook is out of luck)!

Birdfeed tubs store potting soil. Plastic linen bags hold rowcover or seed packets. Wooden pallets from work or local businesses turn into garden worktables or even compost bins. Leftover window screen lines a platform bird feeder made from lumber remnants, painted with the dregs of a can of spray paint. Even carrot tops rejuvenate as kitchen sill plants, while the top of a pineapple becomes a new bromeliad to bear fruit again in the future.

Where others see old broom handles or punctured hoses, gardeners see potential tools. A rock on the side of the road: a new “container” for sedum spilling out its holes or to rest in a birdbath. The neighbor’s leftover chicken wire becomes a trellis for vines or tomatoes. I used a leftover PVC pipe (painted, of course) to mount a bird feeder out of cat range.

I still have the T-type clothesline poles that came with my house. I spray-painted one a sage green, wrapped it with chicken wire, and planted Virginia creeper. Every year, by early summer, it creates an absolute sculpture. Since I like to hang things on the line sometimes, I attached clothesline cord to two S-hooks (scavenged from my supply for hanging plants/bird feeders) and coil it into a plastic bag to avoid tangling in my “string and wire” bin. When I need it, I clip it in. Some day, I’ll do the distant post, but even Virginia creeper didn’t work in its very shady location. Still thinking on that one.

I know that you’ve got a thousand recycling tips of your own. And they’re not restricted to practical uses; they include the artistic makeovers. Headboards become colorful trellises, cracked pots become pedestals, old sinks become fountains, and rusty swing sets hold a swaying bench for two, or to hang potted plants. When an interior makeover replaces the bedroom dresser, a coat of paint and new handles turns it into charming garden storage on the patio.

This week on CTG you’ll meet your kindred spirits — the people who see creative treasure in another person’s discards. Here’s to the gardener’s version of Antiques Roadshow!

Until next week,
Linda Lehmusvirta