Gardeners Corner - The Thrifty Gardener
Once you’ve been bitten by the gardening bug it can very tempting to splash out on lovely plants and garden features. As someone who has recently added countless bulbs, shrubs, sacks of compost and bird feeders (I’ve also got a bird bath in the post) to my garden, I’ve put together a list of money saving, and environmentally friendly, tips to reuse and recycle household rubbish instead. A penny saved is a penny earned!
Old compost bags - Old compost bags are well worth hanging on to. You can use them as super strong rubbish bags to transport garden waste to the tip or split them open and peg them down to temporarily suppress weeds. You can also use them to line raised beds or hanging baskets, although you will need to add some drainage holes. If you find any spouting potatoes in the back of the cupboard you could also use an old bag to grow potatoes in.
Fizzy drink bottles – We’re all trying to use less plastic but it still seems to make its way into our homes. The good news is that you can reuse them in lots of different ways. Upside down water bottles can be used as reservoirs for hanging baskets or containers. Remove the lid and cut of the bottom of the bottle, push the lid end into the soil and fill the bottle with water, this will give your plants access to water when they need it. Large fizzy drinks bottles make good mini cloches. Cut off the bottoms and place them over individual plants to protect them from the weather until they are well established. You should unscrew the lid to provide ventilation and prevent the plants from getting too hot on warmer days. If you have a small greenhouse or balcony, you might find that trying to water your plants with a big watering can a bit awkward. To solve this problem, pierce some holes in the lid of plastic bottle and use it to sprinkle your plants. A bottle will take up a lot less storage space, leaving room for another plant!
Aquarium water & pond silt - If you have a fish tank or pond, then try watering your plants with the old water whenever you clean it out. Your plants will love the nutrients that your fish or pond visitors have left behind. The silt from your pond can be composted, once it turns to black/gold, it will make a brilliant soil improver.
Lollipop sticks - Save your iced lolly sticks during hot summers - they make useful little garden markers for labelling plants. The perfect excuse for an ice cream!
Toilet roll tubes & egg boxes - Toilet roll tubes are perfect for starting peas, sweet peas, carrots and other crops that require a deep rooting area. Simply fill them with compost and sow seeds into the top of the tube. When you transplant them outdoors, you can plant the entire tube in the ground and let it decompose in the soil. Your egg boxes can be used to chitt your old potatoes, and then afterwards bother toilet roll tubes and egg boxes can be put directly into your compost bin. Take a look at our article on composting for more composting tips.
Boiled water – Rather than tipping the boiled water from your vegetables down the drain, pop outside and pour it over the weeds that are appearing on the patio. Scalding hot water is guaranteed to damage even the toughest of weeds. You can also use it to kill ant nests, though be careful if you’re doing this on the lawn as it will also damage your grass. Remember to stand well back and pour slowly to avoid scalding your toes!
Old tyres – If you happen to have tyres in your garage, or you’re planning to get yours replaced, consider upcycling them. A stack of old tyres could be used as a compost bin, a mini raised bed or unusual planter.
Old plastic bins – An old wheelie bin or an outdoor black bin can be repurpose as a compost bin. Drill a hole in either side for ventilation, cut out a rectangular flap for retrieving the finished compost at the bottom then reattach it with hinges at the top. You could also use the lid of a black outdoor bin to make a shallow pond or bird bath.
Plastic punnets and takeaway containers - The clear plastic punnets that you buy strawberries and tomatoes in make perfect mini propagator lids when turned upside down. Most even have ventilation holes punched in them already! Old takeaway containers make useful seed trays, remember to add drainage holes in the bottom. You can even use old plastic meat trays as saucers for your plant pots, they’re the perfect size for 1/2 seed trays.
Plastic milk bottles - Cut the bottom off a large plastic milk carton at a 45º angle (ensuring you keep the piece with the handle and lid intact). It will make really handy a soil scoop.
Bubble wrap – If you’re anything like me, you’ve had a few things arrive over the last couple of weeks wrapped in bubble wrap. Don’t throw it away! Bubble wrap makes excellent insulation and you can use it to line your greenhouse in winter.
Yoghurt pots - With many plants come many slugs. Yoghurt pots can be sunk into the ground and filled with cheap beer to trap and drown slugs. Leave one inch sticking up above soil level to stop beneficial insects such as ground beetles from also being drowned. What a way to go…
Old grapefruit skins - Another humane slug treatment, the upturned skins attract slugs looking for an overnight shelter. In the morning you can pick up the grapefruit ‘shelter’ and dispose of the slugs. Old wooden planks, bricks and slate also work well. If you do have a slug problem this article on dealing with slugs might help.
Plastic guttering - This can be used as a starter seed tray for lettuces that you want to start in the greenhouse but transfer out into a bed. Once the lettuces have started to mature and its warmer outside you simply dig a trench in your bed the size of your guttering then slide the lettuces into place.
Bathtubs, sinks, washing up bowls and buckets - These make excellent ponds when sunk into the ground. With a little care you can cultivate a rich ecosystem in your pond and attract frogs and toads which will then prove very effective at reducing the slug population. It’s important to add some pond weed to keep the water clean and old logs, bricks or pieces of wood which the frogs can use to climb out. For more advice on how to create your own pond, take a look at our article on ponds.
I hope you find these tips useful. Happy gardening!