Gardeners practiced the concept of the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, long before it became trendy. People who grow things have a special relationship with the land and they naturally take steps to take care of it. Take composting for example, they have always known that recycled plant material was beneficial to the soil. Nothing from my grandmother’s garden or kitchen was ever wasted. Using manure in the garden was an accepted fact. These are just some of the recycling practices which have been around for a long time.
Reducing has also been widely practiced among the garden folk. Mulching to conserve water and reduce watering has been standard practice among many. Water caught in a rain barrel was and is a good way to get water for the garden taking the strain off the household water supply. Using that compost so carefully acquired reduces the chemicals that have to be added to the soil.
But, I don’t think that any other group shows as much imagination when it come to reusing. All of our modern conveniences have created a wealth of discarded materials that have challenged the gardener. What self-respecting gardener has not found some use for clear plastic pop bottles? From plant covers to scoops to bird feeders, these containers have been a gardener’s friend. Panty hose quickly became a staple to tomato growers for holding up their tender stalks.
All kinds of containers have been used for starting seeds most notably: foam cups or egg cartons, either foam or fibre. The rigid plastic packs that baked goods come in make great mini greenhouses for starting plants. Even plastic bags are useful to cover a pot of cuttings or a tray of seeds.
Popsicle sticks are useful in any household but to a gardener they become plant markers or even small stakes for seedlings that have become leggy. Pill bottles or film canisters make excellent storage containers for seeds.
It is a great temptation for a true gardener to put a plant or two in any discarded container. Tea pots, wash tubs, cooking pots, old boots, buckets, any empty container that can hold some soil is likely to become a planter or a liner for a planter. And a plastic bucket, especially if it has a lid, is a real find.
Ask any gardener what makes the best tomato stakes. Broken hockey sticks are the number one choice. But any long stick will do so don’t leave any scrap pieces of wood where any gardeners can get their hands on it.
A patch of fruit is not complete without a few foil plates strung up to scare away the birds. And what better use for old clothes than to clothe the distinguished friend of the garden: the scarecrow.
Old sheets, blankets, towels or any good sized piece of fabric should never be thrown out – they all come out to adorn the gardenscape on nights when frost threatens. On those nights the garden takes on an eerie appearance all decked out in colourful garb.
See what happens when an inventive group of people takes advantage of the discards of our modern living. I am proud to associate myself with this illustrious group of caring and imaginative people. You all deserve a big thank you and a hearty ‘bravo’.
How to be a Frugal Gardenerby Elaine Vida