We know engineered materials like plastics, rubber and ceramics take ages to decompose and can pose a threat to the environment.
But they have become so much a part of our lives that we cannot completely do away with them, try as we might. So the next best thing is to make them do double duty in our homes and gardens. Let’s not throw them into the ever-growing waste dumps until we have taken every bit of usefulness out of them. Repurposing used and found things into items of decorative or practical use is a great channel for creativity and can save you a lot of money – all while doing what’s right.
Here are a few fun garden recycling projects using some common objects.
1. Old ladders
Old ladders made of wood or metal can be reused as interesting garden structures when they are strategically placed. A ladder can add vertical interest when climbers are trained on it and pots are arranged on the steps. It can be turned into storage for frequently used garden tools, too.
To make a display hub:
- Prepare the ladder by reinforcing the joints with nails. Add extra hooks on both sides for hanging pots or tools.
- Give it a coat of fresh paint in a bright color if you want it to be an eye catcher, or paint it in muted natural colors to blend in with the garden. If you’d rather preserve the well-worn look of old wood, just weather proof the ladder with a sealant.
- Find a suitable location for your vertical plant display in a prominent part of the garden if the ladder is free-standing. Or lean it against a wall or a sturdy fence.
- Place large pots with climbers below the ladder and tie the climbing stems to its legs. Arrange an assortment of plants in small pots; hang lighter pots from hooks.
This arrangement will free up a lot of ground space in your garden. The stepped arrangement will ensure plenty of light for each plant and provide them extra room for spreading out.
2. Discarded tires
They are a nuisance unless usefully employed, and a garden provides several opportunities for that. Stack them up to make raised plantings or garden seats. Suspend them vertically or horizontally on sturdy ropes for swinging fun.
To make colorful hanging planters:
- Clean a small-sized tire and paint the exterior in an eye-catching color.
- Attach a U-bolt to one side of the tire and drill 2 to 3 holes on the opposite end for drainage.
- Hang it up on a hook at a comfortable height for filling soil.
- Lay a piece of thin cloth or net over the drainage holes, and add 1” of gravel and charcoal over it. Fill it to level with good potting soil containing slow-release organic fertilizers like bone meal or fish emulsion. Mix in some water retention pellets, too.
- Select flowering and foliage plants of different growing habits for a mixed planting. Water the plants well and hang up the tire planter from a tree branch or pergola.
The plants will be beautifully framed by the tire. The arrangement at eye level and above will add an extra dimension to the garden. Orchid plants and other epiphytes that require good air circulation love this kind of arrangement.
3. Cups and saucers
Mismatched cups and saucers, and those that are slightly cracked or chipped, make ideal bird feeders in the garden. The winged visitors will not mind such imperfections as long as you keep the vessels filled with water and seed. Chinaware is easy to clean and long lasting.
- Stick the cup onto the saucer with gorilla glue. If you’re handy with drills, they can be bolted together, too.
- Select a nice feeding spot among tall plants and flowers. Drive a long wooden pole or sturdy PVC pipe into the ground by hammering it in until the top is at the desired height.
- Stick the cup and saucer arrangement to the top of the pole. Fill the cup with birdfeed mixture and add water into the saucer.
The water around the cup will keep the grain mixture from ant-attack, besides keeping the birds hydrated. You can have a series of cup and saucer arrangements on fence posts to cater to different types of birds.
4. Old sinks and bathtubs
When you do bathroom renovations, it is a waste to throw the old set away without giving it a second chance to serve you in some other way. Turn them into small water gardens or lily ponds.
- Measure the dimensions of the tub and dig a generous hole in the ground to accommodate it.
- Level the bottom of the pit with a 1” layer of sand and keep the tub over it. Fix the tub firmly in place by packing the soil all around the tub until it is 1” above its rim.
- Make a border for the pond by placing lightweight stone, slate or bricks around the edges, slightly overlapping the rim.
- Add plants around the ponds to soften the outline. Pots with water lilies and other rooted aquatic plants can be submerged in the pond. Add some floating plants like water hyacinth and Pistia.
In their new avatar, bathtubs can do invaluable service for several more years. Water features in the garden support a number of animal lives, including tadpoles and dragonfly larvae. Use mosquito dunk to keep away these bloodsuckers.
5. Paint buckets
Old paint buckets offer many advantages to the container gardener. They are very sturdy and long-lasting. Their handles are designed to carry weight, which makes it easy to move the containers around without breaking the back.
- Scrub off as much of the paint and printing from the buckets.
- Drill 3-4 holes on the sides of the buckets as near to the bottom as possible to prevent water collection.
- Spray paint the outer sides of the buckets in bright solid colors or paint designs on them.
- Fill the bottom 2” of the buckets with small brick pieces and gravel, and the rest with good potting soil until it comes up to 2” from the rim.
Plant either garden plants or vegetables in the recycled buckets. Large ones are ideal for group plantings of color and textural variety. The can be reused over and over again.
6. Metal cans
They tend to accumulate in large numbers as we repeatedly buy our staple provisions. Put them to good use by turning them into a wall display system for your potted plants.
- Clean the cans and paint them a solid color. Paint both the inside and the outside to increase life.
- Nail them directly onto fences or walls in several rows or interesting patterns.
- Arrange potted plants in the cans according to color schemes or collections.
Potted plants can be placed in the tin holders when they are in their prime. They can be replaced with another set to maintain the aesthetic appeal of the display. The cans will last longer, since they are not in direct contact with the soil.