by Charlene Burgi
When I get a new idea, I head out to the workshop and barn. Stored treasures are found in and around those buildings. Most items are intended for purposes other than to be used in the garden, but it is where I go to let my imagination run wild! For example, behind the shop are scraps of lumber salvaged from building our home. Jack uses the wood for fueling the wood-burning stove in his shop, but I envision those scraps turned into needed raised planters. Sitting in the barn are old wood-framed windows rescued from garage sales, which could become cold frames to house and protect seedlings. Various lengths and diameters of PVC are always at the ready in case of underground breaks or leaks, but I see future frames for cages built to protect the blueberries and raspberries from our neighboring deer, squirrels, rabbits and birds.
Salvage can be found everywhere. My garden shed was a single-car garage that we rescued from a local rancher who wanted to raze it. Jack backed his trailer up to the structure and managed to lift the building up high enough to drive it over the dirt roads to home. I must admit we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies driving down the road, but I had a vision and purpose! With the shed in place, I now dream of using some of those old windows and turning the structure into my “play house.” Currently there is a dirt floor, yet as I look around I see unused chipped pavers, broken bricks and clay pots, and assorted flat rocks on the property. A mosaic floor will add to that shabby chic garden shed that is already filled with garden tools, assorted pots, bags of soil, and all the toys needed for a gardener’s delight. Visions of wisteria, sweet peas and morning glory grow in containers and soon promise to frame the exterior.
A few years ago a student in my irrigation class shared pictures of his rubble walls. He used old wine bottles, broken concrete and miscellaneous rocks, then filled the voids with various low-water-using plants such as creeping thyme, succulents, campanula and saponaria. The outcome was stunning. Recently, I saw another gardener who had built her raised planter beds out of wine bottles set three to four deep on end with the bottle necks buried in the soil. In both cases using the materials at hand meant money saved and less to the landfill.
Even if you aren’t planning a project as elaborate as these, there are many opportunities to reuse and recycle. Think of all the ideas shared in past blog posts. We’ve use cardboard for sheet mulching, clear gallon jugs with the bottoms cut off to protect tender new plants, popsicle sticks to identify seedlings, saved toilet paper and paper towel rolls acting as organic mini planters to start seed, and compost bins made of pallets to house rich organic material destined to go back into the garden.
Our salvaging doesn’t stop there. Jack and I need to build a protective fence around the vegetable garden, and my eyes drift to the old fence posts saved off the property from years past. Stacking them in a crisscross pattern will enhance the garden. Wire mesh will line the back side to prevent rabbits from entering, and I can already visualize the seedling peas and cucumbers clambering up the wire mesh for easy picking.
Let your creative juices flow. Are there items you can rescue and repurpose? Do you have rubble or waste that can be transformed into something delightful? Please share those ideas with the rest of the readers.
If you are wondering what ideas you can utilize, don’t miss MMWD’s free Marin-Friendly Garden Tour on Saturday, May 18. The self-guided tour is from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Register online and we will email you the Garden Guide with addresses and driving directions. Several of the featured gardens make use of salvaged and repurposed materials. The tour might offer new ideas and find you rescuing trash to create a unique landscape that captures the interest of those entering your garden gate.