We are all now fully aware of how important re-cycling is for the environment and with the way our rubbish is collected these days, we have no alternative than to make sure we are doing our ‘bit’ around the home to help reduce landfill and harmful emissions from landfill. There’s even talk of councils charging home owners for the amount of waste that is collected from the end of the drive, so those who don’t consider their environment may be forced to pay more. Some people have used mini garden waste bins in their kitchens for years, so that they can put their fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells and old flowers straight into the compost bins in the gardens ready to be used as compost later on (not forgetting old cereal boxes, contents of hoover bags, shredded junk mail etc). Many households already have water butts or rain barrels fitted to the gutters of their homes and sheds or incorporated in the garden construction, so that the rain water can be recycled and used again for good effect.
There are, however, many other ways that more direct re-cycling can be used around within the garden design, all of which are really useful but many that are also really attractive.
Let’s start with the growing of plants from seeds. Rather than using the plastic pots that you buy in the garden centre, you can reuse things around the house with just as good results. Toilet rolls make excellent containers for planting seeds that need height, for example sweet peas, leeks and peas. You can use egg shells for planting small seeds in until the plants get a little bigger and the see through plastic containers that you buy grapes and tomatoes in at the supermarket, make really good propagators. Old guttering is not only a good way to start of vegetables like Cauliflowers and Cabbages (who hate having their roots disturbed) but this also saves space in the greenhouse as guttering can be suspended from the ceiling. Also, try keeping your children’s ice lolly sticks as they are excellent for labeling up your plants.
For protecting the plants that you have already planted in the ground from bird and slug attack, empty plastic bottles make an ideal protection for them. Cut the bottoms off and you can use the top half to protect your plants and the bottom half could be used to grow herbs in.
For helping the plants grow, then again egg shells can really help. Crush them up and sprinkle them around your plants in the ground. This is an excellent deterrent against slugs as it hurts them to cross over the shell. Old coffee grounds provide plants with a good source of nitrogen as does seaweed collected at the beach, although this one can be rather smelly as the weather warms up!
When you buy plants from the nursery or garden centre, keep the pots they come in. These can be painted at a later to date to match your garden design colours and strung across your veg patch to make a colourful bird scarer.
Now for containers for your plants and flowers to be used within your general garden construction and design. There are many household items that can be recycled and put to good use here. Most people have seen old ceramic sinks used to grow herbs but what about an old wheelbarrow overflowing with trailing summer flowers, or an old tyre filled in the middle with earth and a blaze of flowers growing inside. Old Wellington boots with the toe cut out make really good containers for growing strawberries in and old wooden wine boxes also make an unusual but stylish container. If you have old hanging baskets that have seen better days, don’t throw them away. Re-use them to grow small tomato plants or strawberries and hang them from trees in your garden to give even more colour.
The structural changes you may want to make to your garden design can also be made using recycled materials.
Old railway sleepers are ideal to build raised flower beds or borders and will withstand any types of weather so will last and last.
Empty wine bottles can be used to construct borders or garden beds. Collect your empty bottles, and make the borders by putting them in the ground upside down. They look really something if you have a mixture of different coloured glass (if/when the sun shines through them).
Fencing that has broken and has been replaced need not be thrown away. Old picket fencing makes really pretty plant containers and bat boxes. Old panel fencing can be made into tit boxes and bird feeders. If you are really good with construction from wood, then perhaps you could try to make a beehive that you could use as a wormery or even a chicken coup…if you keep chickens of course!
Old oil drums or bricks can be used to make the all important BBQ (if you are throwing away old night storage heaters, remove the fire proof bricks from within as they make brilliant BBQ bricks). Even old patio slabs could make a really strong BBQ, if you are replacing a patio area with decking.
Then there are the materials you recycle from the garden itself. Bits of old tree can be reused to make bird feeds or if it is a really big tree, then a garden seat. Hazel can be used for growing sweet peas or beans up and coppiced willow makes perfect beanpoles. Large shrubs like Forsythia, when they are cut back, can be used for trailing fruit bushes and other plants along.
And to finish with our favourite recycling tip – why not stack 3 brightly coloured tyres on top of one another (each could be a different colour) and use the circular centre to grow potatoes – particularly handy because as the potatoes grow, you just add another tyre and additional compost.
Just remember, anything you re-use in your garden construction is one less item going to landfill and it helps with saving the pennies when designing your garden as well.