By Nan Sterman
Gardeners are some of the most resourceful and creative people you meet. We always look for ways to do things with fewer resources, often using materials in ways they weren’t intended for. And we have fun doing it!
Potted plants are a beautiful way to dress up a patio or balcony. Many people make the mistake of buying random pots without considering how -- or whether -- they go together. A collection of pots in random colors, patterns, and styles looks chaotic, even before you plant them.
When you shop for pots, choose one color, then vary sizes, shapes, and textures. A collection of orange pots, above, sets the stage for a cohesive and impressive presentation. And when you paint the wall behind the pots a contrasting color, your container garden really pops. Terra-cotta is also a safe bet that is easy to coordinate.
Remesh, also called concrete reinforcing mesh, makes sturdy tomato cages and vine trellises. Start with one sheet of 3½x7-foot Remesh. Lay it on a flat surface, and pull the short edges together to form a cylinder. Secure the top, bottom, and one or two points in between with zip ties. Turn the cylinder upright, and set it in your garden bed.
Also use the cylinder to space plants in the garden. One cylinder is the perfect size for two tomato plants, four cucumber plants, two watermelons, eight pole beans, and so on.
If you lose plant labels in the vegetable garden, as I do, try using clothespins. Clip those labels onto a wire of the remesh cage at eye level. You’ll never lose a label again!
Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to keep your plants watered. But it can be challenging to keep the narrow, flexible, spaghettilike tubing from dislodging and missing the plant it is supposed to water.
Pin down those lines with chain-link fence ties. These 6- or 8-inch-long stakes are shaped like candy canes, with hooked ends that fit perfectly over a quarter-inch-diameter irrigation line. And unlike traditional irrigation “staples,” aluminum chain-link fence ties don’t rust. Look for ties in bags of 100. Don’t be put off by the number. Once you try them, you’ll find many uses in the garden. And be sure to keep the drip line under the mulch.
Schlepping bags of organic fertilizer around the vegetable garden can be frustrating. But left in the garden, the bags disintegrate in the sunlight or get visits from hungry critters. A small galvanized outdoor trash can is an easy solution. Get one with a tight-fitting lid. With the bag inside the can and the cover on, neither critters nor sunlight get in.
Speaking of critters, do they eat up your homegrown veggies before you pick them? Try covering your vegetable beds with mesh bird netting. Bend lengths of schedule 20 PVC tubing -- it is the most flexible -- into arcs over the bed. Cover with bird netting, and tightly pin down the netting using those chain-link fence ties. When you plant seeds, mark them with brightly colored irrigation flags to keep track of their location.
I can’t stop myself from pruning, weeding, and picking up dead leaves when I wander through my garden. The problem is, all that green waste ends up in my pockets, and eventually the washing machine. Rather than pay for another expensive visit from the repair tech, I invested a small amount of money in 5-gallon plastic buckets. I stashed several strategically around the garden, where plants usually hide them from view. Now there’s always one nearby for the material I collect for my compost pile.
Frankly, outdoor trash cans are pretty ugly. So what do you use for trash and recycling in the garden? A planting container. Choose a large pot -- metal or ceramic -- that coordinates with your garden décor and holds the refuse. Plug any holes in the bottom of the pot, or line it with a recyclable bag.
What clever ideas have you come up with for your garden?