Sunday, November 6, 2011

Roll Out The Barrel

Recently my friend and neighbor, Lea, had quite a bit of "trash" at the curb.  She was cleaning out her backyard and just as quickly as she was bringing it out I was carrying it home.  There was so much stuff I felt drunk from the excitement of it. I didn't know what I was going to do with all of it but I knew something would come to mind.  I just needed to figure it out before my husband came home from work and saw it all piled up in the driveway looking like a yard sale in progress.

When I saw her rolling out this barrel I knew I had to have it.  My mind went into overdrive, thinking of all the possibilities.  It wasn't in good enough shape for a planter and I'm not handy enough with a hammer and saw to make any big changes.  I considered using it as a pot for growing potatoes, but I've had such dismal luck at producing spuds that I nixed that idea.  The barrel sat in front of the garage for a few months until we got our new puppy.  My neighbor came up with the idea of using the barrel as a dog house. 
We rolled the barrel up against the north side of the house to sheild it from the sun.  2 lemon trees (one on either side) provide some additional protection from the elements. 

The barrel gave her a cool spot out of the summer heat.

The barrel continues to keep her happy and comfortable.  The rain is pouring but Maryah doesn't seem to mind.  She pulled out some of the extra blankets and I found her curled up and fast asleep.
The barrel turned out to be a great fit in my "trash to treasure" lifestyle.  It fills a need, cost nothing, came from trash and if our dog decides it's not for her, I can always revisit the potato pot plan.
Be well and happy Autumn gardening!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Outsmarting Outdoor Pets

One of my favorite neighbors, Lea, has wonderful "trash".  The bright orange fencing that she left at the curb became a compost bin in my 05/26/11 post.
Recently that same fencing helped us deal with some problems from our new dog and the neighborhood stray's.
My husband spent hours cleaning out a tiered area in our back yard.  I had lots of new growing room and plans for a big row of leafy greens.  I amended the soil and planted the seeds but what I viewed as an edible garden the cats saw as a litter box.   It was a disgusting sight and I had to come up with something fast. 

I layed out the orange fencing, running it the entire length of the tier.
The fencing overhung the edge of the tier so I cut it down about a foot.

I anchored the fencing in place using the posts of solar lights.  I scattered lettuce, chard and arugula seeds throughout the fencing, covering the seeds with sifted compost and vermiculite.

The bed hasn't been disturbed and the seeds are sprouting between the plastic fencing.  Looks like I will be thinning out in no time.
Our new puppy loves digging in the pots.  Something about the soil seems too enticing to resist.  My husband, worried about the plants (and the dogs well being) made it his job to figure out a way to out smart her. Using the leftover fencing from my kitty control project, he fashioned a grid to cover the top of the soil.

He cut the fencing in half circles, using some pieces of metal to anchor the fencing in place. 

I added a solar light as an additional anchor as well as providing a bit of light and a touch of ambiance.  In the two weeks since we put the fencing down we haven't had any puppy problems and that has us all breathing a bit easier.
Be well and happy frugal gardening!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Last call for our christmas tree

2011 is winding down. I can't believe how quickly the year has flown by.  The Halloween decorations are out, the nights are growing cooler and I'm starting to think about lighting up the fireplace soon.  It must mean our 2010 Christmas tree is ready for it's last job.
After we enjoyed our tree in all it's holiday glory I moved it to a corner of yard, hanging homemade bird feeders from the branches.
Once the tree had spent a few months drying and posing as a perch for our feathered friends I used branches and fallen needles to mulch my blueberry plants.

During the summer the tree turned into a trellis, holding up to the weight of a bumper crop of green beans.  Picking the beans was a breeze.  They were hanging between the branches of the tree.

When the season finished I left the vines hanging on the tree until the pods dried up. I harvested these seeds for planting next summer.
Today my husband (and his chainsaw) made quick work of what remained of the tree.  The last branches were sawed off and the trunk was cut into pieces. 
The thinnest branches went through the mulcher and will be used around the hydrangea plants, thicker branches will be used in the garden or as kindling, and the logs will be burned in the fireplace some chilly evening.
It feels great to find second (and third, fourth and fifth) uses for our tree.  Now thats what I call recycling!
Be well and Happy Halloween!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Feeding Plants with Fountain Water

After a prolonged pause from blogging (but not from frugal gardening) I am finally able to sit down and add a post to frugalgardengirl.  In case your wondering about the lengthly holiday I am proud to announce that I became a grandma in August.  This pretty baby girl is my granddaughter Ayumi. 

When she's visiting I don't get as much done around the house, or in the garden for that matter but I'm pretty sure that the time we spend together is the most important thing that I could be doing.
Cleaning our patio fountain is a chore that needs to be done frequently, especially in the summer months when the warm weather causes the algae and fish poop to turn the pond green. 
Rather than waste this nutrient rich water, I prefer to use it as the a source of liquid fertilizer.
It's easy to use a hose to drain larger ponds and fountains.  I place the end of the hose in the fountain and turn the hose on at the spiget for a few seconds.  After turning off the water, I detach the hose at the spiget, holding the end up until I reach a spot that I want watered.  Then I lay the hose down and gravity does what it does, pulling water out of the fountain and over to my garden.

The water left at the bottom of the pond is emptied bucket by bucket to the potted plants surrounding our patio.  It sounds tedius, and it can be, but it's good exercise for my husband and I.

If you have an aquarium, or your kids have a fish tank, don't waste this wonderful source of food for your garden.
Just to be on the safe side, I don't use this water for leafy greens or root crops.  I do use it on fruit trees, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and many other bush and vine plants and haven't had any problems.
Any time that I can get a chore to do double duty-in this case cleaning the fountain mixed with watering and fertilizing the plants, I know I've done a great job.
Be well and happy gardening!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Saved Silica Gel Packs

I've been saving silica gel packs for years.  You know what I'm talking about...the pesky little packets that you find in every bottle of vitamins, box of shoes or at the bottom of a new purse.  Those little things are everywhere and I knew that there had to be a way to reuse them.

Silica gel is actually a naturally occurring mineral.  The silica gel's high surface area allows it to absorb moisture easily making it useful as a drying agent. 
I wasn't sure how I was going to reuse the packets until I  read a tip from a reader in a crafting magazine.  She saved her packs and used them to dry flower petals for potpourri and sachets.  It was an "ah ha" moment.  I knew I had kept them for a reason.   
Last year I decided my Christmas gifts would be from the heart and hand (and 100% recycled) and one of the gifts were rose and lavender sachets.  Over the summer I picked my most fragrant roses just as they reached full bloom and placed the petals in the covered box of silica gel.  The petals dried quickly without any mildew and the petals retained their fragrance.
I mixed the petals with dried lavender buds and a couple drops of rose sachet oil that I had on hand. 

My sachet holders were circles cut from a old piece of lace saved after my wedding, and the ribbons are reused.

Continuing my quest to be ecofriendly I included a few thoughts on how to reuse/recycle this gift.
The tag reads:
Rose and Lavender Potpourri
Prepared from fresh and dried
Rose petals and Lavender buds
Rose sachet oil
Once the scent has faded this sachet can
be recycled by composting
the petals and buds, or by scattering
them in your yard where they
will decompose

 Be well and happy garden gift giving!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Leftover Laundry Jugs Water Thirsty Plants

One of the best ways I know to keep my carbon footprint low is to find 2nd uses for everyday items.  This can be a bit of a challenge at times but keeping things out of the landfill, and even the recycling plant is one of my goals in life. 
I purchase laundry detergent in the large size (less packaging) and the bottle has a great afterlife as a watering can.
All you need is an empty, rinsed out laundry detergent bottle and a drill.

Place the cap upside down on a flat surface.  Don't do this on your dining room table.  You'll be drilling through the lid and that won't be good for your table.  I use a heavy piece of wood on top of my planting table when I'm using a drill.
I like to put lots of holes in the lid, about 15 or so.  This doesn't take much time but you may have to run your drill in reverse to get the drill bit out of the lid. 

Thats it, just fill with water and carry out to your thirsty plants.
I keep containers by my kitchen door and fill them when I'm warming water before running the dishwasher or shower. 
Give a quick tip of the jug for a gentle splash of water or squeeze the sizes to get a steady stream going. 
Be well and happy gardening!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Eraser Easily Sows Seeds

I got this tip out of a garden magazine years ago.  I don't know how this clever gardener came up with the idea, but it's a great one and I'm happy I can pass it along.
To make sowing seeds quick and easy, use a pencil with an eraser.

Pour some seeds out of your packet.
Dip the eraser in water. 
Touch the eraser to one of the seeds.  The seed will latch on to the eraser like they were magnets.

Place the eraser on the soil, pressing down to the desired depth.  Give the pencil a twist and the seed will come off in the soil. 

Press the soil over your seed.  Give it some water and it's ready to grow.
Using this method I can finish my seed sowing in record time.  I don't even have to moisten the eraser again.  The moisture from the soil is enough to keep the seeds sticking to the eraser.
Be well and happy gardening.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wine Bottle Border

I bought quite a few blueberry plants this spring.  I didn't need them, didn't even know where to put them, but it was an end of the season, 1/2 off sale at Peaceful Valley Farms.  Who could resist? 
With the need to get the plants in the ground before the late season heat set in, my husband and I dug holes in the lawn and planted them right there in the grass.  This didn't work out well.  The scrawny plants kept getting stepped on or I would drag the hose over them while watering.  I tried using bricks and metal cages to protect them but it wasn't working and I knew it wouldn't be long before the plants would be dead.
I've seen projects using wine bottles to edge pathways and borders, and I thought I would give it a try around my berry plants.
I work in a restaurant so I have easy access to lots of empty wine bottles.  I also love wine, so it wasn't hard to come up with enough bottles for this project, however one border takes 20 bottles so if I'm going to edge around all my berry plants, or along a pathway for that matter, I better get crackin' on drinking/saving bottles.

I start by digging out a circle around the blueberry plant.

I used a garden fork to further loosen up the soil.

I placed a bottle upside down in the hole.  I don't have a mallet so I placed an old rag on top of the bottle and used a brick to pound the bottle in the soil. 

The brick worked ok, but you can't really strike the bottle as hard as needed to enbed it deeply in the soil. 
Since that was all I had to work with I continued around the circle, loosing the soil with the fork, removing the soil from the circle, adding the next bottle and pounding it in place. 

When I got to the end of the circle it took a bit of time (and work) to make the bottles fit correctly.  I think this was the most difficult part of the whole project.
Around this time my neighbor came over to see what I was up to.  He's used to seeing the unusual happenings that go on here and he was looking for the source of the noise I was making.  He lent me a rubber mallet which allowed me to strike the bottles hard and made finishing the job a breeze.  I know what I'll be asking my husband for on my next birthday.

I back filled around the bottles with the soil I had removed and added some mulch around the plant and bottles.

The bottles are buried deep enough that they won't move if a hose gets caught on it, and the plants will be protected from foot traffic.
Now I just have to hope I won't trip over it.
Be well and happy gardening!

Update 04/20/2015:
My wine bottle border stayed up for quite a while.  At the end of 2014 I pulled up the bottles and the blueberry plants.  The bottles were used to surround a bed of fruit trees and flowers. 

FYI, I use the weed eater right up against the bottles.  The weed eater has a guard that can be lowered to prevent damage (to trees, fences etc.) but I usually don't use it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pizza Box Stepping Stones

I saw this garden project in a book titled "Trash to Treasures 1" by Leisure Arts.  These stepping stones use mostly recycled items.  The only item purchased was brick mortar.  The bag cost me about $3.00 and I used 1/4 bag so the stepping stones cost just .75 for 2. 
The recycled items are:
pizza boxes - I made a 13" and a 9" stone
dry cleaner hangers
dry cleaner plastic bags
pebbles, tile, shells etc.
You will also need:
duct tape
sand paper (optional)

Cut off the top of the pizza box. 

Reinforce the sides of the box with duct tape.

Line the box with the plastic.  Creases in the plastic will mean creases in your finished stepping stones so smooth it out as much as possible.  Some of it can be sanded down later but you can't fix everything.

Use the clothes hangers to reinforce the stepping stone.  For the larger stone use 4 hangers.placing one of the "hooks" in each of the corners of the box.  For the smaller box I twisted the hanger and placed it inside of the box.

Mix the mortar with water using an old bucket and shovel.  I don't know what's in the mix, but be safe and use a dust mask or some other covering over your mouth and nose.
The best consistancy of the mortar is slightly thick.  If your mix is too thin your decorations will sink, if it's too thick they won't stick when the mortar is dry.  Pour the mortar into the boxes, smoothing it out with the back of the shovel.

Next comes the best part, the decorating. This would be so much fun to do with children! 
I used leftover tile and pebbles from our patio and yard.

I let the stepping stones sit through a couple of hot days to dry completely. 
Using a stiff scrubber I cleaned off each of the tiles and stones, then used a damp cloth to wipe everything clean. 

Tip the stone out of the box and pull off the plastic.  If you have some rough edges you can sand them down, but I think they look a bit rustic and plan to leave them just like they are.

Be well and happy gardening.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Terrific Recycled Terrarium

I had a few small succulant's waiting for a home.  They were the offspring of some larger plants.  There they were,c sitting in an empty pot on my garden table, no soil or water and still managed to stay alive.  After all they had been through it seemed unkind not to do something with them.  
I saw a centerpiece at a retirement party that gave me inspiration for this project.   It used a "fishbowl" type vase and small succulants.  I had both on hand although any deep bowl or vase would work for this.  I couldn't locate sand anywhere, so I purchased a bag at my local hardware store.  50 lbs of all purpose sand cost $2.25, and I used about 10 cups so I have a lot left for other projects.  The only other items I used were a few stones and some potting soil.

I placed a few stones (river rock) in the bottom of the vase and topped it with about an inch of sand.

I mixed 2 parts potting soil with one part sand to make a well drained mix and used it to top the sand. 

On top of the soil I added another inch of sand, smoothing it out like I was icing a cake.

I gently placed the pebbles in the sand.  I chose a  "fork in the road" design because it seemed simple, but I might try something a bit more challenging next time.

I added the plants last, pressing them gently into the sand.  Trying to change the placement can be messy so it's best to make sure you're putting them where they will be staying.

Water gently with a sprayer or mister.
This easy to care for centerpiece looks great on my patio table.

Be well and happy gardening.