Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Use For Old Christmas Lights

My sugar snap peas are doing very well.  So well, infact that they are taller than the 6' trellis that I am growing them on, and are now starting to flop over.  About 5 weeks ago I used some left over twine (from hauling the Christmas tree home) to make a zig zag up the trellis to train the vines on.  They have grown so much since then that I wanted to make another zig zag closer to the top of the trellis. 
A leftover strand of christmas lights fit the bill this time.  Origionally they were strung up around a fountain on our patio, but time (and possibly a rat or two) have taken their toll, and the strand was beyond repair.
I pulled out all of the lights, setting them aside for possible future use.  I never throw anything out.
Starting near the bottom I wove the strand up and arround the trellis. 



The green color of the light strand fits in well in the garden and the wire, which is both strong and flexible, should last for many seasons. 


Friday, January 28, 2011

Jewelry Plant Markers

Jewelry Plant Markers
Today’s project is one that I have been anxious to do for some time.  It reuses OJ lids, dry cleaning coat hangers and an old pair of earrings (remember the duster earrings of the 80’s) into jewelry plant markers.  This idea was taken directly from a website that I love.  This awsome woman has a site that shows many ways to reuse items in your home and garden, as well as earth friendly holiday decorating, etc.  Her link is at the bottom of the page, and her directions (and talents) far exceed what I provide here, so check out her site.
The materials for today’s project are:
OJ lids
Dry cleaning hangers (the one’s with cardboard in the middle)
Old earrings or other dangly beads
Wire (floral or other light weight wire)  and wire cutters
Drill or hammer and nail
Permanent marker


Start this project by removing the cardboard tube from the hanger.  The small hook on either ends is where you will hang the OJ lid. 
Untwist the top of the hanger and use the wire cutters to separate the hanger in to 2 equal pieces.  Straighten out these larger hooks.  This is what will go underneath the soil, so don’t work too much about how this part looks.  Push the smaller hooks back a bit towards the stem of the hanger.   The hanger can be left as is or painted to match the d├ęcor in your garden or the color of your beads.

Using a drill (or a hammer and nail) make 2 holes in each OJ lid.  Make a hole in the top large enough for hanging you marker, and a smaller hole at the bottom along the edge of the lid for hanging the beads. 

Take your earrings apart by cutting or seperating the wires that hold the links together.  Using small pieces of floral wire connect the clusters of beads to the lid.  Twist the wire in back and snip off any excess pieces.  Press the cut ends of the wire flat against the back of the lid to protect your fingers from the sharp ends. 

Use permanent marking pens to write the names of your plants on your markers and bury the ends in your soil. 
This was a quick and fun project that turned out well, despite my lack of crafting ability.  I hope you will give the plant marker project a try, as well as check out the site where I found the idea:
Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Putting Plastic To Work

I'm always looking for ways to keep my daily trash from going out with the trash.  By thinking "outside the box" many throw aways can be remade into useful garden items.  Today’s project turns gallon milk jugs and 1.3 gallon vinegar jugs into funnels, scoops and seed trays. 
Materials for this project are:
Milk jugs
Vinegar jugs
Exacto knife (or other sharp knife)
Scissors
Pen
3” nail
Towel or work gloves (to protect hands)

I started this project with the milk jugs.  For shallow trays that you can use under pots or for seed starting use a marking pen to make a line about 2-3 inches from the bottom.  This can be most easily accomplished by placing a pen horizontally on some coasters or books and rotating the jug in a circle around it.  Use the exacto knife to cut around the jug.  Use the top part of the milk jug (with the lid on) as a scoop for fertilizer or potting soil.  The top can also be used as a mini green house when pushed into the soil around your seedlings.  Take the lid off during the day to keep your plants from burning, and put the lid back on at night to keep the heat in.  You can also cut out the back flat panel of the jug to make planting markers.  Use an old plastic marker as a guide, or try your talents free hand.


I cut the top off of one of the vinegar jugs to use as a scoop or funnel.  I used a nail to place holes randomly in the lower part of the jug.  Using gloves or a towel will help push the nail through without hurting your hands.  Bury the bottom part of the jug into the soil to irrigate your plants slowly and deeply or fill with manure or compost and add water to get nutrients down to the roots.   Your plants will love it!  
With the second vinegar jug I made a deep seed starting tray (about 4 inches deep) saving the top for a green house in the garden. 
From 4 jugs I made:                                                                                                                            4 plant markers, 2 pot saucers, 1 seed starting tray, 2 scoops or funnels, 1 drip irrigator/fertilizer and 2 green house/plant cloches.  Not a bad return from something that is usually thrown away. 

Inspiration for these tips came from Yvonne Savio from the Los Angeles Master Gardeners program.  She  teaches a course on reusing items in the garden and is a wealth of knowledge.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Free organic herbicide kills tough weeds

Anyone who knows me knows I hate to waste ANYTHING.  It goes against everything inside me to throw something out when it could be reused one more time.  Take the case of cleaning my coffee maker.  Once a month or so I clean it out with a mixture of half vinegar and half water. 

After running the coffee maker through the cycle I carefully pour the hot vinegar and water mixture on the cracks in our driveway where weeds the are growing.  I run the coffee maker through a few more cycles with plain water, pouring the hot water on more of the cracks.
While the vinegar and water mixture works best, even plain hot water will kill weeds without the use of chemicals that may cause harm to your familly and pets.

This follow up picture was taken on 01/25/2011 to show the dead weeds in the cracks of my driveway. 

This would be a good time to go out with a sharp tool to scrape away the dead weeds, but I usually just leave it there in favor of other garden projects.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Feeding our Feathered Friends

Christmas is officially over at our house and the tree that lit up our living room has been moved to a back corner of our yard.  It will temporarily serve as a feeding site for the birds, then as a trellis for beans, as mulch for blueberries, and lastly, firewood.  Today I am making bird feeders out of citrus rinds and pinecones to hang in the tree until it's next "reuse".
Supplies for this project are:
Bird Seed (check out the dollar stores for cheap buys on seed)
Peanut Butter
Suet (I used bacon grease)
pinecones
wire (approximately 12 inches long)
citrus rinds
ribbon or twine (approximately 10 inches long)
large nail
cookie sheet
spatula
large bowl
Wrap one end of the wire around the top of the pinecone and shape the remaining end into a hook.  Combine the peanut butter and bacon grease (or suet) and use a spatula to spread the mixture in between the spaces of the pinecone.  Working over a cookie sheet will minimize the mess.  Pour your bird seed into the bowl and roll your pinecones in the mixure. 


Use the nail to pierce 3 holes in each of the citrus rinds.  Thread a piece of ribbon or twine through each hole and tie in place.  Take the 3 lengths of ribbon and tie a knot at the top for hanging.  Cut off any excess ribbon.  Fill the rinds with bird seed.


Hang your bird feeders in the tree. Throw any excess pieces of ribbon in the tree for added pizazz as well as material for nesting.  I placed my tree on an old shower curtain to keep the falling seed from germinating.

This is a quick and easy crafting project that would be fun to do with your children or grandchildren.
The bird feeders were inspired by the book "Crafts for all Seasons" by Lorraine Bodger and Delia Ephron.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Potatoes in a box

I'm starting my project, finally and even though I wish I had better potatoes to work with, I am dedicated to getting this first project off of the ground.  Since I haven't prepared anything other than choosing the project and site, I am starting from scratch at around 3:20 pm.  The spot I chose is next to one of the compost bins.  I have been using it as a holding spot, but it hasn't been living up to it's full potentail.

I pulled out the Alstromaria that is taking over my yard and moved stuff out of the way.  I added some partially composted materials from the bin right next to this spot.  I assembled all of my supplies for the project:


I have a cardboard box, rope, sharp knife, whole leaves, shredded leaves and potatoes.  A quick tip I learned from Paul James - The gardening guy - if you want to shred leaves quickly, place them in a trash can and use your weed eater to break them up quickly and easily.  
I opened up the tops and bottoms of the box, and set it on the ground with the flaps out.  I covered the flaps with mulch from the compost bin.  Not having any potting soil, I made layers out of mulch, whole leaves and shredded leaves covered with more mulch.  I placed the potatoes on top of this, then covered everything with more organic materials.

I tied the rope around the box for a little additional stability.
Once finished, I watered everything with some of the last of the rain water I saved in our barrels, and labeled the box with the type of potato (Trader Joe's Gold).




All in all the project was quite easy, taking only slightly over an hour from start to finish.  If I am fortunate enough to have vines show up, I will add more compost and leaves to the box keeping everything covered and well watered.   The results (good or bad) will be published in future posts.
My thanks to Elfie Taylor, who submitted this tip to Organic Gardening magazine.
Additional thanks to Gardenweb.com blogger "gtippitt". 
Tonight my husband and I are taking down our Christmas tree  (yes, I realize Christmas was weeks ago).  We will be taking it, stand and all, into the yard where I will decorate it with edibles for our wildlife friends.  Just maybe if they have something of their own to eat, they will leave my dinner alone.

Follow up 04/17/11
The origional potatoes that I planted didn't sprout.  They must have been sprayed with some pretty good stuff.  I pulled them up and threw them in the compost bin. I had some Russet potatoes that were sprouting so I used those as a replacement.  Low and behold, there were vines.

I noticed the first leaves about a week ago and I covered them with some composted leaves and mulch.  Within a couple of days they had grown through, so I covered them again.  I will continue covering the vines until I run out of room to do so.  Hopefully they will be ready to harvest by then.
I still have a few potatoes left.  My plans for them include a black plastic bag and some straw.
I can already taste my first new potatoes.

Follow-up 05/05/2011
The potatoes have been growing at a rate that is hard to keep up with.  I have been covering the vines almost daily so it didn't take long to reach the top of the box.  My husband found a box that fit on top of the one we were using.  We placed it on the bottom box, taping the flaps open for more room.  We covered the vines with compost and pine needles.

This is the best potato crop I've had by far.  I'll keep you updated.

05/20/2011
Follow up:
The vines continue to grow rapidly.  I cover them with leaves and other brown material on an almost daily basis. 

We are almost to the top of the 2nd box.  I'm waiting for flowers to appear among the green leaves.  At that point I will lift up the bottom of the box and search for some of the small new potatoes. 
Watch for weekly follow ups.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

At the starting gate

The big day has arrived and I'm ready to start my first project. This project is growing potatoes in a box.  In the past I have had mixed results with growing potatoes.  I can cut off a few eyes, throw the scraps in the compost bin, and find a few new potatoes when I'm sifting the compost.  I've also bought seed potatoes, planted them according to the directions, and barely had enough for one meal.  I really want to grow my own potatoes, and I have two different potato growing projects.
I found this project on the internet on gardenweb.com.  What a great site with all of kinds of  useful information.

I've located an old box that is ready to be recycled, some thin rope to tie around it to keep it together, and some potatoes.  Now, usually if I have potatoes in the pantry they are sprouting, but not this time.  That would be too easy.  But I did the best I could and found some that had small eyes.  They were bought at Trader Joe's and were called "gold" potatoes.  I cut them into pieces with a few eyes on each and left them to dry until tomorrow. 


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Frugal Garden Projects and Tips

Are you someone who loves to garden but hates to spend money?  I enjoy garden shops and nursery’s as much as the next person, maybe more. Who isn't tempted by the garden art, tools, supplies and fancy container’s.  But specialty stores can be expensive, and I have a hard time parting with money when it isn't necessary.  I found that many of the things you find in the stores can be made at home with stuff you already have.
This site is a spot where I can share many of the garden ideas I have learned over the years.  Follow me as I document 365 blogs of tips and projects that cost under $5.00, with many projects made for free by reusing items that I have around the house.
All the ideas are geared towards organic and sustainable gardening, and I always attempt to reuse, recycle and renew, which is my general goal in life.
While some of the ideas are my own, many were learned from magazines, television, books and websites.  I will always try and give credit where credit is do, so my projects will include info or links to the original sites whenever possible.
 I am looking forward to this year. It is a chance to do what I love most (Gardening) while spreading the word on how to save gardening dollars by reusing stuff you were ready to throw out.