Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I love Christmas.  The beautiful holiday decorations, the incredible food, the time spent and memories made with family and friends.  This really is the most wonderful time of the year for me.  What I don't like is the waste.  With all of the boxes, paper and packages, it can be a challenge to keep trash cans and recycling bins from overflowing.  But holiday celebrating doesn't have to be a burden on landfills and recycling centers.  With a little fore thought, just about everything can be reused and recycled.  Here are some of the ways I keep my Christmas "almost zero waste".

After the Christmas presents are opened and the gifts are put away I separate the gift wrapping into 6 piles:


       Gift wrap, gift bags, ribbons, boxes, "crinkled" tissue paper and "uncrinkled" tissue paper.

                      Folded gift bags slide them under the couch for reuse next year.

            Tissue paper is reused for holiday/birthday gift giving and craft projects.

            "Crinkled" tissue paper protects fragile holiday decorations.

Large sheets of wrapping paper can be folded and reused next year.  Reuse torn or crumpled pieces of wrapping paper to fill in extra space when storing your holiday decorations.

                          Store ribbon and reuse for craft projects and gift giving.

Gift boxes can be stacked and stored for future gift giving use.  Larger boxes can be used to store holiday decorations. 

Cardboard can also be composted or used at the bottom of raised beds

A compost bin and box make a great seed starting tray. 
 The heat from the bin warms the soil
and gets my seeds growing quickly

Next Christmas, when I bring out my holiday decorations, I reuse the boxes and wrapping paper to ship Christmas gifts.  Using Christmas wrapping paper gives me one more reuse of the paper, adds a festive touch to the boxes, and eliminates the use of those pesky Styrofoam peanuts that everyone hates. 

   For smaller gifts and boxes, and for craft projects I shred the wrapping paper.


No need to waste a good Christmas tree.  When the holidays are over we drag it out (stand and all) and turn it in to a bird feeder.  These are great crafts to do with the kids and grandkids.

In early spring I thin out the branches, shredding them to use as a mulch around acid loving plants.

In the summer I placed the thinned out trunk in one of the raised beds and used it as a green bean trellis. 

In the fall we cut it up our tree, mulching and composting the small branches.  The trunk was cut into logs and left in the wood pile to dry.  Next winter it will warm us when burned in our fireplace. The ashes from the wood will be placed in the compost bin.

                          Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Easy, Upcycled Bird Feeder

I love teacups.  They're practical and beautiful, and when you're drinking out of an old teacup you can imagine the history-the guests seated around a dining room table, enjoying dessert and discussing marriages and kids.  Oh wait, I may be daydreaming again.  Anyway, I saw the cutest teacup bird feeder idea on pinterest.

The artist (Robbyn Mast) used it as a birdfeeder but you could also use it to hold water for birds, butterflies and insects, or you can plant a succulent garden in it.  The possibilities are endless. This idea spoke to my love of the garden, everything old and upcycling.
It looked simple to make and I knew I had everything I needed here at home but it turns out I wasn't ready to part with my grandma's teacups so I've been checking out our local thrift stores every once in awhile.  Wouldn't you know it, they've been a little scarce these days.  But I'm patient, and persistent and it recently paid off with this find at the local Goodwill store.  The cup and saucer cost just .79 each.  I had on hand: household cement (water resistant), a narrow throated bottle (any old bottle will do) to hold my teacup upright, and some sandpaper to rough up the surface of the ceramic.  The roughing up was something that was recommended on the cement package though I'm not too sure it was necessary.

 5 items-5 minute project 
I gave the cup and saucer a quick once over with the sandpaper.

Glue the cup and saucer together.  Put the cement around the edges of the cup and not in the indentation in the center like I did the first time.  Hold the pieces together for 60 seconds. 

Put the cement around the edges of the glass bottle
Press the bottle to the bottom of the teacup and hold for another 60 seconds. 
Let the whole thing dry, upside down, for 2-3 hours (or overnight if you can wait that long).
                                          This couldn't have been more simple.

I love this is my garden

I used an old piece of rebar to perch my garden teacup upon but there are a ton of things you could substitute  (bamboo cane, broken broomstick, copper pipe, pvc pipe) as long as it fits the opening of your bottle.  
Some bird seed will scatter (and germinate) so keep that in mind when looking for a spot to display your teacup feeder.
Enjoy vintage, upcycled garden art and make your local wildlife happy.
Be well and happy gardening!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Crazy For Corks

In my never ending quest to not throw things out I've become a bit of a hoarder. An organized hoarder, as my son says, but a hoarder none the less.  I have baskets, boxes, bowls and cupboards filled with things that I'm not throwing out because I know I can make something out of them.
I believe almost everything can be repurposed, it just needs to be nicely stored until I can figure out what that repurpose is.
The problem is, at some point I have to do something with all this "stuff" or I'll end up running out of room. 

                          A container of wine corks just waiting to be repurposed

After searching the internet for ideas to reuse my corks in the garden I came across a cute and rustic plant marker on the Huffington Post.  The project is from Artsy Vava.    You need only 4 items and no crafting experience.

Wouldn't you know it, I had everything I needed on hand.
                                     Center the fork on the cork and press hard. 

                                 The natural holes in the cork make this job easy.

Wrap the twine around the top portion of the fork handle.  I found it was easiest to wrap the twine from the bottom up.  If you hold a small piece of the twine against the fork you can wrap the twine up, securing the end of the twine as you go.  Finish off at the top with a knot.
Tie a separate piece of twine over the knot and make a bow.
Write the name of your flower or herb on the cork with a permanent ink marker.

                                              My quick and cute plant marker

1 cork down, 1 full jar of corks to go.  I guess there's always cork mulching.  Check out my blog on Feb. 03, 2013, The Miracles of Mulching.
Be well and happy Gardening.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transplanting Tons of Tomatoes

I was quite busy this spring starting seeds under grow lights.  Squash, peppers, tomatoes, you name it, if I have a pot, a package of seeds and a bit of potting soil I'm putting them together.

                                                   Reusing yogurt cups

I love watching (and journaling) the progress.  From the first seedlings sprouting through the soil, through transplanting and lastly,  harvesting the rewards of my work, raising plants from seed is always a wonderful journey.

                                       Tomato plants waiting for an outdoor home

I don't have enough large pots (or potting soil for that matter) so a combination of composting and upcycling are in order.

I started with a couple of old, cracked trashcans.  I didn't want to use up all my potting soil so I used my "Lasagna Gardening" method to compost in the bottom while growing on top (check out my blog on June 09. 2013, Terrific Tomato Pots).  Todays tomato pot ingredients: magnolia pods, sifted compost, shredded paper, kitchen scraps, potting soil and tomato seedlings.
My assembly line

Use a trashcan lid (turned upside down) as a saucer if you are worried about water staining the driveway. 
To take up room while helping with drainage I added a foot of Magnolia pods.

                                                  Magnolia pods and twigs
I alternated browns (leaves and paper) with greens (grass and kitchen scraps) until the trashcan was full.

         I finished by filling the pot with a 1/2 bag of potting soil and planted my tomato plants. 

Planted and ready for take off

To keep the water in the saucers from pooling up and turning smelly (not to mention the worries of mosquitos and West Nile virus) I added potting soil around the base of the tomato pots.  I mixed in some chive seeds, hoping to get a mini crop from my method, but only one or two sprouted.
As the level of potting soil drops (and the compostable material decompose) I can add additional soil.  Tomato plants don't mind extra soil on their stems, in fact, they can actually grow roots out of their stems, making the entire plant stronger.
After a few weeks, the plants were doing so well that I added a 3rd tomato plant and a smaller pot with a melon seedling.

3 tomato plants, 1 melon, 1 rosemary and an
amaranth plant happily soaking up the sun.
I can't wait until these are ripe
"Sungold" cherry tomatoes
Potted plants can dry out quickly so be sure to check the soil moisture daily.
Enjoy your summer tomatoes.
Be well and happy gardening!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Toddlers And Tomatoes

My favorite days are usually either spent with family, or spent in the garden.  If I can combine the two, it's a win-win situation.  Imagine how excited I am to have a project that combines my granddaughter, our garden AND recycling.  It's almost too much to contain. 
It seems I've finally found a use for the cereal bag liners I'd been saving.  That's a load off my mind because recently I pulled out the drawer and couldn't push it back into place.  All the bags I'd been saving had slipped behind the drawer, accumulating week by week until I had dozens stored between the drawer and the back of the cabinet.  On the plus side, I haven't bought a plastic bag for years, but what should a frugal garden grandma do with all those bags?  How about plant tomatoes with the youngest family gardener.
This project is so easy even a two year old can do it!
The items you need are:
cereal bags (or any other plastic bag)
hole punch (or another sharp item)
container to hold bags upright
potting soil
tomato seeds

                                   Punch drainage holes in the bottom of your bags

                      Roll down the sides of the bags until you have about 3-4 inches remaining

               Place your bags in your container so they are wedged together and will stay upright

Kids love to dig so put the soil in a bucket, hand them a shovel and let them fill the bags.  There's some great eye/hand coordination going on here

Hand your little one's some seeds to sow.  This is great hand and finger work.  Don't forget to throw in some counting...1, 2, 3 seeds in each bag

              Softly press the soil to make sure the seed makes contact with the seed

Everything needs water so give the soil and the seeds a big drink.  It might be a good idea for everyone to stop and rehydrate here.
If you want to get the seeds growing really fast, put a piece of plastic over the top and let your mini green house heat up, otherwise, just give it a week or so and you'll see the seedlings popping up. 

Tomato seedlings (just like our little ones) grow really fast.  When you see that the seedlings have two sets of real leaves, unfold a roll of your cereal bag, carefully sprinkle in an inch or so of soil, and let the seedlings continue to grow.  Tomato seedlings can grow roots out of their stems and adding soil will help you grow strong plants.  Continue growing in the bag until you run out of rolls, or you get tired of caring for a bag, whichever comes first.

                                         Wanted:  Space for Tomato Seedlings!
Dig a deep hole or find a good sized pot and fill with soil.  An old "trashcan" makes a wonderful pot. Use a scissor to cut down the side and bottom of the bag and remove the tomato plant.  Place your plant in the hole and remove any leaves below the soil line.  Refill the hole with soil, pressing firmly to get the stem and roots in contact with the soil.  Water well to help your plants acclimate to their new surroundings.

                              Get ready for your little gardener to love tomatoes.

                                               Be well and happy gardening!