As Climate Week winds down, I find myself pondering how gardeners worldwide can help the environment beyond planting trees and other plants that help clean and create the air we breathe.
Reusing items in the garden is nothing new. My parents do it by reusing string and fencing every year. My father uses old cattle panels to make tomato cages as well. I have used an old clothing rack in the garden for years. I make a web of string on it and grow pole beans up the trellis.
The book “1001 Ingenious Gardening Ideas,” published by Rodale Press, includes many projects that reuse and recycle items which fall right in line with this eco-conscious Climate Week, which corresponded with the United Nations Climate Action Summit. Plastic abounds in the landfills and our recycle bins. Many of us have great intentions of recycling all the plastic we consume, but reusing it can be even better. Plastic has a very long shelf life and that can be a good thing in the garden.
In the vegetable garden, plastic 2-liter bottles can be used in a variety of ways. Mini-greenhouses can be made by laying the bottle on its side, poking some holes for bottom drainage and creating a top flap to access the seedlings.
Another useful way to use a plastic bottle in the garden involves watering. Cut the bottom off the bottle, drill some random holes in the capped top and plant the bottle (upside down) in the ground with the plant. When watering, fill up the open end with water and this system will slowly hydrate your plants at the roots. Slow watering controls water runoff and keeps it right where plants need it most, in the root zone.
Another version of the watering system above, which I personally use and it works great, is to drill holes all around the body of the bottle so the water has more spots to escape.
The book also relates a story of how one orchardist made a trap for destructive codling moths by hanging a 2-liter bottle sideways in the trees before they blossomed and filled it with a mixture of vinegar and molasses.
But 2-liters aren’t the only plastic that can help in the garden. PVC pipes are incredibly useful as well. They can be used to water like the 2-liters but in a larger capacity, perfect for trees and shrubs.
PVC pipe can also be used in orchards. Use a pipe that fits your fruit, cut a notch in the pipe to knock the fruit off the tree and down through the pipe and into your harvest basket.
PVC is often used for making hoop row covers or even securing blanket-style covers to the ground.
One of the most creative ways to use plastic as suggested in the book involves groundhogs. Yes, those rascals of the vegetable garden are really hard to get out, but plastic sheeting can help. Use old sheets of greenhouse plastic to set up a 3-feet tall fence. The groundhogs won’t be able to climb up the slick, flat fence.
Reusing hard-to-recycle items is not only great for our environment but it is also fun. The next time you need something done in the garden, look through your recycle bin. You could find a treasure trove of garden hacks!