Thursday, May 21, 2009

Garden materials selection

I ain't got a barrel,
I can't go a travellin'...honey,
With nothin' to do,
I'll stick with you,
Side by side.

Remember that song?
I can't verify those are the precise words to the song because I couldn't find it on the Internet (oh my!). It's an oldie though, maybe from the thirties or forties? No matter. I'm not going to hum a few bars.

Because I don't have a barrel of money, I shop carefully, watch newspaper ads, and sometimes attend auctions.

I learned a lot from my Mom and Dad--especially about creative uses for common materials. Dad made wood toy axles by threading the ends of brass welding rod when any kind of steel was scarce during WW2. He also made wooden hinges using nails for the pivots. Mom painted old pickling crockery and used it for outdoor "waste baskets". My brother and I used old drapery rods (the tubular variety) for our blow guns and we cut flat felt scraps into tiny circles and inserted 6-penny nails in the center to make darts (very effective and accurate up to twenty feet or so).

Indirectly, my parents taught me to find creative uses for things that may otherwise be discarded. Hence, I don't throw out much (to the chagrin of my wife, but that's another story). So...what's that got to do with gardening?

When it comes to selecting materials to enhance my garden, I look around. I ask: Does the item I want for my garden have to be made from wood, or concrete, or whatever? I'll also consider the unusual.

I discovered a couple of pallets of 1- by 2-inch wood stock in 12- to 18-foot lengths at a building materials auction. No one else bid on them, so I got them cheap. When others have very little imagination, they pass up deals on GREAT stuff. It took four trips with our 3/4-ton Suburban fully loaded to bring that great pile of wood home. I have it stored and covered in three piles. It is a "lifetime" supply of material. My wife is dubious that I'll use it all, but I time.

A portion of my "lifetime supply" of 1- by 2-inch stock (this one is four feet high).

I've found uses for other stuff, too.

When a tree fell on our house, I chain-sawed some of the trunk into 2 to 6-inch thick rounds for use as "stepping stones" alongside our pond.

Chain-sawn wood rounds used as "stepping stones" around the pond.

I had an excess of rock (left over from my pond-building project) and used some of these leftovers for additional pathways.

Leftover rock is a new pathway from arbor to (as-yet unbuilt) "secret" garden.

My shed is 90% recycled materials.

Interior view of garden mini-shed.

Other ways of saving on materials include: dividing roots, saving seeds, "layering" plants, and propagating hardwood and softwood cuttings to build up my supply of plants.

Mother Nature also provides. Birds (and squirrels) contribute seeds around my yard and under trees (mostly these are undesirable plants, but there have been pleasant surprises). I usually will let things grow until I recognize them to be good or bad plants for my yard before pulling/transplanting them.

Cutting propagation planting tray. Close to the kitchen door.

Saving money is actually fun. Especially in the current economic climate.

It doesn't mean I won't spend money. I do invest in quality concrete and metal post holders and long-lasting pressure-treated wood I also use long-lasting cedar where appropriate.

Because I like the "natural" look of things, I don't use plastic for anything except planting trays or planting pots. I recycle (triple-rinsed) 1-gallon milk containers because I like the ease of carrying several at a time (I leave the handles on and poke holes with an ice pick into the bottoms for drainage). Yeah, they're ugly, but free.

Free 1-gallon containers for starting seeds and cuttings.

I'm even planning a sculpture (or wall plaque?) using old lawn mower parts. I'll call it "yard" art. It will reside in my side garden (so as not to embarrass my honey when she shows off the yard).

Planning each project is important so as not to waste materials. Before I head to The Home Depot, I see what materials I have on hand. If I need 6-foot boards, I don't buy 8-footers and trim off two feet. I'll buy 12-footers instead and cut them in half. No waste, that way, and it's more economical, too.

I realize that this article will be appreciated by like-minded persons. The rest of you can think I'm NUTS. That's okay, it takes all kinds to make a world.

1 comment:

  1. your thriftiness is what makes your style unique. not only do you do cool things with the garden, you find cheap ways to do them. same effort, less money, a garden that looks just as good = better method.