Gardening and Landscaping
• Consider your landscaping. If you just like good looks but don't want the work - zeroscape. Use only local or native plants. Plan your yard or garden based on what your needs are AND what is good for your location.
• I live in the high desert of New Mexico. So I have very little grass and it is blue gamma and buffalo, native to this area. I use handmade rolling container “waffle” gardens for my vegetables. These above ground planters are on wheels made of scrap lumber, a neighbor’s old pond lining and straw bales that are plastered over. I even decorated these with old broken wine, beer, pickle, etc. bottles to make Mosaic southwestern designs on the outside of the planters. What in ground plants are in the yard are watered with a sub-surface drip system that reduces evaporation and are set on a timer.
• In the desert use “sunken” or “protected” bed gardens to keep the wind off your plants so they use less water. Use drip irrigation instead of surface spraying that allows for more water to soak into the roots of the plants rather than evaporate into the air, lowering your water use and in my case the water bill.
• Like to grow fruits and vegetables? Don't get stuck in the row rut. Do intensive or companion gardening. Fewer pests, less fertilizer, less weeding, less water. Example: Sunflower, corn, squash or zucchini with pole beans. Carrots with tomatoes. Plant in small groups or waffles with a path in between. Spread like kinds of plants to avoid cross-pollination.
• My neighbor has his own tool that chops/grinds/mulches his yard trimmings. He also uses it for meat, poultry and fish bones since he buys in bulk or a half a steer at a time and then adds to his compost.
• Desert Water Features. Old water bottles were cut up into halves and, along with crumpled tin cans and added to the inside of a plaster mold of boulders. The base was a 42 inch old kiddie pool with a 30 gallon fish tank pump and some clear fish tank hose. The plastic bottles and cans filled the inside of the mold and the water trickles down them. They can't be seen, as it just looks like a pile of boulders with a small crack down the front, but you still get the soothing sound of trickling water. This is my water feature. You gotta remember I live in the desert and didn't want to have to worry about a lot of evaporation and wasted water. So this gives me the soothing sound of water but very little evaporation. I only fill the well once a summer. The local roadrunner has discovered this water feature and with his long beak can get inside the crack and take a drink. It drives the squirrels and chipmunks nuts!
• Old baskets, lunchboxes, bowls, cans, boots, purses and the like can be lined with plastic grocery bags or used Ziploc bags, rubber mats, etc. and turned into planters or flower pots.
Neat Crafts and Uses for Common Trash Items
I was lucky enough one summer to volunteer for a community summer program for middle school children. The kids spent the last few months of school collecting all sorts of things that were going to be or were thrown out in the trash. Then we all figured out what we could do with all this stuff. Through various crafts we made new items out of the trash and sold them at the end of the summer as a fund raiser for the next year’s summer project.
Below are some of the items we collected, re-made and sold.
Bin style toy racks: If you have one of these left over from a child or grandchild that is not quite good enough to be donated and reused as it was originally intended; you can use it for the following:
- • Organize your crafts and hobbies in the bins
- • Organize tools and other home improvement items. You can reuse Ziploc bags to hold nuts, bolts, washers, screws and then place in bin. Note: To clean the Ziploc bag so it won't smell, soak in ¼ cup bleach to 1 quart water for about an hour and turn inside out to dry before using.
- • Turn it into a recycle center. Reuse plastic shopping bags to line each bin. Fill with paper, plastic, metal and glass. Each bin/plastic bag is ready for recycle pickup and is small enough to be easy to handle from children and adults alike.
- • Turn it into a canned goods center. Organize your soups, vegetables, etc. in the bins.
- • Organize your sewing or knitting yarn in the bins.
- • Turn it into a stackable container garden. Drill holes in bottom of bins. About 1-2 inches apart. Line bottom with used thin (one sheet) layer of newspaper or scrap fabric and used dryer sheets (to keep the soil from escaping), add soil and plants. Great for strawberry's, herbs, mint and any non-deep rooted plant.
- • Put it in your closet and turn it into a shoe, handbag and accessory rack. Belts, scarves, hankies and the like.
- • Turn it into a magazine rack for those you wish to keep. Organize by magazine name or type.
- • Use it to store office supplies for your home office. Paper, notepads, hole punch, stapler, paperclips, envelopes and the like. Note: Use old wrapping paper, used aluminum foil or paint to decorate the bins. Note: If painting the paint will last longer without flaking if you rough the surface up a bit with sandpaper before painting.
- • Cut up and use as stuffing for pillows, toys and the like.
- • These make great filters that can fit over almost any surface. They work great to skim the fat off the top of sauces or to wash and drain fruits and vegetables or capture lint from the dryer vent.
- • Stretch over an old embroidery hoop and use as a grease guard over a pan when frying. Note: These will melt if they come in contact with the heated pan surface, so I make sure the hoop matches the inner rim of the pan. That way the hose do not actually touch the pan, only the hoop does.
- • Use to hold socks, good panty hose, delicate undergarments and other small items to keep them together and protect them when washing.
- • Use as a patch for screens. A little super glue works great to hold the patch in place.
- • Use as the holder of your spices that you do not want to stay loose in soups, stews and sauces. You can tie it off with a little cooking string.
- • Make a sachet of herbs and or dried flowers to keep drawers sweat smelling.
- • You can weave them together to make the bag portion of a tote bag and then braid some for the handle. Sew together with heavy duty thread or leather binding. Voila a - super strong tote bag. Note: You can dye to any color you like, embroider on it or paint on it with fabric paint or line it with patchwork fabric scraps, to spice it up.
- • Clean the bag by turning inside out and soaking in 1/4 cup bleach to 1 quart water for about an hour. After drying, these can then be reused for additional food storage, even meat, as long as the seal (the zip part) still works like new.
- • Put paperclips, buttons, thread, zippers, nuts, bolts, screws, pens, pencils, snaps, small game pieces and the like in them to keep things organized.
- • Use to protect the items in your luggage when traveling by putting your deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, medicine bottles and the like in them. If camping, use to hold the soap and other small items.
- • If the bag has split seams or small holes, use it to line the bottom of a plant pot/container by adding more holes (so the planter can drain excess water) then add your soil and plant.
- • Paint them after washing and add letters, numbers or other images on them for building blocks.
- • Believe it or not these make great small water features. Remove the plastic top and have the water run over them. The sound is unique and quite soothing. Depending on the water feature kit you get (they usually contain the pump, tubing and electric cord) and the collection bin/tub you use these become one of a kind in house water features. Mix and match with other water cascade items to make different sounds.
- • Make a wind chime by painting and stringing with fishing line.
- • Make a rain chain. I painted mine before adding an old dog chain and it works great as well as being unique.
- • Make decorative lights. For a community farmers market we punched some holes in the tins then strung them with an old strand of Christmas lights and hung them around our booth. The glowing spices and herbs made a great accent to go with our produce stand. Note: We used the 'pour' side of the lid to insert the bulb.
- • Turn them into garden plant labels. Either use the correct empty herb or spice tin for your spices and herbs or paint and then label. Use a tin cutter to cut a slit in the bottom of the tin and insert a Popsicle stick or old unmatched flatware, and then put in the ground by the plant.
- • Make ornaments for your tree out of them. These can be painted or decorated or used as is.