Before heading out for garden supplies this spring, shop your pantry, closets, garage and attic. Repurpose common household items and save money as you declutter. Some ideas:
Stack two or three of the same size and drill or punch three holes in the bottoms. Add potting mix, a few seeds and some more mix. Label with a permanent marker or sticker.
Quart-sized ones work best for fast-growing plants, especially vegetables like cucumber, zucchini and other squash. Smaller containers can handle most herbs and flowers.
Once plants are in the ground, cut the bottoms off the yogurt containers and use the cylinders as collars to protect young seedlings from wind and pests. Recycle them and start saving for next spring.
Old vinyl blinds
Take the blinds apart and cut Individual slats to lengths with space for two sets of plant names. Use a permanent marker to write plant names twice – one for above ground one for below.
Sun and rain fade the visible areas but the parts below ground remain easy to read for more than a year. For herbaceous perennials that die back annually, the system provides double insurance against overzealous weeding and mowing.
The vinyl itself also is more durable than many commercial plant markers and with “give,” vinyl markers don’t snap like hard plastic ones do.
Berry bins and take-out boxes
Create mini-greenhouses with lidded berry pints and quarts and restaurant to-go containers. Of course wash them first and rinse well.
Tops and bottoms of berry packs are perforated already but take-out containers need slits or holes in both spots. Use enough potting mix to fill the bottoms about halfway, higher if the tops are deep.
Keep the lids on until the seeds germinate and, if space permits, produce their first set of true leaves. Cut the lids off or move to larger containers once plants are established.
Forget about porous black or dark green garden cloth and use newspaper under mulch instead. Set aside the ads, coupons and glossy sections to recycle. Plan on 10 layers of “pre-mulch” with edges of each stack overlapping.
Keep some bricks or rocks nearby because the wind will undo your work in seconds. Wetting the newspaper makes it easier to work with, and rubber gloves aren’t a bad idea, either. Cover with 3-to-4 inches of mulch at water well.
Piercing newspaper for new plantings is much easier than wrestling with garden cloth. Water and nutrients pass through the paper, which adds fibrous material and helps aerate the soil as it breaks down.
Punch a hole in two or three aluminum pie pans and tie them together for quick noisemakers to deter deer and squirrels. Catch runoff from seedlings with old cafeteria trays, which great for moving plants outside, and back in, to harden off. Store seeds from open packets in plastic prescription bottles, using packet fronts as liners for easy identification.
Look around and get creative. Spend precious gardening dollars on the fun stuff – new plants.