Garden Construction on a Budget

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There is something particularly satisfying about making something useful and attractive out of material that would often be send to the landfill. Becoming a good recycler in the garden not only saves money but is good for the environment.

A primary requirement for good garden recycling is an active imagination. You’ve got to see possibilities in things others have thrown or might throw away; might give away if properly asked; or, as a last resort, might sell cheaply.

Among the most familiar recycled materials found in the home garden is broken concrete, scrap lumber, and used brick. With more imagination, old tires, wire cable spools, wooden crates and pallets can be used effectively.

Scrap lumber from construction projects, demolitions or similar sources is usually free but may be difficult to work with due to varying sizes, nails, and chemical treatment. However such scraps can make great patio containers or window boxes. Bird houses, feeding stations and other small structures for wildlife require a minimum of wood, so make great add on projects to use up the scraps.

Wonderful planters can be made from trees with hollow center. Cut in lengths of 2 feet, they can be set on end and a pot of flowers set in the center. Longer lengths can be laid along a patio or walk way and segment of the side removed to allow the center to be filled with soil and planted.

Broken concrete, in sizes approximately 4 inches thick by 12 inches wide by 24 inches long, can be stacked for garden walls. Leave pockets for plants spaced along the wall. Working with these can be very hard on the hands so wear heavy gloves. For patios, odd shapes of concrete result in a flagstone appearance and lend themselves well to interplanting. An acid stain will give concrete a more stonelike appearance.

Used bricks can be less expensive and more attractive than new ones in a rustic garden setting. Beware of using brick from the inner layers of thick brick walls or from buildings that have burned. They may not be weather resistant and you may end up with a “brick dust” patio.

As your recycling experience grows, so will your imagination and quick eye. There are even stories of one gardener who used bed springs to trellis cucumbers.

Written By

Photo of Deborah HunterDeborah HunterCounty Extension Administrative Assistant (828) 349-2046 debbie_hunter@ncsu.eduMacon County, North Carolina
Posted on Jan 6, 2016
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