07 February 2012

Garden Thrift

After reading the posts about being thrifty on Claudia's lovely blog, I began to think of the ways I've cut costs in my own little cottage and I realized that my penchant for repurposing leans very heavily towards the garden. I enjoy using unlikely items as "garden ornaments" and have walked through the streets countless times carrying (or dragging) various discarded bibs and bobs back to my garden.  In fact my reputation is such that my neighbors have started bringing me things they find on trash day if they think I might use it.  (The wooden oars that rest against the crook of an apple tree in the side garden seem to be just waiting for a boat to float along.   A gift from a neighbor who said "I knew you'd want these.")

But in addition to whimsy, I've learned that I can also create useful things at little or no cost. 

House and garden design books are so inspiring. Who doesn't love paging through the lucious pictures, imagining that trellis or those moss covered jardiniers in their own garden?  But I have neither the money nor the right tools to buy or build many of the things I covet, so I've taken to 'cheating' a bit ... bringing elements into the garden in ways I can afford and accomplish on my own.  (Or with the help of kind neighbors who pass along items they no longer need or donate hours of sweat equity!) For example, I can place the discarded wrought iron mirror from one neighbor on top of the iron treadle of another neighbor's old sewing machine and end up with a new garden table by the front door. 

Here are two items I recommend for the financially challenged or power-tool impaired. 

I once lived in a house where the landlord had beautiful raised beds for his herbs.  You can buy raised beds to put together, but they're a little pricey. And I don't have the proper tools to build them myself. I solved this by placing an old wooden ladder on the ground and planting herbs in between the rungs. Instant "raised bed"!

 Before ...
 ... after.

I have always yearned for a little pergola at the front of my cottage, where I can sit and enjoy the morning or afternoon sun in summer, or the mid-day sun in winter.  Again, a 'proper' pergola was cost-prohibitive and/or too difficult for me to construct on my own. My solution was to buy two trellises (on sale!) and place them a few feet apart.  Instant "pergola"!

 Early spring ...
 ... much later in the season when the garden is high enough
to afford quite a bit of privacy.

I don't have pictures to post for the 'thrifty garden solutions' below, but will try to remedy that this summer. 

I love to grow flowers that ramble and climb—moonflower, morning glory, bittersweet, roses, scarlet runner beans—and I've found that old headboards make the best trellises. I have a Danish modern one, a white iron one, and a gold-painted wooden one.  I also use old wooden step ladders as trellises, and find the steps are the perfect place for flower pots.... as long as the squirrels don't knock them off.

Garden stoneware can be quite expensive, but cinderblocks can be purchased fairly cheaply.  Here's a nifty concoction that can grow garden moss on your cinderblocks and make them look 'old'.  Plant flowers down inside the cinderblock holes and you have a lovely 'old' jardiniere.

Gather a clump of moss, removing as much dirt from the moss as possible.
Place moss in a blender and add one of the following:
  • 1 cup of yoghurt or
  • 1 cup of buttermilk or
  • 1 can of beer (plus 1 tsp sugar)
Blend thoroughly to pulverize the moss. 
It should end up as a very thick 'soup'.
(A good ratio is 1 part moss to 4 parts liquid.)

Spread the soupy mixture onto your object wherever you want
the moss to grow using a brush or your fingers

What is it about February that makes me want to write about nothing but gardens.... 


  1. You've shared great ways to use what we can find to create magic in our homes, love it!

  2. I'll bet you can hide from neighbors in your wonderful instant pergola. You have such clever ideas.

  3. I can see them but they can't see me! Only the neighborhood cats can find me....