Tag Archives: gardening with kids

Recycled garden containers

Fabulous Ideas for Using Recycled Items in Your Garden

Gardening can be an expensive business! You might want to fill your garden with flowers, or grow your own vegetables, (or perhaps a little of both), but if you buy everything new, you can expect a large hole in your wallet! However, gardening doesn’t have to cost the earth – in fact, with a touch of imagination and by investing some time, you can have a garden that looks amazing for very little. If you have kids, you can harness their creativity and boundless energy, and get them involved in making a beautiful garden. Who knows – it could be the start of instilling a love for gardening that will last their whole life?

So here are seven areas where you can use recycled items in your garden.

1. Recycled pots

Unless you’re lucky enough to have acres of space in your garden, you’ll probably need to plant some things in pots. Planting in pots has several advantages. For example, you can place herbs just near your kitchen door to avoid trekking miles to cut them and you can also have sweet-scented flowers sited near your patio area. But don’t just rely on plastic pots, or even expensive shop-bought ones. Try a bank of colourful wellies (with holes punched in the bottom for drainage), old shoes or boots, or even an old watering can. Food tins are also great – even better if you can get hold of some catering-sized models! Plastic milk containers also work well, or try cutting the top off 2L plastic drinks bottles.

Wellie plant pots

Photo courtesy of Oor Woolie at Flickr Creative Commons

Plastic bottle planter

Photo courtesy of Daniel Morrison at Flickr Creative Commons

2. Large planters

Some plants and vegetables do better in a larger container or planter, so use your imagination to utilise household objects. Wooden orange boxes or vegetable crates are good, but remember to line them with plastic to keep the damp soil away from the wood, or it will rot.

Recycled garden container

Photo courtesy of Scrappy Annie at Flickr Creative Commons

Wicker baskets and hampers can also be used, or take a innovative approach with old toys e.g. a dumper truck or toy trailer. Or how about old car tyres? Space them singly or pile them into an impromptu rockery – liven them up with brightly coloured paint or leave them black for a more natural look.

Recycled kids trailer

Photo courtesy of Wicker Paradise at Flickr Creative Commons

3. Plant stands

Smaller pots and containers often look best when displayed all together on a plant stand. But commercial plant stands are expensive, so try a recycled one instead. A raft of brilliant pelargoniums look superb on an antique step-ladder. Train climbers, such as clematis or fragrant jasmine, over a disused child’s climbing frame, or use it as support for your runner beans. A chest of drawers, with the drawers pulled out at different intervals, makes a real talking point. But treat it with preservative first or it will rot away quickly.

4. Hanging planters

Traditional hanging baskets, planted with flowers or cherry tomatoes, always looks good. But create some interest by using alternative containers, such as a large colander, lengths of plastic gutter pipe strung at varying heights, or plastic bottles with one side removed. Again, food cans can be attached to trellis work to make a hanging display, or for a really artistic feel, use an old bird cage.

5. Recycled pathways

It’s not only plant containers that can be made from recycled materials. You can also fashion a gorgeous path using recycled items, such as slices of natural tree trunk, pebbles, short lengths of wood laid parquet-style, or reclaimed bricks. Try natural stones or bricks to make the path outline, or for a more colourful approach, up-end glass bottles and bury them so that only the base is showing.

6. Upcycled furniture

It’s amazing what fabulous furniture you can make using recycled items. Old wooden pallets or crates can be fixed together to make a chair, a sofa, or a sun lounger. A coat of paint and they’ll look like new, and they’ll be even better if you add some brightly coloured cushions as well. If you have the skill, try cutting old (clean) oil barrels and adding cushions, but be sure to smooth any sharp edges off before you use them!

7. Garden lighting

The garden isn’t only for the daytime – you’ll want to be enjoying your garden at night as well. So why not continue the recycling theme with your choice of lighting? Tea-lights are an old favourite – place them in jam jars or cut-off glass bottles, with sand or gravel to hold them steady. To increase the artistic impression, decorate them with glass paints. Solar lights are also a good choice. Wind them round planters and baskets, suspend them inside metal cans, or insert them into cut-off plastic bottles, for a different look.

Tealights in jam jars

Photo courtesy of Let’s Go Out Bournemouth at Flickr Creative Commons

Once you get started using recycled items in your garden, you’ll find your imagination takes flight and you’ll think of all kinds of innovative ideas. Kids will love to be involved – they’ll probably have ideas of their own as well. Why not make renovating the garden a family project? Then you can all enjoy your garden at its best, knowing it has been kind to the environment and to your pocket.

Photo courtesy of Scrappy Annie at Flickr Creative Commons

Potatoes in a Growing Bag

Child-Friendly Gardening: How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

I must admit I feel a little sorry for the potato. This humble vegetable often gets a bad press, labelled as fattening and unhealthy. In fact, it’s often the first thing people decide to ‘cut out’ when they want to lose weight. But potatoes are one of the healthiest choices you can make – it’s only what you eat with them that can make them unhealthy! They’re an important source of fibre, and filled with vitamins such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B6. They’re also very versatile – you can use them to accompany a meal such as your Sunday roast, as a staple ingredients of affordable meals (e.g. Cottage Pie or Cornish Pasties), and nothing tastes better for lunch on a chilly day than a jacket potato.

So with so much going for the potato, why don’t people grow them more? Well firstly, if you grow them in traditional rows, they take up quite a lot of space. You may also have heard they’re tricky to grow, needing ‘earthing up’ and other such strange practices. But in reality, they’re not difficult to grow at all, and there are many ways to cultivate them that doesn’t mean giving up half your garden!

The most important thing to remember is to prevent light from getting to the potatoes as they grow. That’s why gardeners pull the soil up around the potato stems (the fabled ‘earthing up’). But growing potatoes in a container avoids the need for all that, and also saves on space too. And kids will find it much easier to get involved with growing potatoes if they’re in containers.

Simply fill your container half full with compost, place the seed potatoes in, and cover them up with a bit more compost. As the new leaves poke their way through, add more soil, little by little, until the bag is full. Keep well watered (but not soggy) and once the leaves start to droop, your potatoes are ready to be dug up. Harvested potatoes will keep for a long time by in a bag or sack – just be sure to put it in a cool, dry place that’s completely dark.

Of course, you can go out and buy a fancy potato grower, but if you want to grow potatoes on a budget, here are seven alternative containers you can make or use.

1. An old sack

You can get two or three plants into a large sack, which makes this a good option if you just want a few potatoes. Hessian or paper sacks are perfect – just make sure you’ve dusted them out inside if necessary before you plant your spuds. Naturally, you can always plant up several sacks if you want more plants.

2. A large shopping bag

Large shopping bags are also a good choice, and a great way to recycle bags that are a bit worn out. Natural materials are best, because they allow for good drainage, but even synthetic ones (like Ikea bags) are fine if you punch a few holes for the water to escape.

Potatoes Growing in an Ikea bag

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Powell at Flickr Creative Commons

3. An old compost bag

Have you ever wondered how to use up your old compost bags? Well, now you have the answer. Potatoes grow superbly in old compost bags, but again, remember to make some holes for drainage, because potatoes can rot easily if the compost is too damp.

Potatoes growing in compost bags

Photo courtesy of Emma Cooper at Flickr Creative Commons

4. A strong dustbin liner

You need quite strong dustbin liners to grow potatoes, as the thin ones can split too easily, spilling your compost everywhere. Look for heavy-duty or rubble bags, punch a few drainage holes, and away you go!

Potatoes growing in a bin liner

Photo courtesy of Nodigio at Flickr Creative Commons

5. Weed suppressant fabric

Weed suppressant fabric is superb for growing potatoes, because it allows water to drain through it but stays strong even when wet. Staple the fabric into an impromptu sack shape, making sure there are no large holes for the compost to leak out. These bags won’t last forever, but they’ll certainly do you for a couple of seasons.

6. A large cardboard box

Again, cardboard is great because it allows water to drain through easily, so your potatoes won’t be rotting away in water-logged compost. However, you may find the base gets a bit fragile after a while, so choose your location carefully and don’t move the box once it’s planted up.

7. Car tyres

You may have heard talk about growing potatoes in old car tyres, and this was certainly quite a common practice years ago. You begin by filling an old tyre with compost and planting your potatoes, then add more tyres and compost as the plants grow. It’s true you can grow potatoes well this way, but many people have concerns about the fact that chemicals could leach out from the tyres and affect your crop. Research so far has been inconclusive, but if you are considering using car tyres, think carefully before going ahead. Some of the other options above are far more natural.

So why not give growing potatoes a try? There really is nothing like digging up potatoes for a meal and eating them straight away – they taste delicious and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re eating home-grown produce.

Feature photo courtesy of Jeff Bryant at Flickr Creative Commons

Coming next: 10 Fabulous Ways to Save Money by Recycling in the Garden