As my gardening years go by, I find myself getting more and more creative with respect to the kind of tools and aids I can use and what sorts of reused and recycled materials I can find to help me achieve what I want or need to do. It’s a fun little challenge for me to think outside the box, and inevitably what I need magically materializes at a thrift store, garage sale, a back alley, or I find it tossed out in some out-of-the way place. Here are some examples:
I live on the side of a mountain, so my mostly-terraced gardens are either uphill or downhill from the house, which means I’m hauling rocks, buckets of soil and plants to places that can sometimes be tricky to get to. A wheel barrel just wasn’t cutting it because it was cumbersome, often too big and hard to manoeuvre and also hard to lift anything heavy into and out of, which always put my back at risk. So I needed some specialized movers to help me get the job done. A few years ago I chanced upon a garage sale in Peachland, which had a jogging buggy for sale. It’s basically a three-wheeled unit with a flat deck for the baby carrier and presto, that thing has been the best $15 bucks I ever spent. It’s easy to push anywhere, carries an incredible amount of weight, tips back to keep things level when travelling on slopes, and pivots around the tight spots.
I also needed a means to move the heavier rocks that I don’t dare lift. Sure enough, at our local thrift store, I found an exercise type unit whereby you’d step up onto a heavy-duty plastic board and back down again. When I turned it over, I discovered it had at three-inch rim, so all I had to do was ask my hubby to drill some holes and put a rope through it for a handle. Now I have a perfect rock sled that I can tow around anywhere, without ever having to lift anything.
When I’m in Salmon Arm and have the time, I swing up to the industrial park to the granite countertop places, where there is usually a heap of discarded multi-coloured and shaped pieces to rifle through. I turn them upside-down to the non-slip side and use them for mosaic pathways, stepping stones in the gardens, and the nicer pieces for small table-tops. The lattice work that’s under the deck was made by cutting up old cedar wharf boards into one-inch strips, and the old wooden baby gates make great vertical lattices for my climbing-type plants.
I use the more interesting-looking metal bed ends for gates.
The pharmacy threw out a glass case once, which is now my little greenhouse for starting new plants. I cruise recent and old construction sites for leftover items such as paving stones, rebar for tomato stakes (old broom handles work well too) and whatever else I may find that can be turned into something usable or creative, and the vacant lots in town turn up all kinds of tossed out goodies.
I plan my clean fill areas for the springtime, so when the highway crews start sweeping and piling up sand, I can easily grab it before it gets pushed over the banks. My old cedar fence rails were salvaged from a dairy farm before they were condemned to the bonfire.
All of my garden clothes and footwear, which I go through at a pretty steady rate, come from the thrift store, along with any other treasures such as hoses, outdoor table and chair sets, ornaments and tools that may appear, seemingly just for me at the perfect time. (I swear there are such things as garden angels.)
I’m not shy about knocking on doors when I see something in a yard that appears to be unused, because nine times out of 10 it was destined for the dump. I have three places so far in town that are willing to separate their compost for me, which diverts at least some valuable organic material from the landfill, as well and increases the volume I can make at home.
It’s the old saying of “one man’s junk is another gardener’s treasure.”
Use your imagination and start hunting around. It’s a win-win for everyone and the environment, and it’s always fun to score the perfect item you’ve been looking for.