Friday, May 20, 2011

Recycling in the Suburban Homestead Garden

I haven't been posting much because of all the spring preparations.  It's been nothing but seedling and seed-starting "carnage" around here.  There are a lot of ways to recycle common household items that would normally get thrown away to use in seed-starting.  Here are some things I do:

I reuse disposable aluminum cooking containers.  Whether I do bulk cooking or acquire them through friends after an event, I have plenty to use for my seedlings.  The aluminum helps reflect the sun's warmth and light.  I start my heat-loving plants, like squashes, this way.  In the middle tray are my sunflowers.  I've never started sunflowers early before.  However, this year, I really want some bohemoths that grow 16 feet tall so I'm going to see if this works.  What do I do with the sunflowers now?  It's still a bit early for them and we've had tons of rain so I gave them each their own cozy little greenhouse.

That's right--more recycling!  These are two liter soda bottles that I've been collecting and cut up to house my seedlings right in the ground.  If it gets too warm, I can unscrew the lid or take the whole thing off.  This will keep the soil around them warm until they can get established and the air temperature finally warms up around here!  It's supposed to be near 75-80 this weekend so I'll be sure to pop these off so they don't get fried.  (You can do this with virtually any large plastic container you have:  milk jugs, juice containers, etc.)

When you're out shopping and checking out clearance items, look at things that you can use more than once.  I was out a couple of weeks ago and they had Easter candy on clearance.  Look at this container:

These were filled with delicious gummie candies for $0.20 each.  I was not interested in the candy (although we all loved them); it was the container I wanted!  It's perfect for soaking seeds--you can use both the lid and bottom for this.

Here are some Morning Glories ready to go out.  (Remember to nick their hard seed coat before you soak.)  These were the perfect size so I soaked all my morning glories and sweet peas this way!  Perfect containers--plus, I can save seeds in these later in the summer.  Here's another scenario:  you're shopping and you get the family a rotisserie chicken for dinner.  Cook up that carcass for stock, and don't throw out the plastic container the chicken came in.  It is perfect for housing those little peat pots and comes with it's own lid!

Back to two-liter soda bottles:  here's a pumpkin I started early.  I cut the two-liter bottle two-thirds of the way up, and then I use the top by inverting it to keep the greenhouse effect.  Once it's warm enough, you won't need the lid and you can transplant.  

Again, you can use pretty much any plastic container you have around.  I also use yogurt cups for seedlings, and in some of the pictures I have plastic cups that I fill with seed starting medium.  I put most things under lights in my basement, but I have quickly run out of room and one of my lights has blown out (argh!).  So, I am trying to get things rotated through as fast as I can to get them out in the garden.  The weather is still a bit shaky around here, but I am trying to keep up the best I can.  My whole point of this post is to show that there are so many things we can recycle to suit our purposes.  I hope this inspires you to get planting or get creative.  

I'd love to hear some of the innovative ways you start your seeds.  Until next time, happy gardening!
Blessings to you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Backyard Chicken Coop

Much has been going on here and there's just not enough time!!!!  As I said in an earlier post, my Mother's Day and birthday gifts this year would be a nice chicken coop.  I have been scouring Craig's list and everywhere looking for free lumber so we could build it for CHEAP!  No such luck.  So that changed things a little.  I wanted a free-standing coop in the back of the yard, but with no free lumber, the budget wasn't going to allow for it.  Plan B was to convert the bottom of our kids' fort-style playground.  My youngest is 9 so she's really the only one who plays under there.  It is 4' x 8' under there and would have made a fine coop...I just didn't like it being so close to the neighbors.  So my husband and I head off to Home Depot.  I turn my head and show him the new townhomes being built by us, and ta da, there are three ginormous trash dumpsters full of scrap lumber! Oh, how the Lord provides!!!

My husband and I started filling up the car.  Someone from the complex turned us in so the property manager came to see what we were doing.  The fine man told us the dumpsters were all fair game so we continued on. I walked home because the car was full (we literally were about 3 blocks from our house) and then my hubby went a second time with my son for more.  My son even found a box of nails in the dumpster.  It was amazing what we got for free!  Here's a couple of pics of the amazing wood we found.

Our pile of free plywood!

Can you believe this was all free???

We feel so blessed!  My husband proceeded to start some of the framing and got the base done.  It was scorching hot outside (which makes me so happy), so the fellows were drained.  Here's what they got done so far:

Those square bases that elevate the coop were also free.  They are made of wood and I imagine they are used for columns or some sort of support.  They came in three feet lengths and are really strong.

More will get done this week, I'm sure, and I will keep you posted.  We kept the coop dimensions the same...4 x 8.  

On another note for Mother's Day, I hope you all had a beautiful day.  Here's what my children made for me: garden signs!  Pretty simple and practical and a whimsical little touch for the garden.

Aren't they cute?  My two others busy working...

And here's the final product:

We may end up adding a bit of color to the background because the white is really white, but we'll see.  The kiddos did a good job and it will be a lovely addition to the garden.  I hope you are all doing well and having a lovely spring!!!  Blessings!