Garden Thriftiness

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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I’ve shared my tendency toward picking up treasures from others’ trash here and there in my blog posts. I wrote about the old pool ladder claimed as a trellis for my gourds from my neighbor’s trash and the repurposing of cardboard from Lowes and Kroger to help transform lawn into garden beds. I spoke of the reuse of bricks for a compost pile as well as the redirection of toilet paper tubes and milk containers for seedlings.

Remembering that the world is larger than us two-legged human animals, I shared how to repurpose odds and ends for the birds. I told how other animals (through the generosity of their human companions) have helped enrich my garden beds for months. I also showed how I incorporated another farming friend’s cast-off rocks into our garden.

In a way, I can’t help myself. I’ve been a thrift-loving person for as long as I can remember. There’s a certain thrill (unlike any other) that I get when I save money by utilizing something I found for free, at severely discounted cost, or that someone gifted me. I love the accompanying excitement when my mind employs its ingenuity for either artistic expression or creative puzzle solving.

I used to attend auctions for my antiques business. In the course of doing so, I picked up many of those aforementioned bricks. I also collected my $1 pitchfork, $2 shovels, $2 garden benches, old wrought iron railings and bed parts (often used as trellises), and the awesome $250 garden cart that I splurged on paying only $40. This last purchase has served me well for nearly 20 years and has long outlived the splurge-guilt I felt the first week afterward.

In fact, that very cart is being used quite a bit lately due to the arrival of a huge pile of free goodies. We use Cundiff’s Tree Care when we need our large trees pruned because they employ trained arborists who know how to tend to a tree with its health and well-being in mind. I refuse to call any of the local tree butcherers who chop willy nilly not realizing (or not caring) about the damage they are doing and the lives they are cutting short.

Last time Cundiff’s were here cleaning out our accumulated dead and damaged limbs, I asked if they would please drop off some mulch from other jobs they had nearby. Most tree services are happy to comply because they have to otherwise dispose of this “trash” themselves, sometimes paying to do so. It becomes a win-win situation since they are making their customers happy and they don’t have to haul anything longer distance.

I happily gave them a jar of my mustard in anticipation of their delivery. A few weeks later, we discovered a nice little pile in our driveway just where I’d asked them to put it. The weather was still too cold for me to enjoy moving mulch around but before long, another pile was added doubling my treasure. I was able to eek out a couple of good days moving mulch around while working out in my head just how many beds I could cover without risking not being able to cover my bank which runs the entire length of our property. I had become fairly certain that I would be able to make it work when we returned home one day to find that the pile had once again doubled! I was in heaven! With two recent 7-hour days behind me, and the loss of a few pounds, I am henceforth referring to my bark chip pile as the gym. I expect to be working out for the foreseeable future.

For this chore, I’m using my treasured, auction-bought garden cart to move free bark chips in my repurposed cat litter buckets and cover garden beds that used to be lawn but were rerouted with free cardboard. The plants in these beds are mostly relocated from other parts of our garden, gifted or swapped with friends from their gardens, or purchased on sale at season’s end. I have been using gloves purchased in bulk at the end of the season for clearance prices.

Also in my garden, I have used old field tile collected from yet another friend’s farm piles in my Mothers’ Altar and other areas. The mothers’ vignette also contains a kitchen sink that offers water to the birds and insects during much of the year. It was collected from a different neighbor’s trash pile.

I also consistently reuse the baling wire or twine that comes around the straw bales that I purchase. It helps connect the wire mesh barriers to support poles that I put around some of my beds to keep the bunnies and cats out. Just this week I cut new pieces to secure some wire mesh to a soccer goal that I picked up a couple of blocks away last fall. I have to wonder if the gentleman who answered the door when I asked if his goal was free for the taking smiles as he drives by these days. While it spent the winter in our garage, his goalpost is now secured in one of my beds awaiting the cucumber plants thriving under our grow lights.

I highly recommend opening minds and seeing beyond the normal use for things before casting them aside. While I know there is a huge movement toward cleaning out, simplifying, and purging—and agree that there is great purpose in doing so—there can be just as strong and useful a purpose in redirecting some of those cast-offs into honorable duty.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online atHumings andBeing Blythe, and read all of herMOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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