Thursday, May 13, 2010

The life of a scavenging gardener

White Impatiens

Much of my attention currently is focused on my garden. I am happily harvesting asparagus from my patch between the sidewalk and street, eyeing up the healthy rhubarb plants and looking forward to my first black raspberry harvest. I am also planting annual crops, figuring out among all my gardening spots where to put all the seeds I want to sow or plants I have started. I am also looking to fill in the native plants in the garden at the front of my house.

What do I mean by scavenging? Much of my recent venture was determined by craigslist. Because I had a rectangular recycling bin that was no longer needed for recycling, I wondered what to do with it. I had the brilliant idea to use it as a big planting pot as it had four holes in the bottom that would work for drainage. Also, I use five-quart ice cream buckets in various capacities around the house, but there gets to be a point where they are no longer fit for hauling stuff to the compost bin. Well, I have wanted to dress up the step to my front door. What if I use the ice cream buckets to plant annuals like impatiens? Plus I just used up paint in a metal can. That would work too! And hey, I could dress up the plastic and metal with some spray paint.

I found someone giving away garden soil on craigslist. All I needed to do was provide my own method of hauling said soil. So armed with my trusty shovel, two five-gallon buckets and two thick plastic bags that previously held either mulch or cat litter, I made my way to the person's home. As if digging and moving dirt was not work enough, his house was on a hillside so I had the challenge of hauling bags and buckets up an incline. This dirt haul was complemented by $1 per plant bee balm another person was selling off craigslist on the honor system. I chose two and stashed them in my car for later as I was getting plants and dirt over the lunch hour.

I also share a company-sponsored garden plot with three other people and wanted to get my sweet corn in the ground. However, I had forgotten my nitrogen-rich dried blood. Because I had access to two coffee pots and the leftover coffee grounds, another source of nitrogen, I decided to use the available two filters of coffee grounds. I mixed it with the composted horse manure (hauled for free a couple weeks ago) and planted four hills of corn in the garden plot after work. This was a good choice as rain started overnight.

When I finally reached my home, I layered my free dirt with composted horse manure in the recycling bin, the holes covered with rocks from around my house, likely uncovered when digging holes for my trees. I planted the last set of my onion plants and watered well. Finally, I dug two holes for my new bee balm plants and installed them with a boost of compost. I did encounter lava rock, a legacy mulch from a previous owner. These I plan on lining the bottom of my ice cream buckets once painted.

I still have dirt left from my haul, but less than I desire. With a bit more time, my scavenged dirt, inexpensive plants and repurposed materials will yield more food for me and more beauty for my home.

What will you reuse or repurpose in the garden?

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