Gardening is very much an art form. Just like other art forms, there’s a lot of room for innovation, inspiration, and improvement. The application of these principles in some parts of gardening can be obvious. Setting up a visually pleasing garden involves a lot of tricky judgment calls and relies very much on your individual sense of taste. Your ability to improvise and innovate doesn’t stop there, however. Gardeners from around the world have ‘riffed’ on techniques, equipment, and more to turn their favourite activity into something that’s fast, fun, and in many cases even cheaper than doing things the ‘traditional way.
Potting – Now With More Jazz
One of the simplest ways to spice up your garden is to apply a technique called ‘plant in a pot’ for some of your plants. This simple strategy involves planting empty pots in your garden that are a little bit bigger than the ones you use for your plants. When you’d like to put a plant in your garden, simply place the plant – pot and all – in the empty pot. You’ll use two plants per pot this way. The big benefit of this technique is flexibility. Since each plant is still safe in an easy-to-remove pot, you can shift them around as you like, take them inside during inclement weather, or even move them to a more permanent location whenever you choose.
That’s not the only innovation that gardeners have made when it comes to potted plants. Some everyday kitchen materials can help improve your plants’ quality of life significantly by helping you manage excess water in the pot. Before placing potting soil in your pot, putting a coffee filter over the holes in the bottom will ensure that dirt and vital nutrients don’t flow out of the holes when you water the plant. Keeping granular solids in place while water flows past is what coffee filters were designed for!
There’s a variation on this idea that’s becoming popular in some circles where sponges are used instead of a coffee filter. The idea is that rather than adding a thin layer of paper that will wear out over time, you add a thick layer of sponge that will retain water and keep the moisture level inside of your pot relatively constant. This comes at the sacrifice of soil inside your pot, so it’s not a great solution for plants that like to grow deep roots.
Recycling At Home
Rather than buying pots, some gardeners have turned to repurpose household materials to create homes for their plants. Any sort of hard plastic container will do in a pinch, including clamshell containers from takeout, soda bottles, or even plastic cups. Be sure to poke holes in the containers for drainage and airflow as needed. You might not be able to find a container that’s perfect for every size of pot you’d like to use, but you can certainly make excellent seed trays and smaller pots as needed.
Rather than reusing plastic, you can also repurpose your old toilet paper and paper towel rolls and use them as seed tubes. Cut the tubes into sections several inches long, fill them with soil, and place several of them in a watertight container. The big upside of this unconventional technique is that you don’t have to remove the plant from the tube when it’s time to move it to a different location. Cardboard will break down naturally, especially with a bit of water involved. Just plant the whole tube!
While it doesn’t always fall under the category of recycling, some of the most attractive gardens I’ve seen have used unconventional materials as pots or planters. A great example of this idea involves chimney flues, which can be picked up quite cheaply at your local hardware store. You can cut these to be any height you want and place them as you like in your garden. Gravel makes an excellent filler to allow for adequate drainage. Consider using these flues as the outer pots for the pot-in-a-pot idea mentioned earlier for even more flexibility.
If you’re building your own gardening equipment with things from the local hardware store, why stop there? Many gardeners have grown tired of the activity of manually spreading fertilizer around their plants. Rather than bend over each time to get the fertilizer arranged properly, they simply buy a thick tube and shovel the fertilizer through the tube. This allows you to maintain a standing position the whole time while still putting the fertilizer exactly where it needs to go.
One hardware store item that’s used in many gardens to great effect is the zip tie. Whether you’re helping a plant grow straight, controlling a climbing vine, or simply keeping your things organized, it’s never a bad idea to have a spare bag of zip ties in your gardening kit.
They’re not exactly hardware-store items, but many gardens have been started on the backs of potatoes. The parts of plants that we eat are often made up of literal plant food that plants are trying to pass on to their offspring. Stick cuttings from plants like roses into potatoes and plant them, potato and all. The potato will supply nutrients to the rose, keep the end moist, and make the whole process a lot easier.
Finally, consider picking up a posthole digger if you find yourself doing a lot of planting. It’s an odd device, but the activity it was designed for isn’t too far removed from the type of digging you do when you need to put a plant or pot into the ground. You’ll be able to make holes without bending over at all very quickly, and most post-hole diggers can be adjusted to make holes of many sizes. It’s truly a wonderful tool to have lying around.
Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate!
All of the ‘odd’ techniques above were invented by gardeners who didn’t want to do things the ‘normal’ way. Don’t be afraid to try different things out in your garden! Whether it’s using an unconventional tool to save time and effort, setting things up in an odd way, or even repurposing household materials for use in your garden, there’s plenty of room for you to innovate. Even if your idea turns out to be unwieldy or impractical, you’ll still have fun in the process.