Archive for the "garden" category

What can I reuse or recycle to make a bird bath?

Annetta has emailed with two great questions. Here’s the first:

Any ideas on making a bird bath out of recycled [things from] around the house?

I think it depends on whether you want something pretty, quirky or just something practical for the birds to use, looks be damned. I’d love to hear ideas for all three, personally!

I love old ceramic basins outside – not just the de rigeur belfast sink planter but bathroom ones with ivy or another climber creeping their way up around the pedestal and taps too. With a well-fitting plug, that would work well as a bird bath.

A big old steel wok could be upcycled into one too – it would need a base if it was a round-bottomed one, but I’m sure that could be fashioned fairly easily from some scrap wood (or branches). I’d imagine it might need some protection from the water/the elements – would painting it with metal paint work/be bird friendly?

Staying in the kitchen, an old pottery mixing bowl or the like would be about the right size. We sometimes crack soup bowls in a way that we wouldn’t want to use them for cooking any more but they are still be water-tight enough for underneath plant pots (especially with a little slick of non-foodsafe sealant up the crack) — using the same sealant, a mixing bowl might be watertight enough to be a cute, quirky bird bath.

So that’s a few ideas – has anyone got any other suggestions?

I’ve been a bit lazy really, just suggested things that are already bird bath size/shaped — any creative suggestions for making them other things?

How can I reuse or recycle Leylandii/conifer branches?

We’ve had an email from Jennifer (sorry it’s taken a few weeks to feature it, Jennifer!):

We hacked down a couple of huge nasty Leylandii conifer trees from our garden this weekend and don’t know what to do with the wood and branches. It’s far too much for our own compost bin, fear for the state of our car if we tried to take them to the council compost collection because they’re dropping resin and I’ve read that you shouldn’t burn them. My husband thinks the only option might be hiring a skip for landfill but I’d still prefer a green option!

Ahh, Leyland Cypress. Depending on your point of view, it’s either the useful sound/pollution blocking instant-hedge or the scourge of urban gardens with its own Asbo law.

As we have a woodburning stove and a father-in-law who skip-dives for all sorts of wood, we’ve read quite a bit about burning leylandii – some people say as long as it is sufficiently dry (seasoned), it’s fine to burn and is actually a good start-of-fire accelerator. But it is full of sticky resin which can clog up chimneys with creosote and cause chimney fires – the pro-burning-it people say as long as it’s seasoned and completely dry, this isn’t a problem but it takes a good couple of years to reach that state. (Outdoor fires, such as bonfires, won’t have a build-up problem but if you burn it fresh/green, it will give off clouds of smoke and spit furiously.)

A quick Google tells me that some people use sections of cut-down Leylandii trees in aviaries to provide secluded roosting space for small birds. Other people shred them up and use them as woodchippings for paths – they will compost down eventually but will probably take a few years. If you don’t fancy doing either of those things, perhaps someone on your local Freecycle/Freegle may be interested in doing it…?

Any other suggestions or ideas?

How can I reuse/recycle foil bag linings to make a solar cooker or the like?

We’ve had an email from long-time commenter Melinda:

I’ve recently been struck with the foil linings of snack bags, and even dog food bags. Has anyone used these to create something solar, such as a cooker? What items have been put to solar use and how?

Making a solar cooker is on my to-do list for this year but I’ve not done it yet (and probably missed the hottest, sun-powered days – doh!) so I can’t advice on that. Anyone else got any experience making those? I was probably going to make something like this cardboard one to start with.

I also wonder if they’d be useful as soft mirrors behind plants, to reflect a bit of the light to the non-sunny side of the plant — a similar idea but, hopefully, without the cooking!

Any suggestions or tips for Melinda? Or any other solar related ideas?

How can I reuse or recycle big plastic (animal/bird) feed bags?

Over on the Suggest an Item page, Emily asked:

Would anybody have any ideas for reusing the bags that stock feed comes in? They are some sort of plastic and not recycleable.

Funnily enough, I had this on my to-do list already as I’m starting to be overrun with the things too – and I’ve only got six small chickens, so I can’t imagine how many are generated by people with lots of animals/birds. (Mine are the heavy-duty flat plastic types – we’ve covered the woven plastic type ones before.)

The things I already do with mine:

  • refill them with bedding & litter when cleaning out the coop. I bag it sometimes rather than tipping it all into the compost heap so I can give it to friends/family as fertiliser. Such a lovely gift! ;)
  • use them to line the wooden planters I make. (I do this with some hesitation for fruit/veg containers as I don’t know what plastic it is so there may be some leaching issues.)
  • use them as rubble sacks – they’re not quite as strong as actual rubble sacks but still pretty useful

I also know some people use them to “waterproof” ceilings of hen/duck houses, and I have a plan to build up the floor in our coop, and will cover it with these bags to make it easier to clean. Away from chicken stuff, I’ve seen people using opaque bags as weed barriers around trees.

Any other suggestions for ways to reuse them? Or any advice on recycling?

One thing I would say, as ever, is try to reduce your collection of them – look to see if there are any paper-bagged alternatives. If you’re storing the feed in a dry place, the paper getting damp shouldn’t be an issue. The heavy paper could be composted or recycled. Any other advice?

How can I reuse or recycle (or repair) broken terracotta plant pots?

We’ve had an email from Natasha:

It seems a good number of my terracotta plant pots cracked in the cold over winter. What can I reuse them for?

Holding your horses, you may be able to repair them if it’s just a relatively clean crack – this Instructable fixes a broken-in-half pot with epoxy resin, this how-to uses silicone sealant and wire, and this eHow also uses wire. Anyone got any fixing/mending advice?

Even it’s beyond repair, don’t discount it as still being useful as a planter – some people make very effective use of broken pots to create a shabby chic/Roman ruins feel for the garden.

If it’s even beyond that though, broken up, it could still be useful in the garden – providing interesting/useful shade for aquatic life in a pond or as water draining crocks at the bottom of the new replacement plant pots.

(And don’t forget to stop history repeating itself by protecting terracotta and the like over winter. From what I’ve read, pots fired to a higher temperature are more frost resistant too, so look out for “frost proof” pots too.)

Any other repair or reuse suggestions?