Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
July, 2009
Regional Report

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From the devastation of a hurricane and an ice storm, an area of the garden has taken on new beauty and purpose.

Renew, Re-Purpose, Restore

Having just finished the final restoration work from the damage caused by Hurricane Ike coming through the Ohio Valley last fall, plus doing a lot of other work in the garden, "recycling" in its broadest sense is much on my mind. I'm the daughter of parents born in the early part of the twentieth century, who were poor farmers during the Great Depression (and afterward), so re-using what looks like junk to other people is a natural part of my life. As an innate collector, I cringe with all the books, magazine articles, and television shows suggesting to clear out garages and houses. Of course, I do have a big barn where my flotsam and jetsam can be stored, but I encourage everyone to think about how to renew, re-purpose, and restore items, especially those that can be used around the garden.

Greenhouse Into Pavilion
Long before the hurricane, I had plans for the area surrounding my little greenhouse. It was to become a large bed of trees and shrubs to complement the existing trees, including one my mother planted the day FDR died in 1945. The winds of Ike changed those plans, with all but one tree coming crashing down. And that one, a Siberian elm, was on its last legs, and, besides, it created a weedy mess with its seedlings and weak branches. So, I had the cleanup crew remove it along with the fallen trees.

As I considered putting in another greenhouse, it came to me that the choice for the location of the greenhouse had been rather arbitrary and not the best spot for it. Still, I had a nice12x12-foot graveled area with 2x6-inch sidewalls that was close to the house and had water and electricity. A friend, who is highly skilled in building rustic cedar structures, owed me some work, and there were a number of cedar trees down on the farm, due to this winter's ice storm. Why not have such a structure, part open-roof gazebo, part arbor built there, providing some much needed shade now that the trees were gone?

As with most projects, this one got a bit out of control, but after several months, I now have a lovely pavilion, complete with a large fountain that was waiting patiently in the barn where it had been sitting since the initial spot for it didn't work, plus outdoor furniture that had been looking for a better home. The pavilion will also make a great place to plant three kiwis that have been in a holding bed for several years. I can just imagine the shade and tranquility as they twine over the "roof." Much of the surrounding planting area is now filled with trees and shrubs that had been in the "driveway nursery" for a year, too. As an homage to the previous trees, one 4-foot slice, which resembled a butterfly, is now upright as a piece of natural sculpture. Several hollow sections of large trees have become planters, at least until they rot away.

Some Other "Recycled" Projects Around the Garden
-- To keep the dog and cat from continually destroying the screen in my old-fashioned wooden screen door, a length of picket fence was attached. This ties in with other places in the garden where the main picket fence is and makes a great place to hang a wreath.

-- One corner of my house has a bad-design problem and rainwater creates a maintenance nightmare. The overflow from the gutters is too much for a rain barrel, but a set of side-by-side old washtubs, with their wide-open tops, works perfectly. They were re-painted to match the house and covered with screening to keep out mosquitoes and leaves. A hose can be attached to the spouts at the bottom to use for filling watering cans.

-- A lovely metal birdbath that had rusted through became a wonderful planter for hens-and-chicks, but other succulents would have worked, too. Old concrete planters, that seem incapable of keeping any other plants alive, also work well with succulents.

-- Use broken-down cardboard boxes under hardwood mulch to keep weeds even more at bay.

-- Don't forget that there are replacement ends available for repairing hose ends that get damaged and start to leak. Save hoses that are beyond the pale and cut into short length, run rope through, and use to weight down branches of fruit trees to increase production.

-- Some yard items look good as "shabby chic," while others only need a new coat of paint. Invest in a wire brush to prepare metal furniture and objects. Rust-preventing spray paint has transformed many an object in my garden.

-- Check out yard sales for discarded chia pets. Collect them and make a distinctive "herd" somewhere in the garden as an accent, or place them individually about the garden.

-- Look for items that can update an old one. For example, wonderful woven willow sides are now available for rather utilitarian black plastic raised bed sides purchased several years ago and relegated to the barn.

-- Broken plates, pretty pots, and other china items can be turned into lovely mosaic objects for the garden. Home supply stores sell the items needed to make mosaics and directions are widely available online.

-- The sides of arbors that have fallen oven and gotten broken can be used as trellises. Use lengths of rebar and electric ties to anchor them to the ground.

-- Buy the little bottles of outdoor acrylic paint at craft stores and re-paint wooden or metal objects with faded paint.

These and many more possibilities await a creative eye for adding your own distinct and often inexpensive touches to your garden.

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