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Sustainable gardening is easy to achieve

Sustainable gardening is easy to achieve

Reusing and Recycling Materials in the Garden

1. I use an old plastic mesh bag to round up leftover slivers of soap. I rubber-band the bag so it's tight and hang it next to the hose. The combo of the slightly abrasive bag and the soap scrubs off garden dirt. — Irene, Washington

2. I make row covers out of tomato cages, old rebar I got free, and used blankets I got at the local thrift store. — Cathy, Florida

3. Instead of purchasing expensive weed-blocking landscape cloth, I use free old tarps from my local lumber store that they used to cover wood during shipping. — David, Utah

4. I gather pieces of concrete to use as stepping stones in my garden. — Susan, Virginia

5. I recycle drink cups to grow tomatoes from seed. When they're ready to transplant, I simply remove the bottom inch or so of each cup and plant directly in the ground. This prevents cutworms from making a meal of my transplants. — S., California

6. I was given some heavy-duty metal "for sale" sign frames, and I placed them in my raised beds to support bed covers in early spring. — Kat, California

7. Old pantyhose are my friends: They make garden ties, and I use them to "bag" cantaloupes growing on trellises so the melons have extra support. — Donna, North Carolina

8. I make all my garden fencing with scrap wood and build my veggie trellises and arbors with fallen branches and saplings. — Irene, New Jersey

9. My plant tags are twigs with a shaved-off area to write on. — Michelle, New York

10. For a cold frame in late winter, we prop old windows against straw bales. When I know we're in danger of a frost, I take old bean poles and jab them into the ends of my beds, throw old sheets over them, use stones or bricks to hold down the edges, and voilà! I have a makeshift tent in my garden. — Liz, Ohio

Saving Water and Conserving Energy

11. I've come to discover that mulching heavily is a water-saving essential. It could be store-bought mulch, dead plant materials, chipped up pieces of trees, etc. Lately I've been using downed pine cones. After you start looking around, it's all you see. — Cam, Colorado

12. I make small ditches between my plant rows to funnel water right to the plants, and I have a cistern under my house that catches much of the rainwater my barrels can't. — Pat, Missouri

13. My husband got a laundry sink at a yard sale that we hook a hose to for cleaning vegetables outside. A bucket underneath saves the water (and nutrients from the soil) so we can put it back on the garden. — Jeannemarie, Maryland

14. I no longer drive to the gym or turn on exercise equipment as a couple of hours of "aerobic gardening" a day keep me in good shape. Thanks to working from home and eating from the garden, I can go a couple of weeks without turning on a car. — Phil, Pennsylvania

15. I conserve solar heat by enclosing my two parallel raised beds with hoop-style covers in spring and fall. The beds are surrounded on both sides and down the center by a 2-foot-wide brick walkway. This whole area is then covered with another larger hoop house through winter. The heat absorbed by the bricks keeps the greenhouse warmer longer. — Ian, Pennsylvania

16. I weed by hand or with a hoe and minimize machine tilling. I find my plants grow better because the network of goodness that grows under the soil's surface is allowed to flourish. — Carol, Massachusetts

17. I use two windmills. One of the windmills turns a generator that powers batteries for electric power, and the other runs the pump for the well by the garden. — James, Maryland

Zero-Waste Gardening

18. We save urine and dilute it to use as fertilizer. Sounds gross, I know, but I have never seen plants grow so well! — Amanda, Kansas

19. Whenever I'm chopping vegetables for a meal, I save the excess bits I've cut off of veggies that are well-suited for making soup stock: onion skins, stems of leafy greens, carrot ends, etc. I store all of these in a plastic bag in my freezer, and when I've gotten a good stash saved up, I make a batch of fresh veggie stock, relegating the veggie bits to my compost pile after draining the stock. — Jennifer, Kansas

20. When starting a new garden, I first spread out household paper waste (old bills, homework, cereal boxes) and soak it in water. Then, whenever I weed or rake leaves, this refuse goes on the paper. A season's worth of debris lands in the area, and it gets topped off with compost in fall. The bed is ready for planting the following spring. — Amanda, New York

21. We don't waste anything. If we can't eat it, the chickens can. When we clean out the coop, the manure goes straight to the compost pile. We don't burn any brush or clippings; it's all shredded and used as mulch or composted. — Kat

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