I found this nearly FREE idea in the ancient place of the flowers, Xochemilco, off the beaten path in Mexico. Holding up the canvas awning were wood posts decked out with ordinary tin cans. They use canned milk there with remnants of some labels still visible. Some cans were nailed on. Others had little wire bucket handles attached to the top that would hang on the nails so they could be taken down or changed. Note how the cans are placed one directly above another. That way when watered from the top the, drainage waters the can beneath it. Planted with donkey-tail succulents, what little water it needs is recycled for maximum value.
It pays to keep a sharp eye out for construction projects in your neighborhood. They discard all kinds of great materials for making or improving small budget gardens. Folks often jack hammer out their interior slab floor or remove an old pool deck. Fractured concrete from the same original slab will be automatically matched by finish and thickness. Ask the workers to jack hammer larger pieces into smaller ones that are easy for you to load into the trunk of your car and bring home. Be sure to offer a six-pack in exchange! They’ll likely oblige so they don’t have so much to haul away. If you don’t like the gray color of the concrete, use concrete stain, or thin out left over wood stain to brush on to create an irregular looking natural patina. Even if you aren’t doing the project today, get the fragments anyway to store for that future walkway. This is just one of the many cheap or free ideas in my new book, The Small Budget Gardener.
There’s only 120 days until peak wedding season 2010! If you’re planning to tie the knot at home, download a copy of my FREE full color eBook Backyard Wedding Makeovers at http://bit.ly/BackyardWedding This easy to apply guide is designed for cash strapped homeowners, renters and gardeners who want to get hitched at home or have the reception there. Plus, it’s equally good for rehabilitating the backyard for a party or special event of any kind. Tips tell you how to disguise eyesores. Find out how to arrange elements for optimal visibility. Discover flowers in keeping with your wedding color scheme so everything is coordinated. And say your vows under a beautiful flower decked arbor for picture perfect wedding photos.
I’m so excited to receive my author copy of my newest book, The Small Budget Gardener (Cool Springs Press, 2010 $16.95). I think the whole garden world gradually became so fancy and so expensive that a lot of people just lost interest. But in my mind gardening is so inexpensive a hobby that everyone can enjoy growing things whether its for food or beauty. That’s why I wrote this book to help everyone get back to basics. In truth, gardening involves little more than soil, water, air, sun and plants, and if you read the book you’ll know how to get plants that are either cheap or totally FREE. Gardening is always more popular in hard times when our options are so limited, and in these periods millions discover for the first time an endeavor that will remain satisfying for the rest of their lives.
While in Xochemilco, the ancient Aztec center of flower culture outside Mexico City, I came upon this brilliant no-cost idea. Aluminum cans, be they from beer or sodas are brightly colored, lightweight and won’t rust. They make the cutest little pots thin enough to cut easily with scissors or use a hack saw. Smooth the cut edge with a nail file or sand paper to avoid cuts. These examples below are rather beat up, but you can reuse your favorite drink containers to grow all the tiny plants you want. Small succulents and herbs are ideal. They make really fun gifts or decor items in small urban gardens. If you cut the can in half, turn the top half upside down so that the opening assures drainage. If you use the bottom half, poke some holes with a nail or ice pick to ensure it drains before adding soil. This is a nifty way to reuse aluminum rather than recycling.
I created this little shade garden years ago for TV featuring white painted cobbles in a perfect spiral. It shows another really cool idea that anyone can do for next to no cost. If you have some old “bare leg” shrubs that have lost their foliage lower down, consider painting the bark. The trick is to water down some interior latex paint so it allows oxygen to pass through just as it does white orchard paint. I used a nice yellow-green, but any other color you like works just as well. I’ve seen it done with turquoise, violet and even red. But if there is low light, stick with light value so the color isn’t lost in the dark. Use this idea to turn an ordinary renter’s backyard into a surrealistic setting!