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  • Writer's picturegaineymichael

Secondhand is the Best Hand

October 2019. Some transplants like Fava Beans in the bed, Amaranth in the red and yellow pots, carrots sprouting in the big clay pot. A big bowl of molasses/water to catch crickets between the beds.

So we started with a bit of composting long before the garden was even a scribbly sketch on paper. Now it's time to start planning your space, but rather than rushing out to the garden center or hardware store, let's think secondhand.

For me, half the fun of gardening comes from DIY projects and as an added bonus you reduce your carbon footprint by keeping these materials from waste sites or furnaces. You don't need that fancy new raised bed or trellis. You can easily build it yourself without the lumber, manufacturing and transportation of new new new things.

Really, this comes down to keeping your eyes open. For instance, in my last post, I mentioned that I use a large tupperware and pitcher to collect solid and liquid scraps in the kitchen for composting. Years ago, I took a second job at a captioning company during the graveyard shift (extra $ to afford getting married). During my tenure, the company moved offices and during the last days of the move, the trash bins filled with barely-used kitchen supplies. Apparently the new office came with a stocked kitchen and an overworked assistant was tasked with purging the old kitchen. Naturally, everything went into the trash. I snagged a few large tupperware, a cake carrier, pitchers, tongs, etc, all which would have been landfill.

But more commonly, I use an app called OfferUp. Similar avenues exist, like Craigslist, but I've had the most success with OfferUp. Most notably, the app has been a windfall for pots and other gardening tools. Unfortunately, the gardening hobby is a flavor-of-the-week for some. They run out, buy new stuff, dirty it up for a day or two, then quit. BUT this also works out for us. People eager to clear their garage or move out offer their tools for free or a steep discount.

A few of my Summer/Fall finds:

  • A rain barrel for $25 (retail at least $90)

  • A whole mess of scrap bamboo, FREE

  • A dozen or more pots for about $20 total, some FREE (one even came with a presumed-dead Plumeria that bounced back).

A few of my rustic DIY additions, the basic shelf above our compost bin and the 4'x4' bed in the foreground built with scrap from pallets. Also, behind the palm, I've used twine to lash bamboo together as a basic trellis for some future passion fruit vines that I just planted.

But mostly I use OfferUp to find building materials for various DIY projects. For instance, using some old pallets (a common find for FREE), I built a 4'x4' bed. It's... rustic, a bit wonky in places, but a rewarding little project where I now grow potatoes, kohlrabi and kale.

Additionally, I've used scrap wood to build the standing shelf over our compost bin. Now there is a place for jars, herb cuttings, and such and it fills a bit of negative space above the bin.

BONUS: My neighbor also dragged this plastic bin to the curb on garbage day and I snagged it (I'm a monster). I now use it to haul my seed starts inside overnight until they are strong enough to survive the sow bugs and crickets in the raised beds.

So keep your eyes open! Gardening doesn't have to be break the bank. Yes, you'll put time into these projects; they don't happen all at once, but you can also go at your own pace. The projects listed here and their results have accumulated over several months. But, again, I find this effort so very rewarding and I hope you will too. In the coming weeks, we'll take a closer look at some specific projects you can try in your garden. Stay tuned!


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