Written By Francie Shepherd
It’s winter. That means icicles, frosty windshields, and frozen ground. Do you find yourself dreaming about the upcoming growing season? Thinking nostalgically about worms, pollinators, and next season’s pickles? Me too. I love the quiet that comes from the fresh fallen snow, but I miss padding through the garden early in the morning, greeting newly formed veggie sprouts and talking nonsense to a random bumblebee feasting on pea flowers.
This time is not wasted, though. Longing for next season’s garden is part of the process for me. It’s a great time to plant the “seeds” of new re-imagined beds, or the introduction of a new one! I’ve been on the hunt for some creative suggestions for this year’s garden adventure and found a few that I’d love to share with you:
- I already use plastic fruit containers as mini greenhouses for seed starting – that works really well, especially under a grow light.
- How about a few muffin tins? In the garden. Well, sort of.
- Save your empty toilet paper rolls — yes, really.
I’m always on the hunt for creative ways to embrace my inner garden-bee mentality. I love looking for unusual containers to add interest and height to my gardens, while also providing resting (and nesting) areas for garden-friendly insects, toads & frogs and pollinators.
Look at some of these fun gardening hacks! Let us know if you have any of your own that you’d like to share.
Cardboard Tube Seed Starters: For an easy and green way to start seeds, save your toilet paper and paper towel tubes. Cut the tubes into 2 in. lengths and set them in a waterproof tray. Fill the tubes with potting soil and plant your seeds. When the seedlings are ready to move to the garden, plant them right in their cardboard tube. The cardboard will decompose. Be sure to keep the tube below the soil surface, so it doesn’t wick moisture away from the roots.
Plastic Fruit Containers Seed Starters: Save the plastic clamshell container. It can be reused as a mini greenhouse for starting seeds in the spring. Wash the container thoroughly. Use an awl and hammer to punch a few small holes in the top part of the container for airflow (if there aren’t holes already). Then fill the bottom half with potting mix or your own special seed-starting soil. Plant your seeds, spreading them out in the container as suggested on the seed packet. Give the seeds a small drink of water and close the lid. Place the container in a sunny spot, and patiently wait for your seeds to sprout! The clear plastic container acts like a greenhouse, allowing the sun and warmth to reach the plants while holding in moisture.
Muffin Tin Planting Guides: Use muffin tins in your raised beds to mark the planting location for carrots, onions or other veggies. You’ll have symmetrical plants, spaced perfectly apart for the variety. Smaller tins will be closer together. FAST!
Make your own fertilizer out of chicken (and other) bones: Bone meal makes excellent fertilizer for tomato plants. Clean as much meat, fat and gristle off bones as possible, then bake them in the oven on 284 degrees F for approximately 3 hours. Next, break the now-brittle bones into small pieces using a hammer or metal mallet — wear safety goggles during this step! — then grind those bits into powder with a stone grinder or mortar and pestle.
Next time you’re out and about, be on the prowl with your imagination turned to “high” to find creative re-purposes for the ordinary (or not-so-ordinary) objects and vessels. We are only limited by our own ability to imagine! Mine can be endless and often works on overdrive. How about yours?