Readers’ New Gardening Uses for Old Things
Empty Soda Can
Original purpose: Ammo for shooting baskets into the recycling bin.
Aha! use: A soil substitute. Fill the bottom of a large planter with your empties to take up extra space before adding soil.
Reward: Putting the green back in green thumb.
—submitted by Robin Ruggles Kallfelz
* Note: The tips submitted in this stories come from readers and have not been tested or endorsed by REAL SIMPLE.
Cinnamon and Cayenne
Original purpose: Spicing up signature dishes.
Aha! use: Pest prevention. Sprinkle on molehills to ward off unwanted yard visitors.
Reward: A poison-free way to say “Scram!”
—submitted by Carol Maxwell Weatherly
Original purpose: A strainer for your morning jolt of java.
Aha! use: Planter liner. Place the filter at the base of a planter to keep soil from washing out and clogging drainage holes.
Reward: A cuppa cleanliness.
—submitted by Patty Russell Street
Original purpose: Covering up last night’s nibbles.
Aha! use: Aphid eliminator. Ball up the tinfoil—shiny side out—and scatter the wads in the soil around plants. The surface will reflect bright sunlight, scaring off aphids.
Reward: An end to insect infestation.
—submitted by Angelina Fu
Original purpose: Setting out appetizers for company.
Aha! use: Decorative plant bases. Put multicolored platters or old mix-and-match plates under plants for an instant shot of color and style.
Reward: An extra boost for your blooms.
—submitted by Glynis Buschmann
Original purpose: Holding what makes your whites whiter.
Aha! use: A scoop for potting soil. Wash out and cap the empty bottle, then use a pair of sharp scissors to cut diagonally across the bottom, creating a shovel shape.
Reward: A clean, mean scooping machine.
—submitted by Tammy Halsey Mittelman
Original purpose: Keeping tiny bottoms dry.
Aha! use: Trapping moisture in planters. Cut up unused diapers and stick them in the end of a planter before adding soil; the liquid-trapping technology will keep the pot hydrated longer.
Reward: Pampered plants.
—submitted by Katie Pohlman
Cardboard Coffee Sleeve
Original purpose: Safeguarding your mitts from your extra-hot Venti Mocha.
Aha! use: Seed starter. Place the sleeves in a tray, fill with starter soil, seeds and water and voilà…you’re in business.
Reward: An idea that’ll grow on you.
—submitted by Rachel Stone Embery
Original purpose: Warming up a floor.
Aha! use: A handy garden mat. Drag the rug from spot to spot and plop down on it as you work to avoid dirty pants and unwanted contact with creepy-crawlies. Bonus: It’s machine washable.
Reward: No more squatting in the soil.
—submitted by Mary Messer Finnegan
2-Liter Plastic Bottle
Original purpose: Bottling your fizzy favorite.
Aha! use: A plant-warmer. Fill empty bottles—milk jugs and big juice bottles work, too—with hot water and place them around tomato and pepper plants to create a toasty barrier during low temps.
Reward: Giving your veggies a fighting chance against frost.
—submitted by Lisa Marie London
Plastic Snow Sled
Original purpose: Braving the steepest slope in the ’hood.
Aha! use: An all-season garden caddy. Pile up the sled with plants, pots, piles of weeds, and tools and drag it around the yard with you.
Reward: Storage with real pull.
—submitted by Barbara McKenna
IKEA Shopping Bag
Original purpose: A vessel for impossible-to-pronounce Scandinavian housewares.
Aha! use: Leaf collector. Fill up the roomy, portable sack when raking and hauling leaves instead of struggling with a giant tarp.
Reward: A smarter yard solution is in the bag.
—submitted by Elizabeth Ramos
Mesh Bird Netting
Original purpose: Shielding your stuff from winged intruders.
Aha! use: Preventing kitty from turning your flower beds into a litter box. Cut pieces to fit around your plants and cover the mesh with a layer of soil or mulch. Cats can’t dig through the fiber and don’t like the feeling of netting on their claws.
Reward: A Mr. Whiskers–proofed yard.
—submitted by Diana Schamerhorn
Green Onion Ends
Original purpose: More fodder for the garbage disposal.
Aha! use: A veggie that regenerates itself. Place the end with the bulb in a small cup of water in a sunny spot and watch it shoot up again—almost overnight.
Reward: A renewable (and tasty) resource.
—submitted by Maia Day
Original purpose: A reason to fume when you discover a run mid-meeting.
Aha! use: Aeration for potted plants. Sock the tattered hose into the bottom of a planter to help oxygenate the soil.
Reward: Greenery that breathes easy.
—submitted by Angie Oesterreicher
Reflective Aluminum Blankets
Original purpose: Covering up exhausted runners post-marathon.
Aha! use: Warding off frost in the garden. When the weather outside is frightful, gently drape the blanket over plants to keep them insulated.
Reward: A shiny example of how to beat chill.
—submitted by Alison Loucks Haas
Original purpose: A holder for your berry favorite summer treat.
Aha! use: Protecting crocus bulbs from pesky squirrels. Plant the bulbs under the empty, upside-down baskets to keep the rodents at bay.
Reward: No squirrels driving you nuts.
—submitted by Tacy Connell
Original purpose: Steeping tea.
Aha! use: Between-crack weed killer. Pour the piping-hot liquid onto the growths that peek through cement to wipe them out.
Reward: A zero-chemical way to keep pavement tidy.
—submitted by Maureen McFadden Hill
Original purpose: Making your morning pick-me-up.
Aha! use: Altering the acidity of your soil. Collect used grounds to add to mulch for acid-loving plants like hydrangeas and roses.
Reward: Plants that are as perky as you are.
—submitted by Lori-Anne Charlton Poirier
Busted Roller Shades
Original purpose: Helping to block out brightness.
Aha! use: Houseplant stakes. Remove the slat at the end of the shade to use as a firm, natural-looking support that will keep top-heavy plants vertical.
Reward: Foliage that can hold its head up high.
—submitted by Shannon Orr Wettstein
Original purpose: Doling out what’s for dinner.
Aha! use: A perfectly sized container gardening tool. The compact tablespoon head makes a better fit than a traditional trowel for digging holes within the confines of a pot.
Reward: A heaping helping of convenience.
—submitted by Karen Houston Howell