We moved to Devon in September 2019 and after spending fours years without a garden I couldn’t wait to get started. Don’t get me wrong, living in a flat did not prevent me from growing things but to be able to ‘potter’ around a garden again was divine.
As you probably know by now, I’m not one to go out and start buying fancy pots and planters. But with nothing but lawn and a gravel path I had to come up with something good in order for us to be able to grow everything we wanted to eat. Naturally in times of need I took to Pinterest for inspiration. I saw how people were making these remarkable planters out of old pallet wood. We don’t live too far from an industrial estate and a garden centre, so there is no shortage of broken pallets that they are only to happy for us to take away.
After a little convincing and planning, my husband and I took to the task of building a few planters in order to grow some vegetables. We started by collecting as many pallets as we could and began taking them apart, measuring, sanding and then finally putting them back together to create a garden planter. Nine planters, one bench and a bird table later, we have a full garden! We do however still have room for a cold frame, which is the next build. Our entire garden is filled with discarded or unwanted pots, wood, oak barrels, an old galvanised water tank and old sacks. I just adore it! There is nothing quite like taking something old and giving it another purpose.
I try very hard not to throw anything away, because the simple fact is that there is no ‘away’. Your unwanted items must go somewhere and that’s usually landfill. I think very hard about everything I discard. Will it rot, can it be useful still to someone else or can I reinvent its purpose. Everything, even that awful polystyrene packaging has to go somewhere...mine goes at the bottom of a very large planter that would be far too heavy if filled completely with a growing medium. So, I fill it one third polystyrene and two thirds good organic peat free compost, that way I’m not sending the polystyrene off to landfill and it can sit at the bottom of that planter well after I’ve left this beautiful world.
One of my favourite things to do is ‘bin dive’. I got the idea from an incredibly talented horticulturists, Alice Fowler and her book The Thrifty Gardener. She is my hero and has encouraged me to find a use for everything. If someone is throwing away some old tin or pot I know I can use, I simply ask if I can take it off their hands and almost every time they are glad to get rid of it. I haven’t bought a single plant pot for years, too many are simply just thrown away or placed in ‘recycling’ bins at garden centres. Yes, I’m that person you see digging around at the bottom of the crate trying to reach that perfect size pot at the bottom.
My other favourite places to shop are reclamation yards, I just adore them. We are very lucky to have a few close by and I love nothing better than browsing to see what obscure receptacle I can turn into the next planter for the garden. You would be amazed at what you can find, old buckets, teapots, kettles, bathtubs, baskets. It’s a treasure trove. It really is about looking at things differently, if we were not lucky enough to have refuse collections, what would you do with it then? That’s the mindset that you need to try and get into, which then has a knock on effect in how you purchase things. You start to consider the longevity and usefulness of the product, whether it is multifunctional or what happens to it when you no longer have a need for it?! These questions roll through your mind when you are deciding what to purchase and it’s your buying power that controls everything. It dictates how and what is manufactured. If you buy cheap, you get cheap. If you buy sustainable and conscientious, it will certainly have a better quality and most likely a larger impact than you ever even thought about.
This may sound counter intuitive being a seller of goods but I’m a firm believer in up-cycling and finding that hidden treasure in amongst another mans rubbish.
To all the gardeners out there...happy treasure hunting!