Real Men Sow

Eight Household Items to Reuse and Save a Few Quid

The little microclimate in my sheltered corner of the world finally caught up today, and we got snow. Normally, I love snow, but with my usual sledging partner 8 months pregnant I chose to mope around the house doing manjobs, like drilling holes, putting shelves up and fixing bikes.

In between this, I did some web surfing, and stumbled across a forum post in which a gentleman says that as much as he loves his allotment hobby, he has pledged not to let him cost more than a fiver a month.

Resourceful and thrifty, two of my favourite things. Inspired and desperate to do something loosely veg growing based as my garden disappeared under 4 inches of the white stuff, I put the drill down. It was time to start saving some everyday household items for use on the veg patch this coming season.

Toilet Rolls
I use these for growing in modules. Cut in half or thirds, they’re particularly useful for seeds that are tricky to germinate, like parsnips. Fill them with multipurpose compost, pop a couple of seeds on top and then sprinkle over some more compost, and once the seedlings get a few centimetres high you can plant the whole thing out. The cardboard will simply rot down into the soil.

You can use biodegradable pots from the garden centre, but of course they’ll cost you. :)

Although not strictly a household item, I remembered the wife had been hacking away at the garden this week, so I collected up all the twigs and cuttings. Snipped down to 2-3 feet high, they’re perfect for dwarf pea plants to grow up.

Margarine Tubs
I once paid two quid for a bag of white plant labels, and then I saw my mum cutting up margarine tubs and using them instead. I bowed to her frugal ways and spent the next two quid on seeds.

Yoghurt Pots
Before the sad closure of my local nursery last summer, I never paid for plastic plant pots as they always had a big box of free second had ones for customers to help themselves to. Since then, my supplies have run dry, so I’ve used yoghurt pots to fill the void with no problems at all. Just remember to put a few holes in the bottom.

Plastic Milk Bottles and Drink Cans
These make great safety covers for the tops of pointy sticks and canes, and double up as effective bird scarers when they rattle in the wind.

Wooden Boxes
Even before I took on my allotment I was a sucker for an old wooden box but now I’ve got a use for them. They’re perfect for salad and other leafy veg and being mobile, you can start them off early in doors before moving them outside when things warm up.

My favourite boxes are old wine ones, but even a stray piece of wood can be cut up and banged into a presentable planter.

Plastic Bottles
Big squash bottles are great for turning into cloches for frost protection and early sowings. Simply cut one in half and slot it over the young plant. They might not be as stylish and attractive as a purpose made cloche, but they’re not £30 either…

The other day I went to the dump, and was rather surprised at how much cardboard was in the recycling there. Large pieces of cardboard are really handy for laying over parts of a plot that is work in progress, as they keep the weeds down whilst you work out a plan of attack, and then just compost down into the soil.

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  1. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!January 21, 2013 at 1:00 pmReply

    Great tips Jono! Cardboard is also great for smothering out weeds or turf grasses, just lay down and cover with a few inches of wood chips or other mulch.

    My favorite plant labels are cheap vinyl mini blinds. Find a broken one that somebody is throwing out and you have a nearly lifetime supply. Write on with a regular pencil.

  2. wellywomanJanuary 22, 2013 at 10:41 amReply

    Some great ideas there. I’m really trying to reduce my use of plastic in the garden. I wrote a piece for Grow Your Own this month about the alternatives to plastic. My shed is stuffed with washed and stacked plastic pots but I’m going to try lots of alternatives this year. I’ve got some wooden seed trays and a paper potter and a variety of biodegradable pots.

    When I took on my allotment there were bits of plastic everywhere from discarded labels to plastic twine. My quest is to not litter it with any more and use natural products as much as possible. Better get saving those loo rolls. ;)

  3. AdamJanuary 22, 2013 at 8:58 pmReply

    Good post. Everything I do will be as cheap as possible! I got given a paper potter for Xmas and am looking forward to using that (using newspapers given to me from a neighbour – or taken out of the recycling at work). I know my mum has had a lot of success using loo rolls to plant in.

    Where do you manage to find old wine boxes from?

  4. Jono

    JonoJanuary 22, 2013 at 10:07 pmReplyAuthor

    Alan – perfect timing, they’re throwing those out at work. Thannk you, great idea.

    WW – I love that idea. You are right about there being so much plastic all over the place. I’ve seen people make pots out of old newspaper too, that might be worth checking out.

    I have that magazine upstairs, will check out your feature.

    Adam – I was lucky, and a friend’s dad was throwing some out. Its crazy really, I’ve seen shops selling the things for over a fiver recently!!

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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