Gardening and landscaping - or, as I call them, the "soil sports" - are among my favorite pastimes. It's a chance to enjoy being outdoors and exercise both my green thumb and my passion for creative repurposing - you know, finding innovative ways to reuse items that most people simply throw away.
There a bunch of different ways to reuse would-be throwaway items in the garden and yard, including a number of techniques for deterring plant loving insects and other garden pests by repurposing things that might otherwise in end up in the trash. These pest solutions are easier on both the environment and your wallet than toxic chemical pesticide. Did you know that, according to the EPA, 78 million U.S. households use home and garden pesticides each year, with chemical pesticide sales topping $9 billion annually? That's a lot of dead bugs and a lot of dead president (AKA cash, bucks, greenbacks, lettuce, etc.)
Check out these "repurposeful" alternatives for garden pest control:
Garden Slug Trap: If you're a gardener, you probably know the damage slow-moving garden slugs can cause. But did you also know that they're hermaphroditic, having both male and female sex organs? And they happen to love stale beer, so you can trap them by burying a leftover aluminum pie pan or plastic "clamshell" up to its lip in the soil and filling it with a little stale beer. The slugs will crawl in for a drink, which will be their last. At least they'll die happy (although still sexually confused).
Keeping Creepy Crawlers at Bay: If death by drowning in stale beer is too cruel (heck, it sounds like a good way to go to me), garden slugs, snails, cutworms, caterpillars and other types of crawling garden pests can also be kept away by spreading crushed eggshells, nut shells, or even spent coffee grounds on the surface of the soil surrounding plants. Plus all of those things items add nutrients to the soil and naturally decompose. And you can protect the tender young stems of tomato and other plants from pest by making a "collar" to place around them out of repurposed aluminum foil, newspaper, a cardboard toilet paper tube, or even a tin/aluminum can with both ends opened (which also helps to direct and retain moisture). The collar shouldn't be touching the steam so it can grow freely.
Averting Aphids: Like little vampires, aphids kill plants by sucking the sap out of them. Chopping up banana peels and stirring them into the soil around plants to be protected will deter aphids and at the same time add potassium to the soil. Pretty appeeling idea, hey?
21st Century Scarecrows: Old-fashioned scarecrows really can keep birds away from the garden if they involve some movement and/or noise. One way to accomplish both is to trick-out your scarecrow with strips of repurposed aluminum foil, strands of old video/audio tape, or aluminum cans, pie plates or even old CD's strung together-- anything that will flash and flutter in the slightest breeze.
Tobacco Juice Plant Spray: If you have a family member or friend who smokes, help them quit by repurposing their tobacco products before they have a chance to light up. Mix one cup of tobacco with one gallon of water and allow it to infuse for 24-hours. Spray on plant leaves and stems (not on edible fruits/vegetables) to kill and deter a wide range of plant-damaging insects. It should not be used on plants in the Solanaceae family (e.g., tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc.).
The Zucchini Who Wore Pantyhose: It's no secret that I have more ways to repurpose old pantyhose than my wife has time to wear them out. One of my favorites is to use an appropriately sized length of pantyhose (tied off on one end) to cover fruits and vegetables - things like melons, apples, pears, cucumbers and, yes, even my zucchini - while they're still growing. It keeps a host of insects and even birds at bay, plus it makes your garden look kind of sexy.
Deterring Deer: If you have deer in your area, you probably feel like you're cultivating your garden just for their culinary enjoyment. While fencing is probably the best solution for keeping deer out a garden (as it is for deterring rabbits as well), human and pet hair scattered around plants will help. As will slivers of leftover soap tied up in a - you guessed it - a worn out a length of pantyhose and hung from precious trees and shrubs. Deer also hate the smell of eggs, particularly truly rotten eggs, so mixing rotten eggs with water and sprinkling it around plants to be protected can also be effective. And if all else fails, Pee may be the key: Urine - your own or your pets - can help to repel deer. Don't apply it directly to plants, but create a "tinkle barrier" a few feet away. Now that's what I call creative repurposing.
Jeff Yeager is the author, most recently, of Don't Throw That Away!
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