The goal of developing a garden space is to enjoy the beauty of nature with an intentional design (even if the intention is wild). Design and design elements depend on vision, ability, and options – some opt for do-it-yourself projects that get the hands dirty and ups the gratification levels while others may decide that a professional, contracted expert will do it best, leaving you to sip lemonade and suntan while the freshly planted petunias blossom.
The choice is yours. Any which way, adding upcycled and repurposed materials to a sustainable garden is a great way to save the earth while cultivating your own patch of perfect planet.
Any utilization of recycled, repurposed, or upcycled materials has a multiplicity of benefit. Instead of materials going to the landfill to rot for potentially thousands of years, its usable life can continue – albeit with a change in perspective and purpose. Reusing materials to beautify natural spaces rather than pollute them sounds like a good idea to us. Combining with sustainability practices like water conservation and waste reduction, this could be your garden’s greenest summer yet.
These great DIY ideas are great examples of contemporary sustainability practices and show how simple it can be to make a big difference:
Most pallets can be disassembled into a pile of workable pieces. The possibilities are quite vast when it comes to repurposed pallet projects. Some possible creations include making a compost box, a strawberry planter or a raised bed garden. (Image 1, Image2).
A simple project with space saving qualities; this repurposed vertical pallet garden was created by Fern Richardson, creator of the popular and critically-acclaimed garden blog, Life on the Balcony. (Image 3)
Who knew several single pallet pieces laid on the ground could add such a fairy tale touch to a garden? Funky Junk Interiors blogged this gorgeous pallet wood garden walkway. (Image 4).
A drip-feeder watering system for plants or soil can ensure even water absorption for the root systems. WikiHow gives three ways to create a drip-irrigation from a plastic bottle. These methods ensure balanced distribution with a predetermined controlled flow to the roots. (Image 5)
Willem Van Cotthem, Honorary Professor of Botany at the University of Ghent (Belgium) and Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development, wrote a wonderful blog tutorial on creating a vertical bottle-tower-garden. This space saving method utilizes gravity to ensure no water goes to waste while repurposing easily obtainable materials. (Image 6)
If you want to share some eco-understanding, Layers of Learning provides an excellent tutorial for creating a soda pop bottle ecosystem, perfect for a family project (and an indoor garden space). This adorable project demonstrates several sustainable and permaculture concepts all in one. (Image 7)
Getting Creative is Key. Definitely Think Outside the Box!
Using clawfoot tubs, toilets and tires as planters all can be gorgeously aesthetic when intentionally integrated in your DIY garden design.
Linda, aka Garden Betty, writes about her vintage scrap-to-salvage project, sharing her process of converting a clawfoot tub into an outdoor planter. Featured in a Boulder County Home & Garden, “Making Gifts for the Garden”, the creative use of a discarded toilet is a beautiful oxymoron.
When looking for materials to repurpose there are quite a few options. First, see if you already have something that can be transformed. Check your local Craigslist site under the for sale > free section for hidden treasures. Flea markets and antique shops could also turn up the perfect vintage garden addition.
Providing a diverse array of customers the opportunity to make something creative and purposeful from reclaimed materials, Resource Central: Reuse Facility is the home of Resource Central’s reclaimed materials programs. Located off Arapahoe Road in Boulder, Resource Central facilitates the reuse of architectural and other building materials through donation and resale. Resource Central’s yard, warehouse, and showroom house are an ever-changing inventory that offer gently used, donor-sourced construction and building materials at affordable prices.
Resource Central has been a significant presence in the sustainability community since 1996 and provides a full complement of sustainable services for the building trades, homeowners, makers, and DIYers. Don’t have the tools needed for a project? Resource Central supports a sharing economy through their Tool Lending Library – with paid membership you have access to Resource Central’s centralized inventory of more than 800 hand, electric, and gas-powered tools.
Resource Central even offers a Garden In A Box that will take the guesswork out of beautifying your landscape and reduce water use at the same time. A simple approach to water-wise gardening, these professionally designed gardens contain 14-32 starter plants, a comprehensive Plant and Care Guide, at least 1 plant by number map, educational resources about water conservation practices and the principles of xeriscape, and other information that helps you support water conservation with sustainable practices.
Sustainable permaculture garden creations aren’t just for do-it-yourselfers; there’s a plentiful supply of companies that specialize in these concepts.
Co-owner of Boulder-based company Space & Thyme, Hanna Williams spoke with me about what sustainable gardening looks like on the Front Range. Williams has studied Biodynamic Horticulture in the United Kingdom, completed a full-season apprenticeship with Sustainable Settings Ranch, and has installed and maintained landscapes across the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. Focusing now on the Boulder area, Williams’ deepest interests lie within the urban and suburban applications of biodynamic principles.
William’s states that Space & Thyme Gardens is “Integrating the principles of organic farming, aesthetics, and herbal medicine in order to generate functional, ecological, and beautiful gardens.” Williams describes their customer base as people who are “…connected to our region’s ecosystem and want to do their best to regenerate and give back.” Continuing, she says, “I’d say about 70% of our contract jobs are sustainability minded.”
When it comes to sustainability, Space & Thyme demonstrates water conservation with their xeriscape designs optimized for their location and natural ecology. Their intentional planting of medicinal and edible plants is worth recognizing as it highlights intention with design.
At Harlequin’s Gardens in North Boulder, owners Mikl Brawner and Eve Reshetnik Brawner answer what sustainability means in a plant nursery? For this small family business, sustainability means plants that are adapted to Colorado conditions so they will be successful with less water, fertilizers and pest management.
Celebrating 26 years dedicated to sustainability, Harlequin’s specializes in Colorado-adapted plants: hardy own-root roses, xeriscape plants, natives, perennials, shrubs, herbs, rock garden plants, fruit and trees. They also offer a wide variety of sustainability classes that include titles such as “edible landscape” and “organic lawn care.” Their lengthy calendar of classes and events, viewable on their website, provides an array of learning opportunities. The greeting on their Spring Newsletter says a lot about why they are so passionate: “Welcome to Spring, to Harlequin’s Gardens and to another opportunity to learn to live in harmony with Nature and with each other, through the practice of gardening.”
Whether you have gardening plans for this spring or not, being aware of sustainable designs can bring about new enjoyment of garden spaces, both public and private. Colorado life is rife with opportunity to design a garden space that is considered and intentional, to take your next DIY project to another level of eco-green.