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Saving Money with Repurpose Gardening: Confessions of a Spirit Raccoon

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Save money with eggshell planting pods.

Are you throwing away money in your compost bin? Here are some ways to save money through repurpose gardening.


Spirit Animal Confessions

If there really is such a thing as having a spirit animal, mine would definitely be a racoon. I have a history of curb-side trash picking to see what other people have thrown away that I might find useful. And it has paid off.

My best find was a snow blower that someone tossed just because the muffler had rusted through and the starter cord on the 5 H.P. motor had broken and the owner could not be bothered with its repair. Within 10 minutes back in my garage, I had a new rope on the starter, donned some noise-cancelling headphones, and was in business. I used it for two winters before selling it for $300 prior to moving.

One of my more recent repairs was a rather expensive surround sound system where the DVD drive had failed. I could not find a replacement drive from the manufacturer because it was “outdated” tech. However, a $28 purchase with free shipping on eBay by someone who had the same system—but with audio difficulties—provided a scavenging solution. I switched the drives and once again I was back in business.

Repurpose Gardening

My point is that gardening provides many money-saving opportunities with what I like to call “Repurpose Gardening” where rather than spend money on something new every time, try following the mantra I as a repurposer like to follow: “Revive, Repair, Repurpose.

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Revive is where you determine if something is really broken or just needs a good slapping around. You may laugh at that, but slapping the side of an old TV or radio to get it working has its value as a diagnostic tool when dealing with tubes barely in their sockets or a loose wire connection. One of my favorite diagnostic tricks is to take an old socket board from a solid-state electronic device and flex it slightly to see if that gets something humming, because a copper trace has cracked over the years and a little flexing makes a temporary tell-tale contact.

Repair is where you actually have to fix or replace one component that all the other components of a larger machine depend on before it is once again useful—like a one-armed wheelbarrow I picked up this spring from a neighborhood curbside. A couple of new holes drilled into an $8 generic replacement handle at the local hardware store and I saved myself a minimum of 70 bucks for a badly needed wheelbarrow in my garden.

Repurpose is where you find some use for anything other than its original function when it no longer functions as it should. For example, I’ve taken an old electric leaf blower—a curbside trash-find—that had a busted nozzle, and I repurposed it into an exhaust system for a paint spraying booth.

Repurpose Gardening in the Kitchen

So how does this apply to composting? I mean, after all, composting is recycling that can save money on its own by providing nutrients that your garden needs for free rather than from a costly commercial fertilizer. True enough. However, it’s not enough to just compost, you can also compost smarter and gain more from your efforts if you think about the aforementioned mantra of “Revive, Repair, Repurpose.”

Composting organic scraps from the kitchen is repurposing. And while there’s not much that can be done with the “repair” part of the mantra, it turns out that applying “revive” in some cases of organic scraps can yield greater returns.

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On example that can save a significant amount of money is with egg shells, coffee grounds and produce seeds. This occurred to me while visiting a blog that illustrated using egg shells as seed starter pods.

While popular, seed starter kits are kind of pricey for what you get: a tray of biodegradable paper-based grow pods and a non-biodegradable plastic tray with cover to function as a mini-hothouse to germinate seeds and grow seedlings within the grow pods. You then add the cost of the seedling/potting soil and the cost of the seeds, and you can easily spend close to $50 by the time you have “JUST THE SEEDLING PHASE” of your gardening accomplished.

In the blog, the authors demonstrate that using egg shells and the egg shell carton that the eggs came in, replaces the need for a commercial grow plot and plastic tray. When a seedling grown in an egg shell is ready for transplanting, it’s a simple matter to gently crush the egg shell before transplanting the entire seedling into a larger pot or garden. But what about using coffee grounds as starter soil?

While the blog authors use commercial seed starting mix, some sources state that rinsing used coffee grounds with tap water may decrease the acidity enough to function as a starter soil for seedlings. Using coffee grounds might be plant-specific and bear some experimentation however. In either case, if you mix coffee grounds with some garden dirt, the seedlings should do fine until transplantation.

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And the seeds? One of the best free resources of seeds is from that fruit or vegetable scrap destined for the compost pile. You can easily retrieve and revive seeds from your meal prep scraps such as with tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, strawberries, and most tree fruits.

Here’s a YouTube Video About Another Gardening Use for Eggshells

The point of all this is that with some imagination and a critical eye towards any commercial product you are considering to buy for the garden, by applying the “Revive, Repair, Repurpose” mantra you can save money with Repurpose Gardening and perhaps get in touch with your own inner spirit animal.

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If you have any personal hints or recommendations for Repurpose Gardening, please share them with us in the comments section below.

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with a background in farming and an avid home gardener, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on the connection between plant biology and gardening for healthy living. For continual updates about plants and health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image source: courtesy of Pixabay

Reference: “HOW TO: PLANT SEEDS USING EGGSHELLS” Blog: 17apart.com