Saturday, March 28, 2009

Repurposing Project

Many people think being ecologically responsible means recycling. While recycling is certainly important, even more important is repurposing. Repurposing basically means giving new life to the items in your house that you might have otherwise discarded into the trash or recycling bin.

Repurposing often involves creative, out-of-the-box thinking. For example, we're fixing up our basement right now and have gobs of old fiberglass insulation stuffed between the floor joists that make up the basement "ceiling." We've wanted to remove it for a while now but have agonized over the thought of throwing all that nasty stuff into a dumpster. Then my husband had an idea: why not take that fiberglass and use it to insulate our tiny mowhawk of an attic? The small space above our bungalow's second floor is under-insulated, and for months now we've tried to figure out the best way to insulate our attic so we can retain a bit more heat in the winter. Repurposing our old basement insulation solves two problems at once: the problem of waste disposal and the problem of attic heat loss. Seems like the best kind of win-win situation to me.

Anyway, I noticed a couple weeks ago that I had a growing stack of empty Play-Doh containers. The yellow plastic cups sat on my kitchen counter for a few days waiting to be dealt with; that's when the idea struck me to use the little cups as seedling planters.

Last year was my first summer getting my feet wet with vegetable gardening, and although I didn't get much, I had a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes. I managed to save some of the seeds, and a few weeks ago I planted them with the intention of growing some indoors. My idea is to eventually plant them in hanging baskets in a couple windows and then let them flow over the sides of the baskets.

The seedlings were growing nicely in the biodegradable egg carton in which I'd planted several seeds on Feb. 16. But Saturday, March 28 I noticed their leaves looking a little discolored. So I knew the time had come for a transplant into a larger container.

I started by washing remaining bits of dried Play-Doh from the yellow cups. Then I used an Awl to poke four holes in the bottom of each.

Next, I filled each container with a 50/50 mixture of seed starter and potting soil and added 1/2 tsp. of crushed egg shells to each cup (when I cook with eggs, I wash, dry and crush the shells; I've read it's good to add egg shells the soil of many plants, including tomatoes, as the calcium in the shells can help prevent certain leaf diseases).

I carefully transplanted each of my seedlings from the biodegradable egg carton to the larger Play-Doh containers.

Finally, I covered the soil around each transplanted seedling with finely chopped sphagnum peat moss. I placed the Play-Doh lids at the bottom of each cup to catch water drainage. Then I watered and misted them and put all except for two in one of my mini green houses. The remaining two cups were placed under growlights in the kitchen.

My seedlings seem much happier now that they have more room to stretch their roots! Some of them did lose the yellowing lower leaves, which tells me I should have transplanted these little guys about a week ago.

On a related note, I repurposed a flat biodegradable eggroll tray from Trader Joe's to start about 15 spinach seeds, which I also intend to grow indoors. After rinsing the tray lightly, I layered it with potting soil, then seed starter, then laid the seeds on top of soil. I covered the seeds with a very light dusting of well chopped sphagnum peat moss (mostly the particles at the bottom of the bag). Then I spritzed with my mister and and put the tray in my southern "seed starting" greenhouse.

Incidentally, I have two greenhouses I bought for about $30 each from Harbor Freight on Greenfield Avenue in West Allis. They aren't the sturdiest of structures, but for the price, I'm pretty happy with them. They're great for starting seeds in a warm, moist environment. I put one in front of my eastern-facing sliding glass door and one in my southern dining room window. Haven't decided yet whether I'm going to keep them indoors year round or move them outside just before the last frost date to harden off my seeds.

If you're looking for repurposing projects, try googling the keywords "repurposing ideas" and you'll find all sorts of information. Have fun!

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas! I love repurposing. I like using boxes as drawer organizers, cans and mugs to hold things like pens, scissors, combs, utensils, etc. and rubber bands (that come wrapped around my mail every day) to hold things in place instead of tape. I keep bits of ribbon to decorate gifts and knick-nacks and use brown bags or coupon leaflets as wrapping. Cut-up cardboard from tissue boxes makes great postcards. Old t-shirts, towels, and such are great for rags but also great to stuff in fragile packages to send to friends. And I definitely give nice things that I don't use to friends - I don't really buy the stigma of "re-gifting" because it's such a treat to receive something cool from a friend even if they've used it. Please pass on more ideas!