JoAnne Skelly: A recycled garden

JoAnne Skelly

JoAnne Skelly

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

Last week I planted a vegetable garden, the first in many years after battles with ground squirrels. I’m cautiously optimistic about potential success because everything is in containers to keep the squirrels from the roots. I will cage all the containers to keep these pests from eating the upper portions of the plants.

The area where I put the garden used to be lawn. I realized that since there were no tree roots in that area, I could stop watering there. After capping off the sprinklers, I let the grass dry out and scalped it with the string cutter. I then covered the area with cardboard, using up all the shipping boxes that are so prevalent these days. I concealed the cardboard with chips from the trees that were pruned this past winter.

The only things I bought were the plants themselves: a “Sungold” cherry tomato, a “Martha Washington” slicing tomato, lemon cucumbers, a yellow zucchini, a “Purple Velour” green bean, the old standby “Kentucky Wonder” green bean, and some basil, dill, and rosemary plants.

I had already planted kale and parsley in pots a month ago, so we have a decent assortment of veggies and herbs. What makes me very happy is that everything else I needed for the garden I sourced from our property. The tomatoes are in a water trough that used to be a fountain.

My husband cut down a 50-gallon drum for me and painted two pieces white (black is too hot for plants). I planted the zucchini and cucumbers in them. I had two large ceramic pots from long gone gift plants into which I planted the beans. I had five large white plastic pots for everything else. It felt great to be resourceful in my recycling/reuse of so many materials. I even “made” the soil. For years we had been raking and storing leaves from all the trees.

My husband moved the top layer off with the tractor and then I dug out rich black soil from underneath. I sifted much of it to remove the undecomposed sticks and leaves, but it looked like black gold when I was done. I added a bit of 16-16-16 fertilizer to each pot to give the veggies a good start.

After situating the containers aesthetically, I added birdbaths and bird feeders to create interest. Right now, the garden looks pretty bare because the plants are so small, but once they grow in, it will look terrific. I can enjoy it all from my kitchen window as I do the dishes, remembering how good it felt to repurpose everything.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Email


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment