Originally posted Summer 2011.
As we begin to enter Stage 2 of mandatory water conservation in my area, it got me to thinking about ways we can both help ourselves (economically) and the environment (ecologically) during this drought season. In addition to water-related ideas, I thought of a few other recycling-related tips I’d like to share with you as well. Some are quite specific, such those concerning fish tanks and shaggy dog haircuts, and then there are those related to actions that we all partake in, such as drinking water and bathing. I certainly hope you find your household can benefit from a few of the below suggestions!
1. If you have a fish bowl or better yet, a large fish tank, when changing water, make a point to toss the old water into your veggie garden, flower beds and/or potted plants outdoors. This “fertilized” water provides excellent nutrients, is all-natural, and may assist in repelling detrimental insects. (Garden pests tend to dislike fish and/or seaweed concoctions.)
2. If the nectar in your hummingbird feeder becomes old – and it will do so very fast in the hot summer – do not throw it away or dispose of it in your yard indiscriminately. Drizzle the sugar water around wilted plants that may need an extra boost. I learned this trick by accident when my feeder fell and broke open into a clump of ferns. Those were the greenest ferns I ever had due to the extra boost from the nectar! A word of warning – this is one of those tips where a plant can get too much of a good thing. Sugar will eventually interfere with a plant’s growth and water uptake, so don’t sprinkle the nectar on the same plant each and every time – spread the wealth. As I said above, my feeder fell only once and that one time did the trick! P.S. Those little packets you get along with your purchased cut flowers essentially contain of form of sugar – simple fast food to keep your cut flowers prettier a little longer!
3. During the early spring when birds are building nests, toss out your dryer lint for our feathered friends to enjoy. If they don’t partake, it’s easy enough to retrieve and dispose of later.
4. Same with hair clippings from your dog. I usually give my dog a little trim now and then out in the backyard. I leave the hair in the yard for the birds to use to line their nests. Again, there isn’t much to worry with if the birds don’t notice the fluffy stuff. I just pick it up within the next day or two. (You’d be surprised how well they will notice it, though! I had a sparrow once come back for every tiny piece of my dog, Buzz’, soft hair one day after I clipped him. Those sparrow nestlings probably didn’t want to leave such a comfy abode!) For a short, funny video on this subject, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlovZIM3K5w&feature=related.
5. I’ve mentioned this one before. Instead of disposing of old or expired bread, crackers, cereal, popcorn and/or fruit, set it out in a platform bird feeder or a large plate on your patio. The birds, especially during drought times, will be ever so grateful to you – even if the food isn’t top quality! (Note: Place out only that which will be eaten in a day, otherwise you will attract critters you prefer not to have around such as rats.)
6. Collect rain water to water your indoor plants at least, and, your outdoor ones if you have an ample amount. You can invest in or create a rain barrel device or simply set out a large container to collect the rain. I use one of those large plastic bowls with handles – the kind you use to ice down sodas for a party. Think it cost me less than $5 at Wal-Mart. (This is another item you do not wish to place out for long periods of time as you will attract mosquito larva. Be sure to use the rain water within a few days.)
7. In addition to the above idea, I leave my large plastic bowl out all year on my patio to collect water from my sprinkler system that hits the concrete. I usually collect enough to water a few potted plants that the sprinklers don’t reach.
8. After your family meals, gather up your water glasses and ice cubes (from non-alcoholic beverages) and pour the excess into one large pitcher and take out to your bird bath. Your bird bath will be freshened up and cooled down at the same time, an especially nice treat for the birds during the hot summer.
9. When waiting for your bath or shower water to warm up, catch some of the initial cool water in a pitcher or two, set aside for later, and use for watering your plants indoors and out. Hint: If you allow the water to sit for 48 hours, most of the chlorine will have had time to dissipate and the water will be all the more healthier for your plants.
10. You’ve probably heard this one before. Mix in used coffee grounds around your acid-loving plants such as roses, azaleas, gardenias, hydrangeas and rhododendrons for better growth. This is another one that you don’t want to overdo, however. A little coffee goes a long way.
11. Recycle plastic 2 liter soda bottles as scoops for bird seed, mulch and potting soil. Simply cut the bottle in half and use the end with the nozzle as the handle (don’t forget to keep the cap on.) I love this idea since the extra-large scoop saves me footsteps too!
12. Use newspaper as a weed deterrent and to keep moisture in your flower and vegetable beds. (Personally, I’d avoid the colored inked pages just because there is a still a little controversy about the chemicals found in the ink, although through my research I read that the ink used today is virtually non toxic and actually contains carbon – which is a beneficial element for plants.) Layer 6 – 10 sheets thick of black and white print and keep moist. For a nicer appearance, you can add straw or wood mulch on top. The paper weed block will last only about one season, but it works well while it lasts. Best of all, it is porous enough to allow water and nutrients to pass through and a bonus is that it naturally degrades.
13. Dreaming of cooler weather . . . if you purchase a real Christmas tree, be sure to take part in your community’s after holiday recycling efforts. Cities typically shred the trees and use the mulch in community flower beds, parks, medians and along hike and bike trails.
Would you be willing to share one or two of your beneficial ecological and economical recycling tips with us?
Until then –