8 Plastic Kiddie Pool Reuses

After years of summer aquatic fun in 6 inches of baby pool magic with toddlers, my conscience took over and had issues with the unsustainable reality of the kiddie pool: Most inflatables get holes in them and whether they’re air-filled or hard plastic they’re made of PVC and laden with Bisphenol A, a toxic cocktail for earthlings just starting out on the planet.

We recently found a kiddie pool under our guesthouse deck, left behind by our renter, a mass of vinyl, pine needles, and hidden slugs. We cleaned it up with some high powered squirts from the garden hose and some serious scrubbing. I started inflating the thing by mouth in that way that Moms, Dads, and loved ones dedicated to preserving summer bliss can do, only to find that there was a small leak. Summer bliss had hit a road block.

Repairing inflatables is as simple as fixing a bike tire tube or Thermarest for camping. We got out the tube repair kit and made a quick patch and the inflating resumed. But it got me thinking. How many plastic kiddie pools are thrown out in our community each year? Likely hundreds. All that vinyl, headed to the landfill because someone didn’t have a patch kit or couldn’t deal with the gross slug slime-n-pine grime.

 

When you’re done with your pool, hopefully it’s still in working order for you to pass your pool on to another family that will frolic freely in their BuyNothing-ed frog pool. Or, if you have a hard plastic kid pool, donate it to your nearest animal rescue center for use by aquatic birds, fowl, and domestic animals escaping summer heat.

You might want to hang on to it, however, when you discover some of the upcycle options for that prized pool.

Hard Plastic Kiddie Pools:

1) Turn your pool and a few others into a raised bed garden. Wandering Chopsticks has a simple tutorial for you to follow for adding some green (and veggies) to your backyard.

Wandering Chopsticks’ Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden, Photo by Wandering Chopsticks.

2) If you have a party coming up and need to keep a lot of food cold while serving, Thrifty Fun’s wading pool cool food server might be just what you’re looking for.

3-6) Here are 4 more great ways to reuse your hard plastic kiddie pool, presented by Hint Mama. Among them are a ball pit, a beach playpen, and a toy bin.

Inflatable Kiddie Pools:

 

7) Turn your deflated pool into a slippy slide! Just turn it upside down on a little slope and add a trickle of water.

8) Then add a few drops of environmentally-safe liquid soap and watch the fun and bubbles explode!

Our kids are now older and I can proudly say that we never had to take a kiddie pool to the landfill. The reuses were too good and then the pools were passed on to others. Do you have a reuse we haven’t mentioned here?

Plant An Extra Row

Extra Romaine Lettuce is Easy to Grow For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

“Do You Have Any Leftovers?” was written on the sign next to the man sitting humbly on a street where popular cafes and restaurants have sidewalk seating on a Boulder, Colorado street. We were struck to the core by these words.

He wasn’t asking for money or even for “food.” This street beggar simply wanted what we were going to throw away, reminding passers-by that if they had a few morsels they weren’t going to eat at that streetside cafe, he’d be happy to gulp it down. My son had half a bagel wrapped in a napkin that he was going to eat for lunch. He promptly put it in the man’s hands and they smiled at each other as the man gratefully ate the food.

Potatoes Harvested For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

This direct experience with someone whom we knew was hungry got us thinking creatively about our food and where we have leftovers that might help others. If you have a garden, you’ve likely experienced the good fortune of excess produce to share with friends and neighbors. Why not share it with neighbors who are in need of food? Plant a row for the hungry, and at harvest time take your produce to your nearest food bank to augment the traditional canned goods people donate. A box full of lettuces, tomatoes, squash, or carrots will bring joy to those who might not have had a fresh locally-grown vegetable for months.

Digging for Treasure. Photo © Liesl Clark

My friend, Rebecca Rockefeller, and I planted a garden together with our children that donated over half the produce to our local food bank, Helpline House. Potato harvest was particularly fun for the kids. It’s like digging for treasure. I always make room for a few extra rows of greens, too, to share on our local Buy Nothing group. Anything we can’t eat is shared with our neighbors. It helps us to meet new people who have moved to the neighborhood.

Children Love Harvesting For Others in Need. Photo © Liesl Clark

The children enjoy bringing the boxes of produce we harvest into our local food bank. Last year we donated 148 lbs of food and hope to double our contribution this year. Of course, potatoes and zucchini do add up! Planting an extra row or 2 has helped us rethink our bounty in general. When we have the time, homemade yogurt is donated, along with extra eggs from the henhouse and a loaf of fresh-baked bread shouldn’t be too hard to contribute once a month or so. We’re shifting our food-production model to include more hungry bodies. And we’ll think of the man on the Boulder sidewalk happy to eat our half-eaten bagel because he simply was that hungry. Imagine if we could’ve given him a handfull of fresh strawberries, apples, and carrots picked minutes before.

These Greens From My Garden Went to Helpline House. Photo © Liesl Clark

If you can’t plant a row for the hungry, you can find edible bounty around you to donate. We’re looking forward to doing some foraging for our less fortunate neighbors for watercress and blackberries when the season is right. There’s plenty out there, so why not take a little time out of your day to provide for a few more mouths than your own? It brings joy and a feeling of connection to those around us through the food we grow and harvest with our own hands.

Nasturtiums and Peas. Photo © Liesl Clark

DIY Scrap Wood Chickubator

By Pete Athans

Chickubator? That’s my name for a wooden box used to house baby chicks until they’re ready to hang with the big girls in the coop.

Little Peeper in the Chickubator. Photo © Liesl Clark

Day-old chicks arrive weekly at our local feed store come early spring and every other year our children get to pick out 6 new chicks to add to our flock.

4 Little People Holding 4 Chicks On the Way Back Home. Photo © Liesl Clark

It’s a special time for them, fluff balls peeping in their hands and laps as they all bounce in the backseat of our truck on the way home.

IMG_3507 Photo © Liesl Clark

Some people put the chicks in their bathtub — no water included of course — but the thought of 6 chicks in the tub for a couple of months and the cleanup required might deter our kids from taking baths in the future.

The Chickubator. It needs a new floor. Photo © Liesl Clark

Enter the chickubator. I’ve constructed a simple 3 ft. X 4 ft. wooden box from our old decking material that’s lasted 6 years so far. I don’t have the photos to give you a full tutorial, but here’s the basic sketch: Build the walls and end pieces first, or use scrap plywood. My side walls are 4′ X 3′ and end pieces are 3′ X 3′.

Then, use 1″ X 2″ strips, the same height as your chickubator walls, as your corners to add stability and a nailing surface.  Using 2 1/2″ wood screws on the corners and screw your walls and end pieces together.

After 6 years, our chickubator was ready for a new floor.

IMG_3466 Photo © Liesl Clark

I got out some scrap 1″ X 4″ cedar planks and cut them to size.

IMG_3468 Photo © Liesl Clark

You can see, above, that I reinforced the end wall with a 1″ X 4″ due to Northwest rains and subsequent rot. We store our chickubator under our deck during the chick-raising off-season. This isn’t fine home-building, folks.

IMG_3470 Photo © Liesl Clark

Screw the floor pieces to the bottom walls.

IMG_3552 Photo © Liesl Clark

The box is set up in our laundry room atop 1″ X 1″ wood strips atop a tarp to protect our cedar plank floor.

IMG_3519 Photo © Liesl Clark

Throw some shredded paper in there and you’ve got a chick home. A red heat lamp keeps them warm and apparently deters the chicks from pecking at each other. Be sure to put chicken wire over the top of your chickubator. The little peepers will start to fly in a matter of days and could get out. Or, Willa the cat could get in. I built a frame that goes around the top of the box and stapled scrap chicken wire to it. It’s easy for the kids to take on and off.

IMG_3568 Photo © Liesl Clark

Nothing cuter than baby chicks — except maybe a puppy doting over his brood.

IMG_3538 Photo © Liesl Clark

50 Garden Hacks From Your Trash

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There may be items in your trash that could help you with your gardening. Check out this list and see if any of these great ideas resonate with you, helping you pull a couple things out of your trash and, well, into your garden to green up your world. If you don’t have these items in your trash, ask for them on your local Buy Nothing group. I’ve categorized the ideas by item, and each one links to a unique reuse. Enjoy!

Plastic Bottles:

1) Plastic Bottle Mosquito Trap: This one is a trick using yeast and a cut bottle glued together. Read on and try it.

2) Plastic Bottle Cloche: It’s as easy as cutting a plastic bottle in half and sticking it upside down over your seedling or plant.

3) Plastic Bottle Self-Watering Seed Starters: These plastic bottles, cut in half and one inverted inside the other have a wicking system worth checking out.

4) Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation System: 4 small holes in your 2-liter bottle that’s buried in the ground provide excellent watering for your plants.

5) Plastic Bottle Greenhouse: A greenhouse like this is a true inspiration.

Milk Jugs:

6) Milk Jug Scoop: Milk or OJ jugs make easy scoops.

7) Milk Jug Cloches: Use Milk Jugs to protect your larger plants. Just cut the bottom out of the milk jug, turn it upside down and it’ll protect your plants.

8) Milk Jug Mini Greenhouses: These mini greenhouses in gallon jugs can prove useful.

Clear Plastic Containers:

9) Plastic Container Mini Greenhouse: Just turn it upside down and you have a mini cloche/greenhouse.

Winter Squash Seedling Basking in the Heat of a Lettuce Box, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Cereal Boxes & Cracker Boxes:

10) Cardboard Weed Block: Take your cereal boxes and cracker boxes to the garden and use them as weed blocking.

Bike Wheels:

11) Bike Wheel Trellis: Bike wheel trellises are beautiful.

DVDs/CDs:

12) DVD/CD Bird Scaring Trick: Birds don’t like reflective stuff. It scares them off. Put a few around your berries and you’ll keep those peckers away.

Mailboxes:

13) Mailbox Garden Tool Cache: Post an old mailbox up in your garden, and you have a water-proof place to store hand tools, planter markers, and your notes.

Make a garden tool cache out of an old mailbox. Photo © Liesl Clark

Drawers:

14) Drawer Seedling Starter: This one’s easy. Just use an old drawer as a seedling planter box.

OJ Cans:

15) OJ Can Plant Labels: The can tops make pretty labels for marking your rows.

Rain Boots:

16) Rain Boot Planters: Save a few pairs of the kids cute rain boots for whimsical planters.

Plastic Plant Pots:

17) Plastic Plant Pot Flowers: Add a little flair to your outdoor space with these plant pot flowers.

Trash Cans:

18) Trash Can Root Cellar: I’m interested in trying this for storing our potatoes, carrots, daikon radish, turnips and cabbages next year. It simply requires digging a deep hole.

Tupperware Tubs:

19) Tupperware Worm Farm: Make a few holes in your old Tupperware bins, order a few hundred red worms, follow the instructions here and you’ll have a worm farm.

Plastic Bottle Caps:

20) Plastic Bottle Cap Lawn Flowers: Michele Stitzlein creates beautiful blooms from plastic caps. She’s published a couple of books on plastic cap art, too.

Glassware:

21) Glassware Flowers: These bowls and dishes are all the rage.

Garden Hoses:

22) Garden Hose Flowers: If you have space on a wall, you could create flowery art from your old hoses.

Twist Ties:

23) Twist Tie Plant Trainers: Save your twist ties to use for training plants to fences and stakes.

We reuse twist ties for training our espalier fruit trees. Photo © Liesl Clark

Soda Cans:

24) Soda Can Planters: In a pinch, soda cans can be used as planters and seed starters.

25) Pop Can Plant Markers: With a little effort, you can make some pretty markers for your garden.

Styrofoam:

26) Styrofoam Planter Filler: Fill the bottom of your large plant pots with styrofoam so they don’t get too heavy.

Styrofoam Planter Filler, Photo: Liesl Clark

PVC

27) PVC Garden Tower: Drill holes in a PVC tube and you have a strawberry planter

Coaxial Cables:

28) Coaxial Cable Fence: Who knew that a coaxial cable could look so pretty with bamboo?

Tie a Bamboo Fence Together with Coaxial Cable

Wine Bottles:

29) Wine Bottle Waterer: Turn your empties upside down (with H2O in them) in your plant pots and go on vacation!

30) Wine Bottle Garden Edging: Wine bottles can make colorful garden edging.

31) Wine Bottle Hose Guard: A wine bottle and a stick are all that’s needed to keep your hose out of your garden beds.

Empty Bottle Hose Guard Hard at Work photo: Rebecca Rockefeller

Clementine Boxes:

32) Clementine Box Planters: Clementine boxes make excellent seedling starter boxes or planters for forced bulbs.

Blue Jeans:

33) Blue Jeans Garden Apron: Sew yourself a simple garden apron from an old pair of jeans that can hold your garden tools.

Plastic Mesh Produce Basket:

34) Plastic Mesh Seedling Saver: We use these baskets to prevent slugs and birds from destroying our seedlings.

Turn your trash backwards: Place mesh produce baskets over seedlings to protect from birds, frost, and really big slugs.

Windows:

35) Windows Greenhouse: This is a simple design for a small greenhouse made from windows.

36) Window Frame Trellis: An old window frame with mullions makes a pretty trellis.

Broken Ceramics:

37) Broken Ceramics Pot Drainage: Put your broken ceramic pieces in the bottom of plant pots for added drainage.

38) Plant Your Broken Dishes: Plant your favorite broken dishes in the garden and enjoy them throughout the growing season.

Carafe and Pitcher under the Bean Trellis photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Broken Pot Planter: When our ceramic pots break, I plant them in our garden along with something planted to look as if it’s spilling out of the pot, having grown there over time.

IMG_2266

Paint Cans:

39) Paint Can Planters: I love these paint cans turned planters at my friend Maya’s house in Tsarang, Upper Mustang, Nepal.

Even Paint Cans Add Flowery Color to a Household, Photo: Liesl Clark

Laundry Hampers:

40) Laundry Hamper Potato Planter: I planted potatoes inside an old laundry hamper and the harvest was easy.

Potato Leaves Begin to Poke Out, Photo©Liesl Clark

Skis:

41) Ski Fence: If anyone lives in the Seattle area and wants to make one of these, please contact us as we have several hundred skis at the end of our Rotary Auction.

Window Blinds:

42) Mini Blind Plant Markers: These look really easy to make.

Panty Hose:

43) Panty Hose Deer Repellant: If you place a bar of soap inside the foot of old panty hose and hang it from your apple tree, it should deter the deer from nibbling on your tree. You can also use a single child’s mitten for this, as it looks cute and either put the perfumed soap inside or human hair (they don’t like the smell of humans.)

Headboards:

44) Headboard Trellis: A headboard makes a beautiful pea trellis.

An Old Headboard from Freecycle Makes a Perfect Garden Trellis, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Newspaper:

45) Newspaper Garden Uses: There are many reuses for newspaper in the garden.

Cassette Tapes:

46) Cassette Tape Bird Deterrent: Pull the tape out of your cassette and string it over your garden. Birds hate the reflective quality of the tape.

Pet Food Bags:

47) Feed Bag Tarp: Sew your plastic woven pet food bags together into a tarp for garden needs.

Toilet Paper Tubes:

48) TP Tube Seedling Starters: Start your seeds in a tube filled with soil.

Sponges:

49) Sponges in Plant Pots: Cut up your old sponges and place them in the bottom of plant pots. They’ll hold moisture for a long time.

Kiddie Pools:

50) Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden: Hard plastic kiddie pools make excellent raised bed gardens.

What do you reuse in your garden? Help me add to the list.

Random Acts of Reuse In The Kingdom of Mustang

In Upper Mustang, Nepal, there is an ethic of reuse that has changed my ways. Few things are consumed and then simply thrown away, except for candy wrappers, plastic packaging like biscuit wrappers, ramen noodle packets, and plastic bags holding washing powder. These, sadly, are found underfoot in nearly every village.

Plastic Packaging Used for Irrigation:

But most plastics in Mustang are put to use in innovative ways. Take the plastic lining for water diversion in irrigation ditches. Rather than using jute sacks filled with sand, a readily available material is plastic packaging and bags layered with mud, unwanted clothing and textiles to create an impermeable dam for irrigation ditches. The plastics, unfortunately, often break free and are carried downstream into the Kali Gandaki River where all water flows.

Potato Sack Turned Horse Feed-Bucket:

One of the most innovative Mustang-style trash hacks is the method by which local horses are fed their grain. Potato sacks made of woven plastic are sewn into a configuration that fits easily around a horse’s muzzle, with long string handles that hang over the horses’ ears. Corn is measured out and put in the potato-sack-turned-feed-bag, the chaff blown by hand from the corn to prevent the horse from inhaling it in the bag, and the bag is hung from the horse’s ears: a muzzle feeder that’s a brilliant light-weight way to feed one’s horses while traveling. No need for heavy buckets. Whether on-the-go or at home, these muzzle feed bags are the preferred feeding bucket for Mustang equines.

When one becomes worn out and a hole develops, they’re quickly patched up, as this one was mended by a talented tailor friend in the village of Samdzong, utilizing his son’s worn out sweat pants.

I grew up with horses and we went through plenty of buckets, some made of PVC and plastic which when broken became yet another hefty item in the landfill. The potato/rice sacks turned into horse feed bags are one of the best reuses I’ve ever seen in a remote part of the world that could easily be adopted world-wide!

Planted Pots in Buckets, Paint Cans and Tins:

Anything that is a receptacle is used in Mustang until it can no longer hold anything, disintegrated by sun and wind to the point of uselessness. In the topmost photo of planters, below, you’ll see a plastic bucket that developed a crack and was then sewn back together with plastic twine. Potted flowering succulents are such a valuable addition of organic color to a household, taking the time to repair that heavy-duty plastic pot is clearly worth the effort. If we treated our own plastic pots and buckets the same way, there’d be a significant reduction in the production of these plastics in the first place, and a renewed ethic which the Lobas, the people of Upper Mustang, haven’t lost, of repairing everything again and again until its useful life is truly over. Now that’s reuse!

Put Plastic Berry Baskets To Work

What are we to do about the plastic berry basket? You know which berry containers I’m talking about: The plastic mesh variety, pint-size and usually green in color that our cherry tomatoes and strawberries come in. They come under the following names: Berry baskets, berry boxes, strawberry baskets, pint berry containers, plastic strawberry baskets, plastic cherry tomato boxes…the list goes on.

Why do we need to surround our beautiful fruits and veggies in plastic? It’s not the grocery stores that are packaging your lovely berries. Farmers choose the packaging, but many grocery stores will give feedback to farmers if their customers just don’t want their fresh produce packaged in plastic berry baskets.

If you want to avoid accumulating these baskets, simply buy your strawberries and cherry tomatoes only when they’re available in cardboard baskets and if your grocery store only carries plastic ones, give them your instant feedback by not purchasing them and get proactive in letting the store know you’ll start buying berries again when they can provide waste-free packaging. It’s grocery store strawberry season here and I cannot find a single one that’s plastic-free. Ours are packaged in clear clamshell packaging, aka styrofoam, and that stuff is a known carcinogen. No strawberries for us until they ripen in our garden or are offered at the Farmer’s Market or our local garden produce-share group.

What to do with your plastic berry baskets if you have to buy produce in them? Check to see if your local farmers can reuse berry baskets, if they’re clean. Save them and then pass them along, or collect enough of them to post them on your Buy Nothing group, and you might find a craft group or teacher who could use them.

Otherwise, here are 9 ideas to get you reusing the pint berry baskets you might have.

1) Turn them into candy boxes or gift boxes by weaving pretty ribbons through them.

2) Use them as a doll playpen.

3) Let your child’s teddy bear wear one as a space helmet for galactic journeys.

4) Start your cucumber, melon, and other starts in them by lining them with newspaper, adding potting soil and keeping in a sunny warm space. Then transplant the whole thing, basket and all, into the garden. Roots will grow through the plastic mesh and there will be no transplant shock for your seedlings. Remember to retrieve the plastic basket from your garden at the end of the season for reuse.

5) Place them upside down over your seedlings in your garden to protect them from birds.

6) Make an Easter Basket.

7) Line them with paper and use as a container for little things in your everything drawer or child’s playroom.

8) Use one as an earring holder/display.

9) Reuse them for your own berry picking.

I’m just going to refuse them from now on, and maybe you will, too. If we just stop buying them, maybe the farmers will find better baskets for their berries.

Styrofoam Filler For Planters

Have a large pot you’d like to plant cucumbers or flowers in? Don’t fill it up with planting soil! Save your soil and fill the base with Styrofoam first. The foam will reduce the overall weight of your planter, enabling you to move it around for best sun exposure. It also acts as good drainage for water.

Styrofoam Planter Filler, Photo: Liesl Clark

We found some big chunks of styrofoam washed up on our local beach, so I knew that we wouldn’t be able to recycle it. If you don’t have a readily-available source on your beach, save a few styro-blocks to stuff into your large planters. If you’re concerned about the carcinogenic qualities of polystyrene, make sure you place the foam on the very bottom of the planter so the roots don’t touch it. Then, fill with good planting soil, ensuring you’ve filled in all the in-between spaces so your plants’ roots don’t dry out.

Studies aren’t conclusive whether there are any known effects of styrofoam or plastics in our soil upon our foods. If so, we’re in trouble. Almost all commercial compost has polystyrene and hard plastics throughout.

Most of our styrofoam gets recycled around Earth Day when a local feed store drives our styrofoam to a recycler on the other side of Puget Sound.

What do you think? Have you got your own reuse for Styrofoam? We’d love to hear from you.