Cheap and Easy Plant Markers

I know there are all sorts of retail products you can purchase to identify your seedlings in pots or in the garden, but with the number of plants I grow from seed I don’t want to be spending my gardening budget on fancy markers. I’d rather spend my money on fancy plants 🙂

Using a permanent ink, I write the name of the plant on the plastic marker cut from a yogurt or similar container. They last all season, aren’t affected by rain or hot sun and I can often reuse the same markers the following year. What could be simpler?


Build a composter from…Whatever you’ve got

When it comes to building something new for my garden, I like to use what I have rather than buy something ready made. Today I decided that I needed a new composter for under a tree in the front yard. I have a pile of compost out there that needs to be properly processed.

I had an old tomato cage and some plastic netting.

I had an old tomato cage and some plastic netting.

I found an old tomato cage that I built a few years ago out of concrete reinforcing mesh. I also had some pieces of plastic garden netting that I thought might keep the compost in place yet assure lots of air flow.

I used zip ties to attach the netting

I used zip ties to attach the netting

Using zip ties (does anybody else love zip ties as much as I do?) I attached the netting to the tomato cage. I moved the new composter to the front yard and filled it with some of the organic material I had piled up. A good soaking with the hose and I’ve got a working compost pile.

Loaded the new composer and gave it a good soaking

Loaded the new composer and gave it a good soaking

Graduation! Gardeninggrrl is now a Master Composter/Recycler

Counsellor Ben Henderson, Waste Management's Bud Latta, and Graduate

Counsellor Ben Henderson, Waste Management’s Bud Latta, and Graduate Gardeninggrrl

Last week my class of Edmonton Master Composter/Recyclers graduated from the 2013 City of Edmonton’s MCR program.

A like-minded group of 28 waste conscious Edmontonians, we spent 40 hours in class and at various sites around the city learning everything and anything about reducing waste, recycling and reuse.

Our job is to now disseminate this wealth of knowledge by sharing it with our friends, families and communities. My plan is to work to educate people about the benefits of grasscycling, composting and overall reduction of materials that needn’t go to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.

I’ve already worked the Waste Management booth at one event and have another one scheduled for tonight. It is, after all, International Compost Awareness Week! It’s practically a religious holiday for Master Composters 🙏

Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Six: Eco Stations and Household Hazardous Waste

Over the past month I have been sharing my experience with the Edmonton Master Composter-Recycler Program. Maybe it will inspire somebody to learn more about composting. Maybe a few people will discover more about recycling. Perhaps more than one reader will find something here that they can take away and use in their own community.

Eco Station

Eco Station

Edmonton began holding city household toxic roundups in 1987. People could drop off their hazardous household waste at select locations around the city. They were three day events, once yearly, and continued until 1994.

Out of a demand for more regular service, the City began planning for a permanent solution. In August 1995 the first Eco Station was opened in Strathcona; 26,350 vehicles visited in 1996 alone. In December 1999 the City opened its second station at Coronation.

By 2006 more than 130,000 vehicles were visiting the Eco Stations and it was time to open a third at Ambleside. Ambleside features a reuse area where staff can place items that they feel others might use, like furniture or electronics in good condition. In 2014 our fourth Eco Station will open near the elvedere transit station (Kennedale).

Eco Stations provide a safe means of disposing of hazardous materials that may cause fire, injury or health concerns. It also keeps these materials out of landfill and therefore the environment.

Inside the Eco Station

Inside the Eco Station

Hazardous waste includes chemicals, metals, electronics, appliances, batteries, fluorescent tubes, tires, and paint. Recyclables are also accepted at Eco Stations as well as large bulky items, small appliances, lawn clippings and many other items. If you’re not sure about what goes where, check out this link.

Paint comes in large volumes into the station. They have a paint exchange program where people can drop off or pick up partial cans of paints. Some paints are mixed and now are available for sale in shops as “ecopaint”.

Chemicals are packed in drums and sent to contractors who further recycle or incinerate them. Oils can be mixed and used as a burner fuel or in asphalt. Tires are used in rubber paving stones and to make livestock mattresses. Metals in computer components get extracted and reused.

Eco Stations don’t accept explosives, radioactive waste, pressurized gases or anything dangerous to handle.

Now over 220,000 vehicles visit Eco Stations each year. They are successful because they are convenient, comprehensive and affordable.

Thank you: This week we were visited by Jenna from the Coronation Eco Station

Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program: Touring the Reuse Centre

Over the past month I have been sharing my experience with the Edmonton Master Composter-Recycler Program. Maybe it will inspire somebody to learn more about composting. Maybe a few people will discover more about recycling. Perhaps more than one reader will find something here that they can take away and use in their own community.


When I heard we were going to visit the Reuse Centre at 103A Avenue and 100th Street, I was excited. Believe it or not, I’d never been there before – which is surprising given how much I’m into reuse.

We were met by Hayley Orton, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Centre. It’s her job to coordinate the hundreds of people who help keep the place organized and running (last year 400 volunteers donated 4000 hours of time sorting items that come into the shop).

Hayley explained how donated items, simple things like balls of yarn and milk jug lids, get weighed when they are brought in. They are sorted by teams of volunteers who separate items and put them out in bins for people to buy.

Video: Reuse Centre

Customers pay $5 to purchase as much as they like at any one visit. The goal isn’t to make a huge amount of cash, its to keep these items from going into the waste stream. As things leave the Centre they are weighed again in an effort to keep track of how much material is kept out of the waste system. Last year they took in a whopping 142.3 tonnes and sold 107 tonnes.

The Centre is popular among teachers, daycare workers, children and crafters. There are materials to keep busy minds occupied and stimulate creativity, all at a reasonable price.

The Reuse Centre has a relationship with Goodwill Industries: sometimes they will get items that they cannot use, like clothing or toys, and those items get sent to Goodwill. In return, Goodwill sends over any items that the Reuse Centre has a need for.

Over the years they’ve determined which items are most requested, and this list determines what items are accepted for donation. They don’t accept electronics, household items (knick knacks), toys or things that are accepted typically at other institutions in the city. They aren’t in competition with other types of reuse facilities like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore or Value Village.

The Reuse Centre grew out of the popularity of reuse fairs which in turn originated in the 1980’s as garbage fairs. Many communities still hold reuse fairs as a means to support the Reuse Centre or their own community members and organizations.

So, I know, you’re wondering about that microwave you want to donate. Where do you take it? Well, the cool thing is that there’s a website to answer that question. Just go to where you can type in an item and it’ll tell you where in the city that item is accepted.



Special thanks to two volunteers who assisted with our tour:
Trudy Papsdorf – volunteer at the reuse centre, MCR 1996
Hetal Patel – volunteer at reuse cente, MCR 2012

DIY Solar Garden Lights

Solar Lamp

Solar Lamp

Solar Lamp at Night

Solar Lamp at Night

I can’t take credit for this idea – it’s been on Pinterest and I’m sure it’s on other websites as well. Still, every time I do a garden décor project I add my own twist, which depends on local availability of the core ingredients.

This time I’m making hanging solar garden lamps. What makes them special is that they are made from old 1930s – 1950s ceiling light covers. These were very popular in their day, but are now found at flea markets and thrift stores for a song. Mine were purchased for $1 each.

I tried to choose covers that had a rim at the top, a reasonably flat bottom and lots of bevelling on the walls. I found five that I felt suited the project.

Using inexpensive wire, I wrapped around the top rim and formed a “basket handle” from which the lamp could be hung. I inserted an inexpensive solar light (on sale Canadian Tire for $1 each) which I fixed in place with double sided sticky tape.

Instant glamour for the evening garden.

Project: Up-Cycled Garden Scoop

All right, so you won’t be able to dig in the garden with this scoop, but you can spread seeds or sprinkle fertilizer. It’s just a handy little scoop to use wherever you need it. I use one for my dog food bag and another in my bird seed bin.

Draw your pattern directly on the milk jug

Cut out your scoop and trim to your liking