Use It Up, Wear it Out, Make It Do…in the Garden

Use It Up, Wear it Out, Make It Do…in the Garden

making due repurposed
1943 poster from the war effort: Use It Up Wear it Out Make Do, Our Labor and Goods are fighting. From the Office of War Information, 1943. image from The Library of Congress

There’s a certain kind of fun in having the latest and greatest, but I’ve also learned that it’s often more rewarding to fix broken things, propagate, being resourceful, and making do rather than buying new.  This is just as true in a modern day garden, as it was in a frugal or vintage 1940s home or victory garden.

Use it Up – Don’t throw out old seed packets just because they say they were packaged for last season.  Many seeds are good for 2 to 5 years.  Check here for average shelf life of old seeds.  Same goes with surplus fruits and veggies.  If you have too much, can it, dry it, share it, or get chickens and they will turn it into eggs for you.  As a last resort, put it in the compost to help enrich the soil for next season.

Wear It Out – Recycle in the garden whenever possible and give old things a new life.  Lots of stuff can be garden art or decorative containers.  One of my favorite things I recycled in the garden was a broken trash can that I turned into a compost bin.  My arbors on the driveway were someone else’s short picket fence they listed for free out on the curb on craigslist.  They were in good shape, except the posts were rotten and some boards were loose.  With a few alterations, a little left over paint, and some scrap lumber in the garage, I have three big arbors for berries, grapes, and kiwi, for free.

Make It Do – Not all plants need to come from the garden center.  Join a garden group and start trading divisions or cuttings with other gardeners.  Some of my favorite plants came from fellow gardeners.  When on a limited budget, it is easy to buy just one plant that can later be divided to make more.  Also, let your heirloom plants go to seed and then dry and save them for next season.  Buy doing this, I greatly reduced the number of six packs of annual plants I buy.  In some years, I don’t buy any.  Awhile back, I switched to using annuals that self sowed, perennials with long bloom periods, or plants with interesting foliage.  My yard isn’t the riot of color anymore, but it is still a beautiful and cottage looking garden.  Plus, the self sowed varieties have naturalized and need less water.

bird bath in greywatered flower bed
Picture of the grape, kiwi, and berry arbors in driveway in the background from when they were brand “New to Me.” Also, the top of the arched arbor in the front of the picture, came from Habitat for Humanity. I built the bottom so it would match another other at the opposite end of the backyard.

For even more tips on spending less in the garden, I have a newer post.
Do you have anything to add? Please leave a comment below. I also like to know if what I post is helpful to other gardeners or is even read this far. Thank you.

4 thoughts on “Use It Up, Wear it Out, Make It Do…in the Garden

    1. Me too! As I get older, I find I agree with the way my grandparents did things more and more.

      What an interesting place to work. It is a shame how wasteful some folks are. Whenever I have something I don’t want, but don’t think it would sell at a thrift store or yard sale, rather than trash it, I stick it on the curb and list it on craigslist for free. Someone always comes by and takes it. Just because something is trash to me, it might not be to someone else.

  1. This is all great advice. I really want to start growing at least some of our own food…but we live in a place with a tiny courtyard and this is our 4th rental in 5 years so I keep putting it off. But I can surely grow something, even if it’s just a few pots of herbs. You have inspired me to at least give it a go!

I would love to know what you think about this.

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