Play in the dirt

These newspaper seedling pots are a great alternative to the less-environmentally friendly plastic ones, which are the industry standard.

Photo by Jeremy Stratton

Great ideas to make your garden grow

Having gardening fun in the summer sun is as easy as 1-2-3! Here are three great do-it-yourself (DIY) ideas to help your garden grow, courtesy of the Southeast Como Improvement Association’s (SECIA) Green Village Day.

Make a seedling pot out of newspaper

This simple DIY project requires only a sheet of newspaper, a jar or glass with straight sides, and a little folding technology.

Lay down a sheet of newspaper on a flat surface. Fold the newspaper in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again. Position the jar halfway across the width, so that the mouth of the jar faces the center. Roll the paper around the jar. Push the overhanging edge of newspaper inside the mouth of the jar. Slide the jar out. Set the roll back on the flat surface and press down the inside layer with your fingers using the “smush technique” to make the bottom. To firm up the bottom, put the jar against the bottom, giving it a gentle twist. Fill your newspaper seedling pot with a good-quality potting soil, then plant a seed and watch it grow.

Tips from master gardener Stephanie Hankerson, SECIA’s community garden organizer: Be sure to use newspaper with black-and-white newsprint, and not glossy, magazine-style pages. Once the seedling is ready to plant outside, pop it out of the newspaper pot, then toss the pot into the compost. It’s best not to plant the whole shebang, pot and all, since the newspaper could take all summer to break down.

You can link to a video showing how to make your own newspaper seedling pot on the Como Green Blog at www.comogreenvillage.org.

Let it rain

Capture roof runoff in a rain barrel, or divert your downspouts onto the lawn or into a raingarden to help cut down on watershed pollution, flooding and erosion. SECIA residents can register to have a rain barrel for $15, made by Justin Eibenholzl, SECIA’s environmental coordinator.

And with the right tools and supplies, you can make your own rain barrel. Your basic supply list includes a 55-gallon food-grade plastic barrel, brass spigot, rubber washer, PVC bushing, atrium grate (screen filter), and sump pump hose overflow kit. A waterproof sealer and some cinder blocks might also come in handy. For the barrel, you can try contacting the Pepsi Bottling Company in Baltimore, Md., at 410-554-7785, or Western Container in New Hope, Minn., at763-533-3093.

The basic strategy is to cut upper and lower drain holes, a hole in the top big enough for the grate, and a notch to hold the overflow hose. Place the rain barrel under a downspout and either on high ground or up on cinderblocks. Then assemble the rain barrel and look for a change in the weather.

You can find instructions here.

Tips from Eibenholzl: A typical rainfall will send down a good quarter-inch of rain and can fill up a rain barrel. Since a garden hose is not always rigorous enough to handle overflow, use a sump pump hose overflow kit instead. You can direct the overflow into your yard or a garden space, or try creating a “cascade” by directing the overflow into another rain barrel to handle those late-summer rain furies that can dump an inch of rain.

Put in a raingarden

Once you’ve got the rain barrel made, use your watery reward to irrigate a brand new raingarden.

The first rule of thumb when creating a raingarden is to place it at least 10 feet from the house. The basic strategy for construction is to either find a low-lying area or dig out a nice shallow bowl. Your concavity should be 3–4 inches deep with sloping sides. Plant flood-tolerant species toward the bottom and drought-tolerant species toward the edge.

What size to make your raingarden and which plants to use are the big questions. Luckily, there is a multitude of written and online resources to help you. Try The Blue Thumb Guide to Raingardens, by local landscape ecologist Rusty Schmidt.

Metro Blooms offers raingarden workshops, the ideal starting point to create this eco-friendly landscaping. You can register for workshops at www.metroblooms.org, where you’ll also find a link to a video explaining raingarden installation.

Furthermore, SECIA residents can register to have a raingarden installed for them. Funding sources are available to reimburse the purchase of plants used to create raingardens, through both Metro Blooms and through SECIA for Southeast Como residents.

Tips from Rose Steinhart, Hennepin County master gardener: Do your research then dig in! Steinhart’s raingarden “Bibles” are Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota by Lynn M. Steiner and Native Plants for North American Gardens by Allan M. Armitage.

last revised: May 29, 2009