From Rubbish To Radishes

Growing up in rural Missouri, I never imagined myself ever living in rural Alaska and though there are plenty of differences, my childhood experiences have certainly prepared me for, even made me well-suited to, living off the Alaska road system. I am the product of a Depression-era father and an East German Communist escapee mother which made for an interesting combination of conservatism and organic lifestyle that many long for these days. We reduced, reused and recycled out of necessity before it came into fashion and we were taught it in school. My mom is the queen of reusing. To this day she doesn’t buy wax paper. Instead she carefully tears apart the cereal box lining at the seams and saves the flattened sheets.

Although I’m no where near my mom’s mastery level of saving and using 80% of her rubbish, living in rural Alaska gives me a chance to hone my skills. Like any other skill, it takes practice to become ingrained and a part of who you are. I left this old rotting staircase in my backyard for three years before the light bulb went on. It is now home to radishes, carrots, kale, spinach, green beans and squash.


Next to the stairs, I have an old door frame that for this year is housing three grow bags with squash but next year will be filled with soil for more vegetables. And why buy plastic sheeting when old shower curtains do the trick?


I know not everyone has the same resources but here I have a plethora of rocks that are just the right size for landscaping. No need to buy landscaping bricks when I can pick them out of my yard. And pallets…is there anything you can’t do with pallets? I think people have even built houses out of them. We have them in ready supply here – every time we order groceries we get a new one. And, you guessed it, they make great planters.


I’ll be honest – I walked into my neighbor’s yard for this picture. (We’re sort of in this together.) Here are a few more ideas from her garden. Fish totes and boat seats filled with dirt make handy dandy planters.

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The dump provides a limitless potential. There are tires, barrels and all other manner of containers, not to mention items that just need a little TLC (as long as nothing toxic was in the containers before).

And of course there are always little household items that can be put to use. I always have a couple milk jugs on hand for watering cans.

Sometimes you just have to take a second, or third look at what you have available and frame your mind around reusing instead of dumping. It saves money and adds character to your garden.

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3 thoughts on “From Rubbish To Radishes”

  1. I love all of your re-used planters. Very creative! I especially love the old stairs for planting on a slope.

  2. I have never been able to grow radishes. They bolt. then long stringy terrible carrot looking things will be where the radish should’ve been. Can you help?

    1. Try bolt-resistant varieties and try planting them in early spring or late fall. Also, you could try daikon radishes.

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