My mantra is “reuse, recycle, and recreate,” so before I start a project of any kind, I take a good look around to see what I can use. This includes items from my garden, yard, and house. There are always opportunities to repurpose an item and creatively use it in another way. I encourage you to take inventory of all your surroundings. Branches, leaves, old garden tools, scrap pieces of fabric, rope, and more are just waiting to be transformed into something amazing for your home.
Recycled Hummingbird Feeder
The average hummingbird is about an inch long and weighs less than an ounce. Depending on the species, they can beat their wings anywhere from 720 to 5,400 times per minute when hovering. A hummingbird’s wing beats take up so much energy that on an average day, a hummingbird will eat twice its body weight. Although they prefer to consume nectar from flowers, supplementing their food is encouraged during spring and fall, when they’re preparing for migration, and this feeder will help draw them in for a needed meal.
Tools & Materials
- Markers and tape measure
- Drill with 1⁄8-inch drill bit
- Work gloves
- Awl or 1⁄8-inch hole punch
- Wire cutters
- Masking tape
- Aluminum soda can (2)
- Glass bottle (must have a neck) with lid
- 3 tablespoons 5-minute 2-part epoxy
- Red and yellow spray paint
- 18-gauge wire (24 inches)
- Ant moat
1. With a marker, make a dot in the center of the bottom of one soda can, as well as the center of the glass bottle’s lid (while it’s still on the bottle). Drill a hole in the marked spots with a 1⁄8-inch drill bit. It’s easier and safer to drill the hole while the lid is on the bottle.
2. With the soda can upside down, measure 1⁄2 inch down from the bottom rim. Draw a line around the can from that mark. Repeat this step with the second can, but don’t drill a hole in the bottom of it.
3. Cut out the bottom of the cans following the drawn line. Set the large portions of the cans aside.
4. Cut a slit up one side of one of the can bottoms.
5. Wearing gloves, slightly press in the slit area and insert that can bottom into the other can bottom.
6. Mark three evenly spaced dots just below the raised ridge area of the can where the center hole was drilled out. This is where the hummingbirds will get access to the nectar.
7. Drill out the holes with the 1⁄8-inch bit, only drilling through the top can and not all the way through to the bottom.
8. Cut out a piece of aluminum from one of the reserved large portions of the cans. Draw three flowers, each 1 inch in diameter. Cut them out, and set aside.
9. Mix up 1 tablespoon of 2-part epoxy according to the package instructions.
10. Using a toothpick, spread the epoxy on the can bottoms at the joints, filling in any gaps.
11. Place some more epoxy on the top of the bottle lid, and place it over the hole of the can base, carefully lining up the holes. Let the epoxy set, and then paint the base red or yellow. Paint all three aluminum flowers the opposite color of the base. Set everything aside to dry thoroughly.
12. Punch a hole in the center of each aluminum flower with an awl or 1⁄8-inch hole punch.
13. Mix up another tablespoon of epoxy. Glue the flowers over the holes on the base. Insert a toothpick through the hole in the flower and base to help keep it in place until the resin sets.
14. To make a hanger for the feeder, cut a length of 18-gauge wire about 18 inches long, and then cut a second piece about 6 inches long. Make a loop at each end of the 18-inch piece, and bend the wire to form a “U” shape. Wrap the 6-inch piece around the neck of the bottle, and insert the ends through the loops of the “U” wire and back around the bottle’s neck. Twist the ends to secure.
15. Mix another tablespoon of epoxy. Invert the wire handle so it’s parallel to the bottle. Glue the sides of the wires to the glass bottle with the epoxy. Place masking tape above and below the glued area to help hold the wire in place while it sets.
16. Once set, fill the bottle with hummingbird food. Screw on the base, clip an ant moat to the top of the hanger, and hang the feeder on a hook in the garden.
Modern Nesting Box
Attract phoebes, robins, and wrens to your garden with a simple nesting box.
Tools & Materials
- Drill and wood screws (for mounting)
- 1-by-12-inch pine board, 4 feet long
- 1/2-inch fi nishing nails
- Paint or stain
- Back: 10 by 6-3/4 inches
- Bottom: 8 by 6 inches
- Side: Start with a 10-by-9-1/2-inch board. Measure down 2 inches on one of the 10-inch edges, and mark it. Draw a line from the opposite 10-inch corner to the mark you made. Cut along that line.
- Top: 10 by 10 inches
- Front lip: 6-3/4 by 1-1/2 inches
- Side lip: 8 by 1-1/2 inches
- Brace: 18 by 3-1/2 inches
1. Line up the back and bottom boards on a long edge. Partially nail three nails on the back board.
2. Nail the back to the bottom board.
3. Line up the side board so its 10-inch side matches the 10-inch side of the back board. Hammer it into the back board. Hammer the side board into the bottom board as well. There will be a 3⁄4-inch gap at the front.
4. Nail the side lip onto the side of the box.
5. Nail the front lip onto the box.
6. Center and nail the top onto the box.
7. Sand the entire box, and then paint or stain it.
8. To hang, attach the box to the center of the brace with two wood screws. Hang the box at least 6 to 10 feet up from the ground, on a wall or tree that faces north or northeast, and wait for the birds to move in.
A toad can eat up to 100 insects in a single night! Although they’ll eat beneficial insects as well as pesky ones, they’re still worth attracting to your garden. Toads usually live in a small area, and return to a favorite spot each evening to feed. They like cool, moist, sheltered environments that attract insects for them to munch on. Hosting a toad or two in your garden will help maintain a pest-free area.
Tools & Materials
- Small rolling pin
- Skewer or clay tool
- Small paintbrush
- 1⁄4-inch wood slat (2)
- Seashell, or any rounded object
- Paint in your choice of color
- Air-dry clay
1. Wedge a handful of clay. (Wedging clay is similar to kneading bread dough. The process makes the clay more pliable, ensures a uniform consistency, and releases air pockets.)
2. Lay down the 1/4-inch wood slats side by side, about 6 inches apart. Place the clay in between the slats, and roll the clay flat with the rolling pin. The slats will keep the clay even.
3. Place the leaf on the clay, and roll over it with the rolling pin.
4. Use a skewer or clay tool to cut around the leaf impression in the clay.
5. Lay the clay on top of a rounded form, such as a large seashell, to dry. It should dry in about 24 hours.
6. Once dried, use a small paintbrush to paint the leaf. Let it dry completely, and then apply a coat of shellac to the top and underside of the leaf.
7. Place your toad house in a shady part of the garden, and watch for your new residents.
Debbie Wolfeis a freelance writer, co-author, and photographer behind the garden blog The Prudent Garden. This is excerpted with permission from her book Do-It-Yourself Garden Projects and Crafts (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2019).