This decade's economic shenanigans have hit most of us squarely in the pocketbook. Values in our 401Ks have plunged. Real estate trusts and other investments, likewise, have ticked down. Serious doom-and-gloomers whisper that we could be headed for the next Great Depression. No matter how all of this shakes out, I'm reminded of a little rhyme my grandmother — herself profoundly influenced by the Great Depression — taught me many years back: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without."
She didn't need one of those fancy, plastic bins to do it, either. Hers was an open compost pile, tucked away near a storage barn. Mine, too, is more open than most, fashioned from free, wooden pallets and some repurposed chicken wire. As you might expect, it isn't pretty, but it works. To block what might otherwise be an unsightly view for my neighbors, I've installed native perennial flowers on three sides of my improvised bin. And, like Grandma, I didn't run out to buy the plants I wanted. Instead, I root my own cuttings or swap seeds and starts with friends. I also use newsprint and cardboard instead of expensive weed barrier fabric. Newspaper is handy for fashioning seedling pots as well, and that means money saved on plastic pots or seedling packs. Lucky for all of the newly cash-strapped, when it comes to making things "do" or doing without in the garden, the possibilities are nearly limitless.
Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008.