Hawaii Gardens: Turn beach debris into useful gardening tools
Not all the debris that’s collected needs to head straight to the dump. Some of the items can be recycled into useful tools for our backyard gardens.
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Beach cleanups are a popular way to clear gnarly plastic from our favorite beaches around the isles. However, not all the debris that’s collected needs to head straight to the dump. Some of the items can be recycled into useful tools for our backyard gardens.
My sister Mimi Bornhorst Gaddis regularly cleans marine plastics, old fishing lines and lead sinkers off her favorite snorkeling reef so they will not entangle our coral reefs and precious fish or honu. And when we spot them, we both pick up those triangular black plastic fish traps.
As a devoted grower of orchids and member of the Hawaii Kai Orchid Society, Mimi has found the traps are great for growing Dendrobium orchids. Orchids, which are epiphytes, or air plants, need good air circulation and drainage in their planting medium. That’s why we don’t plant them in soil, we instead use gravel, fir bark, sphagnum moss, etc. (Orchids don’t like to go to bed with wet feet, so it’s best to water them daily in the morning.)
Mimi pots her orchids in the fish traps and then hangs them from a tree, or in her mini greenhouse. She fashions a hanger for them from an old wire clothes hanger using a pair of strong pliers.
To protect them from bulbul birds, which like to peck at orchid buds, old fishnets, leads and floats can be hung to create an attractive barrier to keep the birds out.
I use those nets on my mulberry trees to keep the birds from eating them all. When I find ropes and fishing lines on the beach, I use them in bonsai and espalier techniques to keep my mulberry branches low for easy, safe picking.
Throughout my years of picking up plastic and observing waves and currents at the beach, I have found some rare glass fish floats. My pal Dede Reiplinger said it was my reward for all that plastic picking. But more often I come across plastic fish floats, which can make terrific planters.
You can cut or drill the plastic ones and pot your favorite plants in them. I found one that had convenient pukas on both sides and I draped Spanish moss over it. With daily watering, I then had some moss on hand for lei making or to use for decoration.
While coconuts are not marine debris, they are a useful find when beachcombing. My friend Aunty Gracie Tamanaha asked me to get coconuts for her and her handy relatives to make old-fashioned hanging planters for orchids and donkey tails, a succulent we don’t see much in Hawaii gardens anymore.
Another friend, Lynne Constantinides, wanted coconuts for her dog Goku to chew on. My return request was that after he shredded the coconut husk for fun, she give the remnants back to me to use for orchid planting media.
Tell us your tricks
With so many ways to use recycled materials in the garden, I would love to hear back from readers about crafty ideas (or hacks) that you use while cultivating your backyard sanctuaries.