I’ve recently been challenged to come up with some garden nature habitats made from upcycled products. I thought what could be more fitting for garden nature than a pair of old gardening boots? I made the right foot into a bug hotel and the left foot into a bird box. They’re a bit of fun and super easy to make.
First step, admit your old boots have had belter days and treat yourself to some new ones!
Roofing your ‘bootiful’ place for nature
You need your bird boxes and bug hotels to be dry, so to continue the up-cycling theme I’ve cut down an old car tyre for the roof. Cutting down the tyre was easier said than done. I tried a jig-saw, reciprocating saw, a skill saw and the angle grinder. Of the lot, the angle grinder with a super thin metal cutting disc worked best, although it does create a fair bit of smoke. Wear gloves and eye protection as a minimum.
You want your tyre to be held open to provide a nice roof. You could use a bit of threaded bar to attach your tyre to the wooden back-plate, but you’d get through several nuts and washers in ensuring you don’t squish the tyre towards the wood. And easier and less fiddly option is the use of 250mm sleeper screws and a bit of old water pipe. I drilled holes in the side wall of the tyre for the screws. To prevent them from squashing the tyre walls together, I inserted some alkathene water pipe that had been dug up because it was leaking – another upcycled product.
Kick-starting for Wildlife – good for the ‘sole’
So you’ve got your roof on, now attach your boot. Even if you think your boots pong a bit, don’t Febreze or Oust them. The wildlife won’t mind any nasty-niff as much as your partner does!!
Drill a hole through the heel of your boot. Pre-drilling is essential as it turns out. I’d not realised the sole of my boots have a steel plate in them to save me impaling my foot on a nail. Once you have your hole you can screw your boot to the wooden back-plate. Another screw in the toe end, and it’s surprising how firmly it’s held.
I stuffed the toe end with organic matter like pine-cones, moss, leaf-litter and even a bit of sheep wool. Once the toe end was stuffed I filled the ankle with sticks from various species of native tree and filled any gaps with bamboo. I drilled holes of various sizes into my sticks to aid creepy-crawly access. Tie the laces tight and your bug hotel is ready to be placed in your garden.
Hopefully you’ll attract a variety of bugs, bees and other mini-beasts. Maybe even a lace-wing or two!?! Ok, I’ll stop with the boot related puns now!
I think birds would nest in your boot if you just placed it as is. However, there are so many magpies, squirrels and crows around, I thought I’d offer my feathered friends a bit more protection by inserting a disc of oak into the ankle with a 40mm hole in it for access. Big enough for little birds but too small for most predators. I fixed it in place with some small screws through the ankle.
Usual suspects for occupying your boot nest with the wooden insert would be blue-tits, great-tits and maybe sparrows if you put a row of them up. Without the wooden insert you might attract robins, blackbirds, thrushes, starlings and maybe wrens.
And continuing with the up-cycle theme….
Introducing the up-cycled bird feeder!
We all know how bad single use plastic is. How cool to up-cycle your old plastic bottles into bird feeders. I’ve bought some one litre and two litre fire extinguisher holders and screwed them to the back-plate. Attach a little wooden tray and hey-presto, you’ve got a bird feeder. Place it near a window and enjoy watching your feathery friends come and go.
Up-cycled tyres as part of the garden planter
A raised bed is a great way of taking the strain out of gardening. They’re a comfortable height to weed or harvest your produce. Herbs tend to do very well in raised beds, often preferring drier free-draining soils.
In the same way we attached tyre rooves to our other up-cycled products, we’ve attached additional planters to the sides of our raised bed. As the herbs grow and start spilling out of them they’ll look better and better. We drilled holes in the bottom of the tyres so they don’t get waterlogged.
Some herbs have a habit of taking over. If left unchecked, mint can take over your raised bed and choke everything else out. As our challenge from this client was up-cycling, we’ve used tyres to compartmentalise the herbs.
What could be greener than picking your own herbs for dinner just before you need them. The flavours are more vivid with more vitamins and nutrients. No food miles either.
If we can help you with raised beds or planters for your garden, feel free to ask.