Americans traditionally consume vast quantities of commercial goods, much of which end up in landfills. However, lean times and heightened environmental awareness can make reusing what you already have appealing as well as important for the earth. In particular, there are used metal items all around you. You can haul them away to landfills where they will rust and be wasted, or you can “up-cycle” them into beautiful and useful objects of art for your yard and home.
A Note About Tin
When people started canning food in metal containers in the 19th century, the cans employed were mostly tin. The cans used for food in the 21st century, while sometimes made of aluminum or coated with brass, enamel or vinyl, are usually iron blended with tin to prevent corrosion by high-acid foods like fruits. Other cans are steel with a micro-thin tin coating to protect against rust. So while the general populace may refer to the cans used to hold food items as “tin cans,” it is really a misnomer.
Lanterns from Cans
Used tin cans become pretty garden lanterns when holes are punched into them in pretty designs with a nail. Michelle Gervais of Fine Gardening explains that filling the empty cans with sand or freezing them with water in them allows you to punch the design into the can without flattening it. Spray paint the punched cans to make them more attractive and add string to their tops so you can hang them from trees. Set a votive candle inside each and enjoy your pretty, “free” lanterns.
Can Man Scarecrow
Make a quirky “can man” by painting various sized, washed and dried tin cans in different colors. Use large coffee cans for the head and torso, large vegetable cans for his upper legs and regular-sized cans or soup cans for the arms and lower legs. Flat tins like sardine cans work well as feet and hands. Assemble the figure by punching holes through the ends of the cans and stringing them onto heavy cord; tie the cords together to make a scarecrow-like figure. Set your can man on a stump or overturned bucket to watch over your garden.
Easy Flower Pots
Paint clean, used metal containers, such as old food cans of different sizes, empty paint buckets or even old metal coffee pots or bowls, in bright colors. Drill a hole in the bottom of each container, throw in a few pebbles or broken bits of pottery for good drainage, then fill them with potting soil. Plant your recycled flowerpots with annuals or herbs for a perky floral display set along a path or clustered on an outdoor table.
Tree Mobile and Chimes
Hang very small printed tea tins or other metal cans with pretty patterns from fishing line or stout cord to make an unusual outdoor mobile or wind chime. String a small brass bell inside each can through a hole punched in the end, then hang the chimes at different heights from a dowel or cut branch. Hang the completed mobile from a tree near a window or patio where you can hear the bells tinkle faintly when the wind blows.
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