I really like this idea. My husband and I are moving steadily towards living simply and making or growing the things we need. This year, in fact, we are planning our garden specifically to grow extra food for canning so that we can eat well all winter long.
So what about this idea of growing non-edible, but useful things? Well here was my first inspiration: http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2009/03/processing-luffas-loofahs.html It's a post about growing Luffas by a woman who is a huge inspiration for me. She makes so many things for her home. I want to get to that point some day.
Well, Luffas are actually gourds that, when ripe, are filled with a tough mass of cellulose fiber that, as it turns out, works amazingly well as a sponge. If you're a girl, you've probably even bought one at some point in your life in the store for something like $8 (that's how much I saw one for today) They are excellent at using in the shower or bath for exfoliation and cleaning. I've used them before but never realized they were actually grown. And they aren't just useful in the bathroom. You can cut them into any shape you want, making perfectly sized pot scrubbers, bathroom and kitchen counter cleaners, scrubbers of anything that can't be cleaned with steel wool. They are biodegradable (yes!) and if you use non-chemical cleaners, even better.
So I'm going to try growing some of these this year, and I'm also putting in a bed of lavender for different purposes. I can't wait to sew up some dryer sachels filled with dried lavender to throw in with my linen!
Do any of you grow things that are not necessarily edible, but have another practical, eco-friendly use? I'm considering making my own hand lotion and lip balm this year and have been looking into good herbs to grow to use in those. Do you grow herbs for uses that are not tea or food based? What about vegetables? I'd love to hear your ideas and creative uses for things grown in your garden!
Update: And for those of you who responded to my question about growing grapes in zone 5, I bought my grape vines! I ordered them from Millernurseries.com. I ordered 4 vines and am planning the bed and trellis system this weekend. I can't wait till they arrive.