How to Reuse Amazon Boxes and Cardboard in the Garden | Almanac.com

How to Reuse Amazon Boxes and Cardboard in the Garden


Don't throw away your Amazon packaging!

Don’t throw away any of the boxes and packages that come through the door. Bubble wrap, polystyrene, and packaging can all be recycled and put to good use right in the garden. (Cardboard returns to the Earth—literally!) See how to use those Amazon boxes.

Think Outside the Box

Almost everything arrives in a box which means lots… and lots of cardboard. The really great news is that cardboard is incredibly useful in the garden, so much so that I save every scrap of cardboard to use out here. Reusing packaging of any kind is, of course, an environmentally savvy thing to do and has the potential to save you money too—now we’re talking! 

Weed Membrane

Cardboard is made from plant fibers, which naturally biodegrade, but only after several weeks. We can use this to our advantage by deploying cardboard to cover over weeds, just long enough to exhaust them into submission and see them off for good!

Only ever use plain cardboard like this in the garden. Anything with a glossy coating may introduce unwanted plastics, which we definitely don’t want. Many boxes are now sealed with this biodegradable tape, which can be left, but if there’s any sticky tape like this, just peel it off before using. You’ll also need to remove any staples.

With cardboard prepped and flattened out, it’s now ready to lay. I use cardboard to line new beds and paths. This way it will deprive weeds of light, enabling the soil, compost or wood chips to be laid on top without fear of vigorous weed growth bursting through. Generously overlap the cardboard so there aren’t any ‘gaps’ and, if you have lots of cardboard, consider a double layer for extra peace of mind. Bear in mind that both the cardboard and wood chips used to cover paths will need replacing from time to time as it rots down into the soil.

We can use cardboard to cover quite large areas, held in place with a thick layer of, say, wood chip mulch. Push the mulch aside, and then lay down cardboard that’s cut and folded open to create individual planting spaces for fruit bushes. Weeding through this area by hand would have taken a lot of unnecessary hard work – the cardboard did 90% of the weeding for me! Then as the cardboard has rotted down it’s helped add organic matter to the soil, contributing to its structure and the soil life within it.

Breathable Storage

Left intact, boxes are an excellent breathable storage option for the likes of onions, potatoes, and other root vegetables. Store produce-laden boxes somewhere cool and well-ventilated, and keep them up off the ground, out of reach of vermin. 

Combine boxes with polystyrene packaging and you have a superbly insulated solution for overwintering frost-sensitive bulbs and tubers such as dahlia. If you don’t have any polystyrene but still want that same insulating effect, nestle a box inside a larger box then fill the gap between them with straw or hay. Some deliveries come with natural sheep’s wool insulation, which would also work well for this, as does bubblewrap, those packing peanuts, or just scrunched up paper.

Food for the Compost Heap

If nothing else, cardboard makes an excellent carbon-rich addition to the compost heap, helping to balance out fresher, green materials such as grass clippings. Tear it into smaller pieces before adding it. This is especially useful during the growing season, when brown materials can be harder to come by. Keep a stash of cardboard to hand and we’ll never be short.

If you can’t save enough cardboard because you’re not online ordering all the time ask friends and neighbors to perhaps save their cardboard for you. Consumerism may not be great for the environment, but we can at least give something back to the earth – quite literally in this case!

Cabbage Collars

Cabbage collars are just that – collars that fit around the base of cabbage-family crops to stop pests such as cabbage maggot or cabbage root fly laying their eggs in the soil around these host plants. You can buy cabbage collars… or make our own. 

Start by cutting our cardboard into 6-inch diameter circles. Make one cut from the outside to the center, then a series of slits at the center in a star shape – this will ensure a snug fit around the stem.

Install the collar by slipping it around the stem of the plant. As the plant grows the slits at the center of the collar will open out, allowing the stem to expand. This works not just for cabbages but any related veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. It’s a simple trick to ward off those maggots and will even keep weeds around young plants in check as they establish.

Gather Bothersome Beetles

Most pests feed above ground, of course. But this doesn’t make them any easier to thwart. Take, for example, the cucumber beetle, a common pest of squash family plants in North America. It’s notoriously hard to pick off by hand because of its size. 

There is another option. Lay down some of your cardboard around affected plants and then shake them off. The cardboard can then be gathered up and removed in one go. 

Home for Wildlife

Many bugs are a gardener’s best friend – like the lacewing which loves nothing better than to feast on pests like aphids! Corrugated cardboard has lots of nooks and crannies that make a cosy home for these beneficial bugs to overwinter.

You’ll need a waterproof cylinder such as a bottomless plastic bottle to keep the cardboard dry. And then it’s just a matter of cutting the cardboard to size and rolling it up to stuff into the bottle. 

Wedge the bottle somewhere sheltered from the wind and up off the ground, such as within the branches of a tree with the entrance pointed downwards so that rainwater doesn’t collect. You could, of course, use rolled up cardboard alongside other materials within an insect hotel to attract a variety of beneficial bugs. It’s important to clean out and replace the materials used in bug hotels every year or so, to prevent build-up of parasites and diseases.

Packing Materials  

Many items come wrapped in protective materials – from scrunched up paper to bubble wrap – and these too can be put to use in the garden.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is very effective at trapping air, making it a great material to use for insulation. As the light can pass through, it’s very suitable for use around plants. 

Wrap cold-sensitive plants in a few layers of bubble wrap to keep them snug as temperatures dip. This is really useful if you have a greenhouse or other cold protection and don’t want the expense of heating it but need that extra security to ensure you don’t lose plants to a cold snap. If you have lots of bubble wrap you could even secure it to the frame or your greenhouse, creating a double-glazed effect, and the bigger the bubbles, the more effective it’ll be at trapping warmth. Not so much double glazing as bubble glazing! Or create insulated compartments or seedling trays for that extra protection.

Air Pouches

These pesky polythene bags filled with air are commonly found in big boxes which have been filled with small items. Did you know that they make excellent plant ties?  First, pierce the air pockets to let out the air, then gently twist them and use between establishing trees and stakes to stop them rubbing in windy conditions. 


Like bubble wrap, polystyrene has excellent insulating properties as touched on earlier. Use sheets of polystyrene to insulate sheds and outbuildings by securing it to the ceiling and walls, or use polystyrene packaging like a fix box to create a temporary, portable cold frame to house delicate seedlings. (See video.)

Packing Peanuts and Polystyrene

These are really difficult to recycle and, although they are increasingly being replaced by biodegradeable versions which will dissolve in water, the Styrofoam ones are still often sent.

Put a medium-sized box in a larger box and fill the gap in-between with the packing peanuts or polystyrene to insulate seedlings near a window. Or, if you need to knock in a few nails when repairing a garden shed or fence, instead of using your fingers to hold the nail – easy to miss – ouch! – put the nail through the packing peanut, hold that and then hammer it in!

Brown Paper

Sections of brown paper are ideal for wrapping up produce such as apples. Individually wrapped fruits or roots reduce the risk of in-store rots spreading from one fruit to the next, keeping more of your hard-won harvests in good condition for longer.

Padded envelopes are great for storing seeds and you can cut down large envelopes to make smaller packets. The padding provides both insulation and protection for your seeds. And save those little sachets of silica gel you often find in amongst the packaging. Their job is to suck up moisture to keep conditions nice and dry, so drop one of those in with your seeds and you’ll keep them fresher for longer too. I also like to keep a few loose in my seed storage box.

There are many ways to repurpose just about anything and if, like me, you hate to see things go to waste, you’ll love more nifty ideas to recycle everyday household items in the garden.


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Angelique (not verified)

9 months 3 weeks ago

I am always looking for ways to repurpose and reuse.. thanks for sharing..

Jennetta (not verified)

9 months 3 weeks ago

What a great article. Thank you!

Pamela Rackliffe (not verified)

9 months 3 weeks ago

This article gave me a lot of ideas for using the cardboard we seem to collect. We have been breaking the boxes down and taking them to our transfer station which actually sells them for recycling but....I have a 1/2 acre garden and can easily incorporate some of these ideas. Thanks!