Reusing and Recycling Household Items for Gardening

March 23, 2017

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Acquiring equipment for gardening can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve put together a list of items that you can reuse and recycle in your garden.

In this video, we identify common household items which can be reused and demonstrate how to adapt them to benefit your plant. We’ve also included the video text below, at the request of our readers. After you watch this video, why try our Almanac Garden Planner for free here:

Recycling for the Garden

By recycling or repurposing waste materials you can save money while doing your bit to go green – one man’s trash really is another’s treasure!

Seed Sowing and Labeling

Old yogurt pots are the perfect size for seed sowing – just puncture holes into the base for drainage. Old fruit punnets make excellent miniature seed trays, while toilet roll tubes are ideal for starting off deeper-rooted veggies such as peas, beans and corn. You can also sow rows of peas into surplus lengths of guttering. Polystyrene cups make fun-sized containers for kids to grow small salad crops such as radishes. Pinch holes out at the base of the cup to make drainage holes.

Newspaper can be easily made into pots. Fold one page in half lengthways and roll it around a toilet roll tube so that the tube sticks out above the folded edge of the paper. Gather up and push in the loose ends of the paper, remove the tube then fill with potting soil. At planting time, leave the paper pot in place – it will just rot away in the ground.

Make your own plant labels by cutting out strips of yogurt pot, or re-use lollipop sticks. Write on the labels with a permanent marker. Lengths of batten make excellent semi-permanent labels, ideal for marking out the ends of rows.

Protecting Plants

Many plants need protection from the cold and wind when first planted out. Cut clear plastic drinks bottles in half to make two miniature greenhouses to pop over individual plants. Keep lids screwed on during cold nights or remove during the day to prevent the seedlings from overheating. Bubble wrap from postal deliveries makes fantastic temporary insulation on frosty nights, while polystyrene fish boxes provide a cozy microclimate around seed trays, especially when combined with a heat mat underneath.

Old windows can be used to make a cold frame. Attach them to a wooden frame using new or second-hand hinges, then screw in handles at the front and slant the window to face the sun.

Crops can be protected from pests such as pigeons by draping netting over canes topped with upturned pots – or, dangle old CDs on colored string, or cover young plants with hanging basket frames. Make a low tunnel by pushing down lengths of old plastic water pipe onto sturdy upright pegs to create hoops, then fix protective netting, fleece or mesh over your hoops.

Creative Containers

Literally anything that holds potting soil makes a good container. Try planting in old pans, colanders, laundry baskets, chests of drawers, or use metal objects such as repurposed milk churns, coal buckets or water tanks for a lovely rustic look. Recycle food tins as they are, or painted to give an injection of color. Make sure your intended container has enough drainage holes, or add your own.

Use old potting soil sacks for root veg such as carrots or potatoes. Other ideas for recycled bag containers include sturdy grocery store bags, rubble or builders’ bags, and hessian sacks.

Recycled Wood

Old planks of wood are widely available, and are less likely to warp than new wood. By reusing them you’ll avoid the need to cut down more trees. Untreated wood is best, as some older wood treatments may contain toxic chemicals that can leach into the soil.

Make a compost bin by nailing planks to corner posts, create a plant stand by securing timber onto A-frames, or screw battens together to form a crop protection frame. Make seed trays, fences, window boxes, or even the garden shed – the possibilities are endless!

Timber makes good-looking raised beds. Simply fix thick planks to each other or screw thinner lengths of timber to corner posts hammered into the ground to anchor the bed.

Other Ideas…

Any number of scraps and garden cast-offs could be used to create a handsome hotel for beneficial bugs. Tires lined with garbage sacks make instant raised beds and can be stacked up for vegetables such as potatoes that need lots of root space. Salvage old pavers to create stepping stones or paths between beds, or box in compost heaps with corrugated metal sheets.

These are just a few ideas to make the most of what you might otherwise throw away.

What do you recycle in the garden? Tell us by leaving a comment below. 

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Biogradable potting

Inspiring and thanks a lot

Box fan» compost screener

I removed the motor , blades, plastic screens from box fan. Then I put metal screening/ mesh on one side put plastic screen from fan back on over it and use it to strain compost. Light weight, works well, & doesn't matter if I forget it out in the rain.

Sleep number bed boxspring

We had a sleep number bed that came with a plastic box spring. We were able to sell the mattress inserts but the plastic was too heavy to sell and have cheap shipping. So, we just used the side and end rails to make 2 raised bed planters. The covers came in handy, too, as temperatures overnights went below 32 and my tulips and daffodils were putting on blossoms.

Recycle old mini-blinds by

Recycle old mini-blinds by stapling, nailing them in a grid pattern for square foot gardening, and cut the blinds 6" - 8" long to use as plant markers, writing on them in pencil. The cords can be used as twine and the "ladders" holding the blinds as netting for climbing plants.

When I was growing up, lots

When I was growing up, lots of people used railroad ties--but I can't remember why there were so many of them kicking around! Also, in Colorado you see people using old ski lift buckets for garden swings. They look amazing. Here in NH, of course, lots of people landscape around the old, pre-existing stone walls, which is a form of recycling too.

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We used a broken up concrete

We used a broken up concrete slab to make raised garden beds. The smaller pieces that were left over, we used to make an herb spiral. We have plans to make a raised bed out of wine bottles! We also have a cinder block raised bed.

Very good.

Very good.

kids swimming pool

I used a kids soft bottom swimming pool for a large container garden this year. I sliced the bottom in many places to facilitate drainage. Next year I will alter it to be more oval. At 8' round it is difficult to get to the middle of.


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