There are so many items we can reuse, repurpose and upcycle in the garden. Here are 30 ways you can apply sustainability in the home garden.
I’m no hoarder. I believe in de-cluttering junk, keeping what I really need aside from items if sentimental value. Since I’ve taken up edible gardening, I find myself ‘collecting’ items that ‘could’ have a use in the garden. Has gardening turned me into a hoarder?
Does Gardening Turn You into a Hoarder
If the above photo looks like I’m about to eat my celery plant with chopsticks, it’s not true. I’ve repurposed used chopsticks for use in the garden. These have been tuned into “training chopsticks” to pick caterpillars off my plants. Why not just regular chopsticks? Well, I can’t use them but that’s another story.
If we look around us, there are so many items we can reuse, repurpose and upcycle in the garden. Ruling out plastic completely is no easy feat but we can give some plastics and single use items a second lease of life and save them from landfill, at least for a while.
I may have become a hoarder of sorts but it’s been put to good use so I’ve compiled a list of 30 ways to reuse, repurpose and upcycle in the garden.
30 Ways to Reuse Repurpose & Upcycle in the Garden
1. Egg cartons can be used for starting seed. If you break them into pieces, you can use them to line the bottom of a raised garden bed or add them to the compost bin.
2. Toilet paper rolls and kitchen paper towel rolls can also be used as seed-starting cells. When the seedlings are ready to be planted, simply plant the whole lot in the ground. The paper will eventually decompose and disintegrate and you have the added benefit of minimal root disturbance.
3. Plastic milk jugs can be turned into reusable plant labels. Wash them thoroughly, dry them and cut into strips. Use a waterproof marker pen and when it comes time to reusing them, simply clean off the pen with methylated spirits and they’re as good as new.
4. Used chopsticks are very useful in the garden. They can be used as dibber, to make a hole when transplanting seedlings, as a stake for short plants or seedlings, and to pick up fat, juicy caterpillars off your crops.
5. Old pegs can be used to tie together shade cloth, mesh or tulle fabric used for insect protection.
6. Lemongrass stalks can be used as plant stakes in the short term. They will eventually break but would have served a purpose.
7. Out of date milk can be diluted with water in a 1:1 ratio and used to spray the leaves of plants to prevent/treat powdery mildew.
8. Leftover bricks can become pavers or give your garden bed an edging.
9. Soft drink bottles cut in half as a cloche can be used to protect seedlings from critters or to create a greenhouse effect when propagating a plant from a cutting.
10. Cabbage moth decoys can be cut out of milk jugs and yoghurt tubs. Cut them in the shape of a butterfly and use a permanent marker to add the black spots. Personally I find they don’t work in deterring cabbage moths but some people swear by them.
11. Old wire baskets or mesh dust bins can be used for crop protection against some critters. I have mine over cabbages weighed down with rocks and pebbles.
12. Old bamboo shoe racks can be used to hold small pots that are often used during the seedling phase. Break them down into shelves, and they can be used to raise the pots off the ground for better drainage.
13. Plastic clamshell containers can have various uses. They can be used to germinate seed, protect seedlings, turned into a mini greenhouse and even clipped on the plant to protect small fruit from critters.
14. Mini yoghurt containers can be used to start seed. Make sure you put some holes in the bottom first for drainage. If you have raised planters such as the ones I have on my balcony, you can put them underneath the planter ‘feet’ to protect the tiles. They also provide wicking action.
15. Old cotton T-shirts can be upcycled by cutting them into strips and used as plant ties . The fabric is soft and stretchy so they’re ideal to use without harming the stem of your plants.
16. Oblong plastic takeaway containers can be used to protect seedlings from insects and critters. Make a few fine holes in the bottom, cover the seedlings and put a stone or pebble on top to secure it into place.
17. Old (clean) storage containers can be used to store rain water if you’re harvesting it during heavy periods of rain.
18. Used coffee grounds can be saved, added to compost, or placed around plants to deter critters.
19. Old Hessian sacks or coffee bean sacks can have many uses in the garden. Use them to grow potatoes, collect garden waste and fallen leaves, or to store vegetables such as onions, garlic and potatoes in a cool, dark place. Hessian sacks can act as temporary mulch that goes over a garden bed that’s been prepared but not planted yet. Weigh them down with rocks or pebbles. For seed that don’t need light to germinate, a wet Hessian sack can be used to cover a newly-sown bed to keep it moist and protect it from birds.
20. If you’re a handy person and good with tools, pallets can be turned into attractive wall planters.
21. Metal hangers can be repurposed in the garden to keep netting off plants in small containers. Shape the hanger into a semi circle, put each end in soil, drape the netting over it and secure the fabric with pegs. I have it in all my containers at the moment and it’s working very well.
22. Disposable drinking cups can be reused to transplant seedlings into the next stage of growth before they go in the ground.
23. Egg shells can be washed, dried and sterilised in an oven on low setting to destroy any pathogens then finely ground in a food processor and added to tomatoes when repotting for a calcium boost. Broken egg shells can also be used to deter snails and slugs.
24. An old wheelbarrow can be repurposed into a planter after drilling holes for drainage.
25. A polystyrene broccoli box can be used for growing rocket and leafy vegetables and upcycled into a wicking bed.
26. Old wooden crates / wine crates can be turned into planters by lining the inside with a heavy duty plastic liner with holes at the base for drainage and stapled to the sides of the crate.
27. Food grade white pails can be turned into an in ground composter by drilling holes on the sides, in the bottom and putting it in the ground with the lid level with the soil and secured with a brick.
28. Flexible storage tubs can be used to grow potatoes. Make sure you drill holes down the bottom before use for drainage. They’re easy to transport around the garden and makes harvest a lot easier.
29. Plastic soft drink bottles can be reused and turned into a watering can by making holes in the cap. This is particularly handy to use for watering a balcony garden.
30. Last and not least, take a look at hard rubbish and council clean up in your area. A walk around the block on council clean up day can be a gardener’s treasure!