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5 Ways To Repurpose Recyclables For Your Garden

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Save money and divert waste from the landfill by upcycling household items into gardening tools.

Updated On 04/08/19

If you’re planting a garden this summer, you can save yourself a bundle by repurposing household items for your garden projects. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also divert some of your waste from the trash or recycling bin!

1. Plant Markers

Since we’re garden newbies, I’m worried we won’t be able to tell a zucchini seedling from a tomato seedling, so plant markers are a must. Don’t waste money on the cute but pricey ones at your garden store, because you can easily make them with found materials.

I wrote the plant names on small plastic yogurt or sour cream lids, cut two slits into the plastic, and poked chopsticks through for the stakes. I’ve also seen ones made from wooden clothespins, plastic knives, or wine bottle corks. Check out some of these pretty ideas at Apartment Therapy.

2. Raised Beds

Leftover wood or plastic lumber, cinderblocks, or other building materials can all be repurposed to make a raised-bed garden. There is some concern about the chemicals used to pressure-treat wood, but if you suspect the wood you want to use is pressure-treated, you can line the inside with heavy plastic.

Ask friends, neighbors, and nearby construction sites if they have building materials that they want to get rid of; you’ll be saving them from having to dispose of them, while saving yourself the expense of buying new.

3. Newspapers For Mulch

Save those Sunday papers … they are a natural way to keep weeds under control. Spread newspaper over the open spaces of your garden, leaving an opening around each plant, and cover it with a thin layer of compost, soil, or mulch — just enough to cover the newspaper and keep it from flying away.

The papers will let water sink into the soil, while blocking weeds from growing.

4. Seed Starters/Greenhouses

Cut up paper towel or toilet paper rolls to use as seed starters. Line them up in a shallow container (a cleaned disposable aluminum casserole, or a large plastic package works great), fill them with soil, plant the seeds and add water.

You can even fashion a mini greenhouse by cutting open large clear plastic bags or using clear plastic packages (such as the big clamshell packages that salad greens come in). The best part is, when it’s time to plant your seedlings, you can plant the whole bundle, cardboard tube and all, since the cardboard will eventually biodegrade. For more detailed instructions on how to make the seed starters and mini greenhouses, check out

5. Compost

Compost is the ultimate recycled gardening material: You can turn all of the food scraps you’d otherwise throw away, into soil that’s richer and more nutrient-packed than anything you could buy at the garden center.

Composting also has many environmental benefits; less food in landfills means less methane gas and other pollutants. But it’s not just as simple as throwing your potato peels and coffee grounds into a corner of your yard. Be sure to consult a book or a reliable website for instructions (I like the composting article on — you don’t end up with a stinky, bug-infested pile of trash!

If composting on your own sounds scary, there are a few alternatives you can also look into (like freezing your compost until you can drop it off at a greenmarket!).

By using recyclables to create some of these DIY projects for my garden, I’ll be saving money, cutting down on waste, and giving my garden some real personality.


How have you repurposed things around the house for your garden? Share your ideas in the comments!

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.