The average American creates up to 2,072 pounds of garbage every day. I would bet that my husband and I produce far less than that because we recycle a lot of what garbage we produce with garden projects. Here are a few of them that I have been using lately.
Making Seed Planting Containers
I have reused planting containers that I got from nurseries to use as my seed planting containers. I have cut the bottom out of milk jugs and water and soda bottles to use as planting containers and having seed some planting containers, I started using yogurt containers.
In addition, if I need biodegradable containers that I can use that will transplant shock in plants like cucumbers and other members of that family of vegetables, I make newspaper pots. I make them by cutting the bottom out of a tomato soup can and then cut newspaper pieces twice the length of the can and able to go around the can at least twice. Wrap the newspaper so that one end is even with the top of the can and the other half hangs over the end of the other end of the can. Wrap the can and hold the end with some hot glue. This creates the sides of your pot. To create the bottom of your pot, take the overlapping end and push it into the bottom of the can to create a bottom for your pot. To hold the shape of that bottom, use a dollop of hot glue. Carefully remove the newspaper pot from the can and begin making the next one.
Recycled Potting Soil
Once you have the pots, you’ll need something to fill them. If you have any, you’ll want to recycle your old potting soil too. This will save you money. To recycle it, you’ll want to add some homemade compost (made with recycled household and yard wastes, of course!). Add any other favorite organic fertilizer and you have soil ready to use again!
I save seed. I save a lot of money by saving the seed from one season’s growth to the next. This isn’t technically recycling, but it does create a sustainable source that you don’t want to ignore.
Preparing the Soil with Recyclables
After you have plants made from recycled items, you’ll want to continue using recycled materials in the garden. I never use store-bought fertilizers. Instead, during the winter I put yard wastes and kitchen wastes onto the garden and allow my chickens to eat and scratch in it. I also put my wood ashes on my garden areas. If I had more time in the fall, I would lay cardboard on the soil and the compost on top of that. So far, I haven’t done that, but what I have started doing this year is using the cardboard in my mulching system. Before the gardening season begins, I put cardboard down in the pathways and then cover them with sawdust (also a recycled item that I can get for the price of someone hauling it for me. If I had my own truck, it would be free.) More uses for cardboard to come!
Recycled Outdoor Planting Containers
A lot of times we just plant in the ground as a no-cost container. Other times, we have reasons for building containers. Most of my garden is currently planted in the ground, but I also have some raised beds made of old lumber that we had lying around our place that we nailed together. In addition, I have potatoes planted in used tires placed on cardboard and filled with garden soil. After the potatoes start growing, I fill around the potatoes with mulch. I also plant potatoes in recycled buckets. I put holes in the bottom of the bucket, fill it halfway up with soil and plant the potatoes in it. I then fill up the rest of the bucket with mulch. Once filled, I allow the potatoes to finish growing.
I don’t do this but I have heard a lot lately about people using cardboard boxes for growing potatoes. Do you or do you know of anyone who does this? Please tell me about your experience in the comments below.
Homemade Cloches from Recycled Milk Jugs
I am using recycled milk jugs for cloches. A cloche is a small translucent cover for protecting or forcing outdoor plants. I am using them to protect my tomato plants and pepper plants from late frosts.
Recycled Vertical Supports and Fencing
You must be careful when using supports that have been recycled. Rotten or insufficient plant supports can do more harm than good. Some of my favorite recycled vertical supports are supports made of durable materials like metal that will last decades. Fencing is the same. Purchase good materials in the first place and you’ll have materials to recycle indefinitely. For more ideas about vertical supports, see my post in this blog: Support for Your Garden Plant.
Recycled yard wastes make some of the best mulch. Grass clippings and tree leaves as well as wood chips and sawdust all contribute to a well-mulched garden. I make mulch gathering around the yard easy by using a grass-catching lawnmower to chop and gather leaves and grass that goes onto the garden throughout the season. This mulch breaks down and becomes nutrients for the soil. I have found that the mulch breaks down too fast and that perennial grasses and weeds readily break through the mulch. This year I plan to put cardboard or paper feed sacks down before I put down the mulch to smother the weeds longer so that the plants have a chance to take over the bed.
These are, of course, not the only ways that I recycle otherwise disposable items and with imagination, I am sure that you can think of other ways to recycle them in the garden. What ways do you recycle in the garden?