- Cardboard Garden Ideas – Tips On Reusing Cardboard For The Garden
- Reusing Cardboard for the Garden
- Cardboard Gardening Ideas
- Other Ways to Use Cardboard in the Garden
- Using Cardboard and Paper Wisely in the Compost and the Garden
- How to Kill Grass With Cardboard & Straw
- Live farm fresh
- Got Weed Problems? Read this!
- I am now a faithful user of cardboard
- What About Other Options?
- Why Cardboard is Better:
- My Test Year – Removing A Train:
- Hoarding & Trying Cardboard:
- The Pros of Using Cardboard:
- The Cons of Using Cardboard:
- What is your best defense against weeds?
- Designing a Vegetable Garden
- Drawing the Plot Plan
- Rotate Your Crops
- Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:
- You don’t need new pots and trays to start seeds
- 1. Toilet Paper Rolls
- 2. Supermarket Veg Trays
- 3. Newspaper Pots
- 4. Paper Cup Pots
- 5. Pastry ‘Clamshell’ Propagator
- 6. Water Dispenser Cloches
- 7. Plastic Bottle Cloche
- 8. Upcycled Outdoor Planters
- 9. DIY Pallet Planter
- 10. Sow your Seeds in Eggshells
- 11. Egg Cartons
- 12. Tomato Seeds saved on Paper Towels
- Related posts:
Cardboard Garden Ideas – Tips On Reusing Cardboard For The Garden
If you have recently moved, there is something fun you can do with all those cardboard boxes besides fill up your recycle bin. Reusing cardboard for the garden provides compostable material, kills pesky weeds and develops a bumper crop of earthworms. Cardboard in the garden will also kill lawn grass and help you get a new bed ready for veggies, ornamentals or whatever you want to grow. Continue reading for more cardboard garden ideas.
Reusing Cardboard for the Garden
When you think about it, cardboard is just a form of paper and comes from a natural source, trees. As a natural source, it will break down and release carbon into the soil. Garden upcycling with cardboard has many more benefits, however. You can use it as planters, to start a garden path, mulch a prepared bed, start a new bed and much more.
It is important what type of cardboard you use in your landscape. Any cardboard that is not heavily printed, has no tape, no shiny finish, is unwaxed and plain brown is considered clean and okay to use. Some tapes will breakdown, such as the brown paper tape with strings through it. Otherwise, keep it simple and only use the basic type
of cardboard or you will be pulling tape and plastic finish out of your new areas.
If you are doing a layered or lasagna garden, make sure to moisten the cardboard first before topping it with organic material or mulch. There will be more rapid breakdown when using cardboard in the garden in this manner.
Cardboard Gardening Ideas
If you can think it, it can probably be done. Garden upcycling with cardboard not only repurposes refuse but is useful in many ways. The most common of the cardboard garden ideas is to use it to start a new bed, called sheet mulching. It doesn’t matter if the area has weeds or grass but do remove large rocks and other items you wouldn’t want in a planting space.
Lay the cardboard down on top of the area and moisten well. Use those rocks or any other heavy items to hold the cardboard down to the ground. Keep the area moist. A good time to do this is in fall. By spring you will have killed the weeds and the grass, and the area will be ready to till.
Layered beds will become super rich and nutrient dense if you use cardboard. It is similar to the method above, only you cover the cardboard with mulch or compost. In spring, simply till the area and you will be ready to plant.
Or, perhaps, you are an antsy gardener who wants to get going immediately once temperatures are warmed. Prepare your vegetable beds in fall and then cover them with cardboard to keep weeds from filling the areas.
Other Ways to Use Cardboard in the Garden
Lay cardboard down where you want a path and cover with pavers. Over time, the cardboard will melt into the soil but it will kill any undesirables under the pavers in the meantime.
Shred the cardboard and add it as an important carbon source to your compost bin.
Another idea for reusing cardboard for the garden is to place pieces of it around plants in areas that are prone to weeds. It will reduce weeds drastically and eventually compost into the soil.
For a cute gift idea, have the kids paint smaller cardboard boxes and fill them with soil and colorful flowers. It would make a special gift for grandma or even their teacher.
Using Cardboard and Paper Wisely in the Compost and the Garden
Q. I’m a devoted fan of your show looking for composting advice. Many gardening websites recommend adding shredded paper to your compost pile. I’m concerned that the ink on printed paper contains chemicals, and I won’t have a truly organic compost come next spring. So should I add paper? Not add paper? Help!
- —Anne in Doylestown, PA
A. Unfortunately, many people who give composting advice have never actually done it, are not thinking their recommendations through, or both. I’ve composted for 25 years, tend to think things through maybe too much, and don’t like the idea of composting paper for many reasons.
- Paper is one of the most easily recycled materials in today’s enlightened world. Virtually everyone has an easy way to get old newspapers, magazines and mixed paper into a stream where it gets turned into more paper, tissues, toilet paper or some other essential element of modern society, thus reducing the need for the raw material needed to make virgin paper (otherwise known as ‘trees’).
- While some modern inks (like the soy-based inks that have become popular in newspaper printing) are fairly innocuous, inks that are made for some other purposes still use petroleum and metals in their manufacture. (A good example is slick paper, where soy inks dry too slowly to be practical.) In addition, some paper itself has been bleached with chlorine, a particularly nasty player whose breakdown produces dangerous dioxins.
- Most importantly, there is little to no nutrition left in processed paper, and it won’t add much—if any—fertilizing or disease-preventing power to the finished product. That’s why I’m always yelling at allayouse to collect and shred massive amounts of fall leaves; shredded leaves make the finest disease-preventing, soil-enhancing, plant-feeding compost. If you have a compost pile where the predominant “brown materials” are paper instead of leaves, you are creating the equivalent of a heavily-processed artificial fast food for your plants. Compost made with shredded leaves is minimally processed, high quality slow food—and it’s local too!
Q. Mike: I read that burying wet newspapers around plants will prevent weeds from coming up. Should I try this? Could I use old magazines as well? And exactly how would I do this? Regards,
- —Catherine in Nokesville, VA
Q. My son purchased a home last year that has an unused vegetable garden he and I want to bring back into production. I have gardened organically since the 70’s and have never used any paper or cardboard because I believe that both contain chemicals I don’t want in my food—so I told him that his idea of mulching with cardboard is a no-go. But how about brown craft paper? He wants to use it in the walkways that we will create between long rows of raised beds to keep down the weeds. I worry that as the paper breaks down it will leach chemicals into the soil which will be taken up by roots that grow near or under the pathways. What do you think?
- —Sandy in Kutztown, PA
A. The last time I tackled this question in print (back in 2004), I, like you, worried about the possibility of glues and such in cardboard. Afterwards, I received a very thoughtful note from someone in the industry who gently explained that there is no single thing known as ‘cardboard’; it’s a catch-all term used to cover a wide array of heavy duty paper-based products. He added that he was in the cardboard box business and was pleasantly surprised to learn that corrugated cardboard shipping boxes are very clean—just about all paper, no glues and no bleach. As a result, I have become more enthusiastic over the years about the idea of using cardboard and black and white newsprint as a weed block under soil or mulch. (Note to Catherine: Not just “around plants”; it has to be used correctly.)
(Your ‘brown craft paper’ is yet another animal. As far as I can tell, it’s actually called ‘kraft paper’, a term (‘krafting’) that refers to a special manufacturing process that makes the paper very liquid proof, thus befitting its preferred old-time use for wrapping meat and fish. Some kraft paper, I am told, is also oiled or waxed to make it even better at resisting leakage. I’m pretty comfortable with it being used as weed barrier; but you’d have to go out and buy it, whereby most of us have a lot of old cardboard boxes and daily newspapers sitting around, begging for re-use.)
Now, how to use cardboard and newsprint: I recommend that gardeners planning to build raised beds level the soil, mark out the areas for the beds—no more than four feet wide but as long as you want—lay down single pieces of cardboard or entire sections of newspapers over the bare ground and then build and fill the raised bed frames overtop of that. (See this previous Question of the Week for more on raised bed building.)
Same with the walking lanes (which should be two feet wide by the way); lay down cardboard or newspapers and then cover this rustic weed barrier with the mulch of your choice. (Don’t waste your precious shredded leaves or compost for this necessary chore; this is one of the only good uses for shredded bark and wood chips.)
Is this plan 100% free of potential chemicals? Of course it isn’t. Neither is rainwater, animal manure, or scraps from conventionally grown produce. You pays your money and you takes your choices. I, for instance, will mix some horse manure into my compost piles when it’s available, knowing that the horse may have been medicated. To me, it’s still a great use of a nutrient rich ingredient, and I accept the small amount of risk.
Whereas I see no benefit and way too much risk in making compost from paper—too many problems; too little nutrition; too many other and better ways to reuse the paper; too much really good compost available elsewhere.
And as previously noted, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that it’s perfectly acceptable to use cardboard and newsprint (but not slick magazines or mixed paper) as weedblock. You may come to a different conclusion. That’s fine—it’s your garden.
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By Eve Werner, Butte County Master Gardener, July 3, 2015
California Water Service is currently offering rebates of up to $1000 for lawn removal and replacement with drought-tolerant plants in single-family residences. It’s not difficult to realize landscape water savings of over 80% through careful plant selection and site preparation, and accurate application of irrigation according to the plants’ actual needs.
If you plan to undertake a lawn replacement, make sure you do it properly; incompletely killed grass can regrow amid new plantings, ruining the appearance of your new landscape and creating a maintenance nightmare. The following three steps will lead to success.
Step One: observe and plan. What existing trees and plants do you want to keep or remove? What are the sun and shade patterns within your yard? What types of grass grow in your lawn? Do you want any additional amenities, such as paving or a shade structure? How will you irrigate your new plants?
Step Two: kill your lawn. Homeowners can use two eco-friendly methods to kill their lawns: Solarizing or Sheet Mulching (also below).
Solarizing uses the sun’s radiation to kill lawn grasses as well as many common annual weeds, harmful soil microbes, and seeds down to a depth of 4 to 12 inches in six weeks. Most beneficial microbes survive, including earthworms. Solarizing requires six hours per day of full summer sun and takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete. It works best on fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass, with partial success on Bermuda grass. Solarizing must be completed before new plants are installed.
Sheet mulching kills weeds by starving them of light. It takes 6 to 10 months and can be started any time of the year as long as at least three months of growing season are included. Sheet mulching works in sun or shade, and is effective on all grasses, including Bermuda grass, and many annual and perennial weeds. It is left in place permanently; over time, the dead lawn, sheeting, and mulch will break down into soil-enriching compost. Sheet mulching should be placed before new plants are installed if being used alone to kill lawn or weeds. It can be placed after plants are installed if solarizing has been completed first. New hardscape and irrigation should be installed before commencing solarizing or sheet mulching.
A third option for lawn removal is to dig or scrape out the lawn. Be warned, however, that this method will not kill Bermuda grass and most perennial weeds, which have deep roots that will re-sprout. If you choose to dig out your Bermuda grass lawn, be sure to follow up with sheet mulching to prevent aggressive regrowth of the grass.
Step Three: replant. Whichever method you choose to kill your lawn, time implementation so that you are ready to replant in the fall, winter, or early spring. The cool temperatures and moist soils of our wet season allow drought tolerant plants to develop the healthy roots they need to thrive with little water during the heat of summer. Taking time to thoroughly kill the grass and waiting until the climate conditions are suitable for new plants will ensure the long-term success of a lawn replacement project.
For additional information about the CalWater turf replacement rebate, visit their website at www.calwater.com.
Photo credits: Eve Werner
Sheet Mulching, By Eve Werner, Butte County Master Gardener
Sheet mulching, also known as sheet composting, kills weeds by starving them of light. Dead plant material will break down into compost to enrich the soil. New weeds are reduced because it is difficult for them to anchor their roots in deep mulch. The sheeting and the mulch will break down over time, forming compost. Sheet mulching should be placed before new plants are installed if being used to kill lawn or weeds. It can be placed after plants are installed if other weed removal techniques such as solarizing have been completed first.
- Newspaper or plain cardboard. Don’t use glossy colored pages as they may contain metal pigments.
- Water from a hose with a spray attachment.
- Compost or worm castings in a 1-2” layer. Quantity calculation for mulch is: (Area in square feet) x .08 to .15 ÷ 27 = cubic yards of compost required. Note, if you are replanting with native CA plants, you can omit this step.
- Wood chip mulch in a 4”-6” layer. ‘Walk-on’ bark, has longish strips of wood and barks that knit together to help it stay in place. Shredded wood/barkmayalsobeavailablethrougharborists for much less cost; verify with the supplier that it is disease free.
- Quantity calculation for mulch is: (Area in square feet x .33 to .5) ÷ 27 = cubic yards of mulch required.
- Scalp your lawn or weedy area with mower set at lowest setting. Remove grass/weed clippings.
- Water the soil thoroughly. To prevent runoff, you may have to apply water for a short period, wait for it to soak in, and then repeat as needed.
- To reduce spillage of mulch onto adjacent paving, dig a shallow beveled trench along any edges that are bordered by paving. See drawing, below.
- Spread 1-2” depth of compost or worm castings over entire area.
- On a windless day, place newspaper (about 5-8 sheets thickness) or cardboard over grass to be killed, overlapping like shingles. Make sure there or no gaps or holes. Lightly sprinkle newspaper with water as you go to prevent it from blowing away. Once wet, the paper will easily tear; be careful when walking on it. If it tears, place additional newspaper over the hole.
- If you are laying the sheeting around existing plants, keep the paper a foot from the plant stem, further for plants that spread by underground stems.
- As you are laying the paper, place wood mulch over the top of the paper to a 4”-6” depth. Place the mulch as you lay the paper so you don’t have to walk on/tear the wet paper. If you are placing the mulch when the plants are already in the ground, keep the mulch a foot from the plant stem.
- Sheet mulching requires 6-10 months to kill a lawn. It can be left in place permanently.
- To plant with sheet mulching in place, push back the mulch and cut away paper sheeting in a circle wide enough to dig your hole. Dig the planting hole 2x the width and 1x the depth of the plant root ball. Loosen coiled roots and place the plant in the soil so that the top of the root ball is slightly above the adjacent soil. Back fill with soil from hole, forming a slight rim at the edge of the planting hole. Replace mulch, keeping it 8” from the plant stems.
Sheet Mulching in Progress
Beveled trench along the sidewalk, newspaper layered 5-8 sheets thick, and an initial layer of wood chip mulch.
Beveled Trench Diagram
How to Kill Grass With Cardboard & Straw
grass image by Thomas Quinlan from Fotolia.com
You can kill areas of unwanted grass without poisoning the soil, and all you’ll need is cardboard and straw. There are even some fancy names for this earth-friendly “technique” of clearing a spot of its current vegetation. Some refer to it as solarization or sheet mulching, while informal enthusiasts call it lasagna gardening, due to the layers of materials being used. The concept is simple: Deprive grass of the elements it requires, and it will die. .
Mow or trim the grass as low as possible. Don’t rake the clippings away. They’ll contribute to the natural decomposition process and enrich the soil. Soak the area deeply with water.
Top the area with a single layer of cardboard, overlapping edges where necessary to cover the ground. Drench the cardboard with water. Add another layer of cardboard and soak it well. Repeat until you have a 1-inch-thick pile of wet cardboard.
Pack a layer of straw over the cardboard 2 to 5 inches thick. Wet it thoroughly.
Top the straw with another ½- to 1-inch-thick pile of wet cardboard. This will help to hold everything in place for the next 4 to 8 weeks, as the pile smothers and kills the grass underneath.
Cultivate the decomposed grass, cardboard and straw into the soil below.
Live farm fresh
Got Weed Problems? Read this!
I think all organic gardeners have their favorite weapons against weeds. One of my favorites (for weedy walkways) is boiling water.
I learned this tip from my friend, Margaret Roach of A Way To Garden. I have written about Margaret before here. And after following her blog for about 6 years, I have learned many wonderful gardening tips and tricks from her.
But I have to be honest. Today’s trick is really not “new” at all.
I knew of a different version of it and I’m sure you do too. It just took Margaret several years of mentioning her way before I actually tried it myself.
My reason for hedging for so long was that this “trick” is very similar to other techniques I had tried and failed miserably at. So, I thought to myself, “Been there, done that”.
Boy was I wrong!
I am now a faithful user of cardboard
Yes, you heard me. Plain old cardboard.
I’m sure you wanted something more exciting or sexy than cardboard. But hear me out.
I now lay cardboard down in my garden beds at the beginning of each season and cover them with mulch.
The result is that my weed problems have been reduced by about 95%.
I kid you not!
What About Other Options?
I’m sure (like me) you had already heard of (or even tried) laying down newspaper or just a thick mulch to smother weeds. The idea is to cover the soil enough to block light from the weeds while still getting water to the surrounding plants. The weeds smother and don’t come up.
Well it works for other people. But for me…not so much.
Many years ago, I tried the newspaper thing and it was a complete disaster! The newspaper showed through in spots and would fly all over the garden every time we had even a slight breeze. It looked tacky and terrible.
And yes, I have used black plastic to solarize areas where I wanted to kill grass. I still do. That works well for large grassy areas, but does not work within my garden beds. Plus, I don’t want plastic in my edible garden.
And don’t even get me started on landscape fabric. It sucks on many levels within my cottage garden veggie beds.
My veggie-herb garden
See, my garden beds are planted in a cottage design. I rarely plant rows.
And I rotate my crops which means that I replant the entire garden each year in a new way. So landscape fabric doesn’t work when I am constantly moving and changing my layout.
Why Cardboard is Better:
Then I learned about cardboard from Margaret and my life changed forever.
- First, the cardboard does not blow down the street. It is heavier and stays put. It does the job of smothering the weeds, grass etc. This is my second year doing this and so far, I have not had to anchor it down.
- Second, it breaks down so well that at the end of the season you are left with lovely soil and no cardboard. This means that I can change my veggie design with a clean slate each year.
- Third, the brown paper blends pretty well even if some cardboard corners pop up here and there. It is much less conspicuous than newspaper.
My Test Year – Removing A Train:
I removed this train garden to plant more veggies
Last year was a real test case for me. I tore out my old train garden that sits in the center of my vegetable/herb area.
It was sad to do, but my kids have grown into teenagers and we just were not using it to run the train anymore. I really wanted that prime real estate for growing more vegetables.
I only have 1/10th of an acre here upon which to grow food. I need and use every spare inch.
As a result of not using the train, weeds had started growing up through the tracks and I had allowed large sections of the garden village to go to weedy.
Sadly, those weeds all went to seed.
After weeding and removing the train paraphernalia, I knew I was one watering away from a bed full of weeds again.
Hoarding & Trying Cardboard:
I decided to try cardboard.
I hoarded cardboard from the neighborhood, pulling it out of trash bins destined for the landfill. I especially searched for non-printed boxes.
I laid them out and covered them with a mix of my own compost and store-bought organic compost. I watered and waited.
I did not have any weeds the entire season. The only weeds I got were where I had left gaps along the edges of the cardboard.
The only weeds were along the edges where there was no cardboard.
The cardboard slowly broke down and was mulched in right as my season ended.
You may be wondering about trying to use cardboard around perennials. It is pretty easy. As I said, my veggie garden is NOT planted in rows. So I have to cut and maneuver the cardboard around existing plants. It is a bit of a pain, but it works.
The Pros of Using Cardboard:
- Easily cut to fit around existing plants and trees.
- Easy to poke a hole and plant something through the cardboard. Just dampen the cardboard and use a spade to cut right through.
- Thick enough to truly smother weeds and not blow down the street.
The Cons of Using Cardboard:
- You need more than you think and you have to dumpster dive to find it.
- If packing tape is left behind, you find it as you cultivate the soil.
- A hard rain and over zealous watering will expose the cardboard and make it look trashy. You have to keep an eye on that for the first few months until the paper starts to break down.
- In the beginning, you need to periodically deep water so the water penetrates through to the soil.
- It needs at least 2 inches of compost or mulch, (I use 3 inches) to truly hide it and keep it in place. You may not have that much on hand. I have to supplement my homemade compost with more to cover my entire vegetable garden area.
So what about you…
What is your best defense against weeds?
Tell me in the comments!
Designing a Vegetable Garden
You’ve put a lot of thought into your vegetable garden plan. You also know some vital information and dates: The names of the vegetables you’re going to plant as well as planting and harvest dates. Now comes some substantial paperwork.
The size of your garden depends on your interest in gardening and how much time you’ll be able to give to the garden. Some vegetable gardeners use every available inch of space; others use a small corner of their property. Some don’t have much choice; this may be your case if you have a small garden to begin with or if you’re gardening on a patio or balcony. The larger your garden, the more time and work it’s going to need. Unless you’re already hooked on gardening, it’s probably better to start small and let garden size increase as your interest in gardening and confidence in your ability develop.
Before deciding the exact dimensions of your garden, check the list of vegetables you’ve chosen and the amount you’re going to grow for each one. Then calculate if all the vegetables will fit into the allotted space.
Keep in mind that you’ll probably map out successive plantings. Arrange your plantings to make the best use of your available space. Some vegetables (for example, cucumbers) sprawl, taking up much space in the garden. You can make use of vertical space, however, by training vines to grow on a trellis; this will free up usable planting ground.
Drawing the plot plan is the pencil-and-paper stage of planning. If you use graph paper, it will be easier to work to scale. A commonly used scale is one inch of paper to eight feet of garden space, but you can adapt the scale to whatever is easiest for you. Draw up a simple plot plan with your garden’s measurements in all directions. Remember, no law requires a garden to be square or rectangular. Your garden can be round, curved, or any shape that fits your landscape.
Sketch circles for individual transplants, and rows for directly sown seeds. Take care in placing the vegetables. Place taller plants in the north or northeast area of the garden so they won’t shade other plants as they grow. If you’re going to use a rototiller, make sure the rows are wide. In smaller gardens it’s more space-efficient to plant in wide rows or in solid blocks four to five feet wide. You must be able to reach the center of a wide row comfortably from either side.
If you’re serious about gardening, you should keep records. Planning your records should be part of planning your garden. Build your records the same way you build your garden; profit from past mistakes and incorporate new ideas. Keep a daily record, noting such things as soil preparation, planting, weeding, fertilizing, bloom time, date crops ripen, and growing results. Also note any problems with weeds, insects, or rainfall, and whether the harvest of each item was sufficient, too much, or not enough. At the end of the growing season, you’ll have a complete record of what you did, and this information will give you the basics for planning next year’s garden.
Drawing the Plot Plan
Measure your garden space and plot it on graph paper using a scale that suits the size. Keeping taller vegetables on the north or northeast side, start the plan by sketching in the cool-season varieties. Calculate when those varieties will mature so you can replace them with warm-season crops.
If you don’t rotate your crops, you might be giving diseases a chance to build up strength.
Rotate Your Crops
Do not grow the same plant family in the same spot year after year. Repetition of the same crop gives diseases a chance to build up strength. There are three major vegetable families:
- Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
- Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year’s garden.
- Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.
- Garden Design: Learn even more about designing your garden.
You don’t need new pots and trays to start seeds
Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches.
It’s finally getting to that point of the year — seed sowing time. From now until the summer I’ll be sowing a lot of my allotment garden veg at home and then planting it out. I do this to give my plants an easier, and earlier start in life and to help them avoid slugs and other pests as they’re just emerging.
While I do have plenty of purpose-made seed trays and modules to grow them in, I also use a lot of recycled materials. Toilet paper rolls, supermarket veg trays, and egg cartons to name a few. Here’s a collection of ideas for seed starting with recycled materials. They’ll help save you money and reduce waste.
1. Toilet Paper Rolls
Toilet paper rolls are great for growing most plants but especially ones that don’t like their roots disturbed: beans, peas, and sweet peas. This is because you plant them directly into the soil outside without having to take the plant out. Tip: they may start molding and breaking down before then but it’s nothing to worry about. Also make sure to peel back the tops of the roll before you plant them. This is especially important if you’ve not filled them all the way with compost.
Use plastic trays used in supermarket veg packaging to grow seedlings in
2. Supermarket Veg Trays
You know those plastic trays that you buy mushrooms, strawberries, and other fruit and veg in? Pop some drainage holes into the bottom and they’re great to use as seed trays. They even stack really well together so if you have a bunch, use them one year then clean them out and store them for the next year too.
Newspaper pots are easy to make and also biodegrade into the soil
3. Newspaper Pots
This clever idea from HGTV shows how you can make your paper pots using newspaper and a tin can as a mould. You can also use a Newspaper Pot Maker to make smaller versions. Tip: use both black and white and coloured newspaper for these pots. Coloured ink these days is usually soy based so perfectly fine for the soil.
Paper drinking cups make excellent plant pots
4. Paper Cup Pots
Unwaxed paper cups are perfect for growing plants in. They’re made to contain liquids so are a bit tougher than toilet paper rolls or newspaper so plants can stay growing in them for longer. Make sure to poke a drainage hole in the bottom and your plants will have a snazzy recycled home to live in. You could even stop by a local coffee shop to see if they’d mind you reclaiming some leftover from customers — while you’re there ask if they have spent coffee grounds too since they’re great to use in the garden and in making compost.
5. Pastry ‘Clamshell’ Propagator
If you’re starting seeds that need a bit more warmth, consider popping them into a pastry clamshell. This tutorial from the Empress of Dirt shows how she uses them to keep her African Violet cuttings warm and cosy.
Water bottle plant cloches
6. Water Dispenser Cloches
This is an idea from an allotmenteer here on the Isle of Man. I’m not sure where they got the large water bottles from but the bottoms have been removed and they’ve been converted into cloches. Cloches are like mini greenhouses that are fitted over individual plants in the garden. They keep the plant warm and help protect it from slugs and snails.
There’s also a clever way to make recycled gardening cloches over in this piece.
7. Plastic Bottle Cloche
Not everyone has access to large water dispenser bottles but they might have plastic drinks bottles. These can also be converted into cloches either like the photo above or buy using the top so there’s a bit more ventilation. This image and a lot more ideas can by found in ‘Gardening on a Budget‘ written by guest writer Elaine Rickett. Tip: try to use the clear bottles since darker ones can block out some of the light.
Use recycled containers to grow veg in like this belfast sink
8. Upcycled Outdoor Planters
Now that it’s warming up you can begin sowing seeds outdoors. I have several recycled and upcycled containers including an old Belfast sink that I grow Rocket (Arugula) and Coriander (Cilantro) in. Since it already has drainage by means of the drain, I’ve just filled the bottom with gravel, topped it up with soil, and it’s now a perfect planter. You could up-size this idea by planting into an old bath tub.
Recycle a wood pallet into a planter
9. DIY Pallet Planter
A wooden pallet can easily be converted into another style of outdoor upcycled planter. All you need to create this Wheeled Pallet Planter is one wood pallet, 4-5 Caster wheels, a few other materials, and some basic diy skills. It’s a great mobile planter for salad crops, leafy herbs, and other shallow rooted crops.
Grow seedlings in egg shells
10. Sow your Seeds in Eggshells
Not only do these eggshell planters look incredibly cute but they too can be planted out directly into the garden. Just make sure to gently crack the eggshells before you put them in the soil.
Egg carton seed tray
11. Egg Cartons
Once you’ve had your omelettes and planted up your eggshells you can use the egg carton to sow even more seeds! Each egg cup can be filled with soil, sown with seeds, and then ripped off and planted directly in the garden. Like toilet paper rolls, the paper breaks down making this growing idea from Instructables very handy indeed.
Save seeds on paper towels
12. Tomato Seeds saved on Paper Towels
One of the easiest ways to save your own tomato seeds is to scrape them out onto a paper towel, goo and all. Let it dry completely before storing it away or sending the seeds to a friend. When you’re ready to sow them, you tear or cut off a piece of the paper towel and plant it with the seeds into the soil. Here’s more on how that works.