10 Things To Recycle For Gardening Indoors and Out

I literally started gardening in paper cups. I don't know where she got them, because she didn't have a dispenser, but my grandmother had all sorts of seeds growing in paper Dixie cups and I never saw a package anywhere. I graduated to styrofoam cups from the office where I worked (used coffee cups) when I grew up, and then to plastic yogurt cups (hey, I paid for them, why not use them?). I've always found a way to recycle household things into my garden. Here are ten of my favorite things to reuse and recycle.

1.  Toilet Paper and Kitchen Wrap Rolls - You can use these to plant seeds or root cuttings. They work just like peat pots, decomposing in the soil. I cut the toilet paper rolls in half for seeds, and use them whole for cuttings. Cut the kitchen wrap rolls to any size you want.

2.  Plastic Jugs and Bottles - Bleach bottles cut from the top at an angle, leaving on the handle, make great soil scoops. Cut the top off and punch some holes, and you can use them as plant pots. You can even decorate them with other recycled items for use indoors and out. Soda bottles make great wasp traps. Just put some sugar water inside and hang near a wasp nest, and they will fly inside and not be able to fly back out. When you first plant something in the ground you punch holes in the bottom of a soda bottle and put it into the ground next to the plant to keep it watered. Small soda or water bottles can be used in pots with recently repotted plants. Milk jugs are wonderful for mixing and storing liquid fertilizers.

3.  Newspapers - Several layers of newspapers placed around a plant make an excellent underlayment for mulch to keep weeds from pushing their way through. You can also use newspapers to make paper cups for planting seeds. Shredded newspapers can be added to your compost pile. Wrap wet newspapers around the roots of plants or cuttings you are shipping (covered with a layer of plastic wrap) and fill the box with crumpled newspapers. I like to wrap the entire plant in newspapers to keep the leaves from being damaged during packing. Cut and fashion them into envelopes to store or share seeds.

4.  Jars - Glass jars can be used to root cuttings in water, store seeds, store fertilizer, and mix small amounts of chemicals. If you're having a snail problem, fill a small, flat jar (like a pimento jar) with beer and bury it up to just below the rim in the affected spot. Snails will crawl in after the beer and drown. Jar lids can be made into effective noisemakers to scare birds away from fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Larger glass jars placed upside down over a small pot of cuttings makes a wonderful greenhouse.

5.  Vinyl blinds - Redecorating and changing out those blinds? Don't throw them out! They can be cut up and used as labels for potted plants. The ends with the holes can be used to make tie on tags for trees and shrubs.

6.  Plastic tubs and cups - As I said in the beginning of this article, yogurt cups are great little starter pots. Put together a Yoplait cup, a 2 oz. plastic bathroom cup, and some yarn, and you have yourself a handy little reservoir planter for rooting African Violet and other cuttings. Large margarine tubs are wonderful for sitting potted plants in to soak up water, especially if you've just planted them in a clay pot. Of course, you can also use them as planting pots. They're also handy for storing small garden items.

7.  Coffee Containers - Plastic coffee containers are good for storing all sorts of gardening things, like those labels made of vinyl blinds I told you about. Opened bags of mixable fertilizer (such as Miracle Gro) and pelletized fertilizer (such as Osmocote) can be put in them to keep moisture out. They are excellent for storing small amounts of mixed soils. Punch a hole in the top, put in a ball of string, and you have a handy string dispenser.

8.  Coffee Grounds and Filters - Coffee grounds are wonderful for adding to the soil around acid loving plants. Coffee filters can be put into the bottom of pots to keep soil from washing out.

9.  Popsicle Sticks - Soak the bottom half in a strong solution of liquid fertilizer and stick into plants to feed them. Replace every month. Cheaper than fertilizer sticks! In a pinch, you can also use them for labels, but be sure to write on them with pencil, as the moisture from the soil will soon blur ink of any kind. I sharpen the ends down by rubbing the sides on concrete and use them as dibbles, to aid me in transplanting small seedlings.

10.  Egg Cartons and Plastic Produce Boxes - Egg cartons are wonderful for planting seeds. Don't forget to poke holes in the bottoms of the cells! Plastic produce boxes, such as those you get grape tomatoes and strawberries in, are wonderful little greenhouses for starting seeds or small cuttings.

I hope this helps you reuse some items you may have never thought of as gardening aids. Every less item that we put into a landfill reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. So reuse, recycle, and repurpose, and help save the environment.


  1. And, of course, you MUST compost food (uncooked) and garden waste. It's the very best kind of recycling in teh garden!

  2. I quite agree, and I plan to do a post on that very thing on The Consummate Gardener blog.

  3. hi frugal
    thoughtful and helpful post,
    u know, the more i read your posts regarding frugal living, well i cant stop thinking that many of these or simmillar techniques have been used in my country(India), for decades.
    just that i never thought of it.
    i guess necessity is the mother of all, or may be, many inventions

  4. Great frugal tips for the garden! I knew most of them but the blinds was very unique. I would have never thought of that!


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