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10 Ways To Reuse Junk In The Garden

October 22, 2011

Lately everyone is talking about “going green“. Reduce, reuse, recycle…it’s the way of the future! I think it’s fantastic.

It sounds like a lot of work, but in reality, there are many easy ways to do your part and be green. You just have to think outside of the box, and figure out creative ways to reuse junk. Not only is reusing stuff great for the environment, but it’s a huge money saver! Plus, when you get something for pennies or free, you get a certain high from it.

Here are 10 ways that I have reused items that would normally end up in the trash (I’ve included links to the blog posts I’ve written about specific topics too, so you can read all about them)…

1. Build a Compost Bin – Last spring, I wrote a blog post about my compost bin. In that post, I describe how I built my fancy schmancy compost bin with some leftover fencing I had gotten for free at a garage sale.

Left over fencing = compost bin

Not only is composting great for our environment (and gardens!), it’s a great way to use leftover materials.

Other materials would work too… like scrap lumbar, leftover lattice, or even an old garbage bin.

2. Food Containers – If you’ve read my blog anytime in the past two months, you probably know what’s coming next… winter sowing containers.

Food Containers Used to Sow Seeds

That’s right, I save all kinds of food containers and use them for winter sowing seeds.

Ice cream buckets, old food storage dishes, food take out containers, containers from the deli or bakery… you name it!

Some of these containers can be used for more than one year too! The best part is that I can recycle them when I’m done.

Another benefit of winter sowing seeds is that I don’t have to spend money on expensive indoor light setups (and electricity).

3. Old Hoses and Screen Material – These two materials don’t sound like they would go together, but I use both with my rain barrels.

Rain Barrel

I have two rain barrels (and hope to get a third soon).

They each have two old hoses attached; one for overflow, and one on the bottom spigot for filling my water jugs.

I use leftover screen material to cover the hole on top to keep the bugs and debris out, while letting the water pour in.

You can read all about the benefits of rain barrels here, and read about how I set up my rain barrels here.

4. Small Containers – There are tons of small containers that are perfect containers for storing seeds. My favorite are the ones condiments come in when I order takeout food.

Reuse small containers to store seeds

Empty pill bottles, baby food jars, spice jars, plastic film canisters, small plastic zip top bags, paper bags, envelopes… you get the idea.

I use scratch paper to label the seed containers, and I also make small envelopes out of scratch paper to share seeds with friends.

Another thing that can be reused to organize and store the seed containers are shoe boxes or other similar boxes.

5. Mini Blinds – By far the best plant markers that I have used are ones I make out of cut up vinyl mini blinds. Again, most people will just throw old vinyl mini blinds into the trash. I have had luck finding these on Craigslist for free, as well as on trash day.

Plant marker made out of vinyl mini blinds

Ask your friends and family too, they may have some old ones in the garage or attic.

I use these in my gardens, seedling trays, winter sowing containers and in my potted plants.

They are reusable too if you write on them in pencil, just erase the pencil and reuse the marker.

I’ve also heard of people using plastic silverware and other reusable materials for plant markers.

6. Make a Propagation Box – In a blog post I wrote last year, I talk about the propagation box I made with a plastic bin. This is yet another item I saved from going to the landfill on trash day.

Propagation box made with plastic bin

I actually scored four of these bins with lids that day.

They were brand new with the price tags still on them! (Sheesh, I can’t believe what people throw away, what a waste!!)

I use two of them as propagation boxes and the other two I use for storage. They are perfect!

7. Construct a Cold Frame – Recently, in another blog post I wrote, I talk about the cold frame I made three years ago. I got some old windows from a junk pile set out for trash pickup (from my parent’s neighbors, they have the best stuff!). I knew exactly what I would use them for and constructed a cold frame.

Old windows used to construct a cold frame

I built the base of the cold frame mostly using scrap wood, but had to buy one 2×4. (Unfortunately you don’t always find stuff at the exact time you need it).

You can use other materials to construct a cold frame, like hard plastic sheeting or a shower door for the top (instead of windows). For the base, you could use old pieces of cement or stacked block rather than wood.

8. Creative Garden Decorations – The items/materials you could use to make creative garden art are countless. This picture shows one of the signature pieces in my garden. In case you can’t recognize it (I didn’t know what it was when I first saw it), it’s the bottom to a birdbath.

Bottom of birdbath, now garden decoration

This is another item I saved from going into the trash (I got it for free from a neighbor).

I love the contrast of color it adds to my garden throughout the year.

I especially love it in the spring when my poppies and irises are blooming all around it!

I’m thinking about adding a gazing globe on top of it, what do you think?

9. Make a Trellis – The items/materials you could use to make a trellis are countless as well. Here is a picture of a trellis that I made for free from other people’s trash.

Trellis made out of reused materials

My parent’s neighbor had one of those nice, temporary gazebos that have the cloth over the top.

He told me that it had been ripped apart during a storm earlier that summer, and they put the pieces out on trash day.

I saw them and the first thing I thought was trellises!!

They are perfect, I have them in three places in my gardens (so they all match!). I get tons of compliments on them and people can’t believe it when I tell them where I got these beautiful trellises.

10. Add a Plant Stand – I found this plaster plant stand (to the right of the bench) at a garage sale for free. The lady told me she was just going to put it in the trash so of course I had to take it.

Plant stand, painted and now garden art

I painted it with outdoor craft paint to make the decal flower on it pop with color.

I honestly didn’t think this would last more than a season or two outside, but now it’s going into it’s third season in my garden and it still looks great.

I love how it has aged and that there’s moss growing up the base of it. It adds a nice pop of color in my garden year round.

I hope that I gave you some good ideas of ways you can reuse junk in your gardens and live a greener life. Every little bit helps!

This post took me longer to write than most. The hardest part was to stop at only 10 things. I can think of at least ten other things off the top of my head… so, look for another post sometime this summer for more ways I reuse junk in the gardens.

When you get a chance, pop on over to Jan Huston Doble’s blog Thanks for Today. She has a great giveaway going on her blog in honor of Earth Day! Gardeners’ Sustainable Living Project you could win prizes!

Visit artical at;


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