7 Items You Can Reuse to Improve Your Garden

Seven creative and inexpensive ways to improve your garden.

Whether you dapple with a few indoor plants, garden on the patio with containers or have a full-fledged backyard mini-farm, you’re probably looking for creative ways to save money, time and resources. Luckily for you, incorporating recycled and reused materials can actually make your gardening projects cheaper, easier and less time consuming – not to mention far less wasteful! Last year, we gave you seven reused items to boost your garden. This year, we rounded up seven more.

Reuse Germination

If you’re starting plants from seeds this year, don’t waste your hard-earned cash on tiny planters from the garden center. Save a few bucks – and get a little more use out of your throw-aways – by making your own seed-starters from recycled materials!

To make your own biodegradable mini-planter (that’s right, no transplanting!), you will need scissors and a toilet paper or paper towel roll.

How to make it:

1. Using scissors, cut six to eight small slits in the end of your toilet paper roll (if using a paper towel roll, cut the roll into three pieces before beginning this step).

2. Fold the strips down so they overlap.

3. Fill carefully with wet soil, and set in a baking sheet.

4. Plant one seed per roll. After germination, just plant the whole thing in your garden!

If you don’t mind transplanting your seedlings, you can use all kinds of recyclables for germination: Takeout containers, plastic cups, soda bottles and shoe boxes – just to name a few.

Unfortunately, most takeout containers – including mixed-material takeout cups and foam clam shells – are notoriously difficult to recycle. So, if you have a few boxes, cups and clam shells left over from eating out, why not reuse them as planters to boost your gardening projects?

Take Out Container Planters

Just wash out the container, fill with wet soil and plant your seedling as usual.

For best results, stick with plants that require little root space, such as single herb plants or succulents like cacti and aloe.

Not sure how planting in takeout boxes will match your garden decor? Think creatively and opt for decorative containers, such as Chinese takeout boxes and colorful to-go cups, to add a whimsical touch to your garden display – whether it’s in your backyard or your living room.

Popsicle Stick Garden Markers

If the kids are starting to chow down on ice pops for the summer, why not save those sticks for reuse in your garden?

To use your throw-aways to make customized markers for your garden or seedlings, you’ll need Popsicle sticks, a permanent marker and a reusable cloth.
How to make it:
1. Apply a few drops of rubbing alcohol or a solution of warm water and sea salt to the ends of your ice pop sticks. Use the reusable cloth to rub off any remaining stickiness.

2. Let the sticks dry in the sun for at least an hour.

3. Label your sticks with permanent marker, and use them to mark crops in your herb garden or veggie plot.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also make your own customized garden markers from old milk jugs using this simple tutorial from TLC.

Plastic Bottle Irrigation

Remembering to water your container veggies and potted flowers can be tough. But you could save loads of time and water by setting up a self-irrigation system in your container plants.

Sounds tricky, right? It actually couldn’t be simpler. All you’ll need is scissors, a plastic bottle, a hand shovel and about five minutes to get the job done.

How to make it:
1. Using scissors, carefully cut the bottom out of your plastic bottle. Remove bottle cap and set aside for recycling.

2. Use a hand shovel to dig a 6-inch-deep hole in the potted plant of your choice, as far away from the plant as possible to avoid damaging roots.

3. Place your plastic bottle in the hole, bottleneck end down. Use your hands to pack soil around the bottle so it stands upright.

4. Fill the bottle with water as needed, and watch it slowly seep into the soil – saving you time and nurturing your thirsty plants.

For a more advanced self-watering container, check out this tutorial from the University of Maryland Extension.

Light Bulb Terrariums

Not sure what to do with all those old incandescent light bulbs? Sure, you can recycle them. But why not find a clever way to reuse them first?

Once the electrical components are removed, light bulbs make perfect homes for air plants and water-saving succulents.

If you’re a seasoned crafter and have hollowed out a light bulb before, this project will be a walk in the park. But if you’ve never tinkered with a light bulb, consult a tutorial, like these from Instructables and Apartment Therapy, before getting started.

Once your bulb is cleaned out, all you’ll need is some succulent potting soil and small potting pebbles (and your plants, of course!).

How to make it:
1. Add a layer of potting pebbles to your light bulb as a foundation.

2. Add a layer of succulent potting soil, along with decorative moss if desired.

3. Gently place your succulent inside the bulb. Succulents don’t need much water. For best results, allow the soil to dry out a bit before watering.

Bucket Gardening

If you live in an apartment or don’t have a yard,container gardening is a great small-space solution for growing your own produce at home.

Garden retailers offer vast displays of jumbo terra cotta pots, plastic planters and wooden boxes – often priced at $50 or more. But why spend more when a recycled option could actually yield better results?

Five gallons of soil is optimal for most container veggies, including large plants like tomatoes, eggplant and squash. Larger containers tend to require more water, while smaller containers won’t provide enough root space.

Since they’re the perfect size, why not break out all those old 5-gallon buckets from pet food and potting soil and reuse them as planters for your container garden?

Just remember to wash each container well before filling with soil. Also, since you want to grow healthy food, avoid choosing containers that were used to hold toxic substances – even after they have been washed.

For best results, cut at least four 1/4-inch holes at the bottom of your buckets for draining excess water.

Wine Bottle Edging

Looking to add a touch of pizzazz to your garden or backyard landscaping? Rescue a few wine and beer bottles from your recycling bin to assemble a playful border that’s sure to turn heads.

Use this handy tutorial from ReadyMade or this video how-to from A Gardener’s Notebook to transform your recyclable glass into a piece of reuse art that’s perfect for the garden.

In the interest of full disclosure, you’ll need more than a few bottles for this.

So, if you don’t think your drinking habits can keep up, ask local restaurants, taverns and wineries if you can pick up some of their leftover bottles on a weekly basis until you’ve gathered enough to complete the project. Most will be happy to oblige.

-By Mary Mazzoni

More from Earth911:

PHOTOS: Rad Reused Planter Ideas

8 Things You Probably Aren’t Doing in Your Garden

PHOTOS: Stylish Recycled Decor for the Backyard

Images: girlingearstudio, MeganEHansen, jstuppy, sa_ku_ra, iEEEj, rfarmer, Tobyotter