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Recycling “Stuff” for Your Garden

by Tiffany in Gardening, The Homestead

Green seedlings growing out of soil in egg shells

I’ve got Spring on the brain so I thought I might share some of the stuff I am doing to get ready for planting season.

There are actually many things around the house that can be used to get seedlings started and it makes use of garbage you have around the house, effectively recycling things to give them another use.

First off…to start seedlings you need some little pots. There is no need to buy them…you may already have them. You can make little planters from toilet paper rolls, newspaper, and eggshells.

To make planters from toilet paper rolls:

  • Cut each roll in half and press it flat.
  • Make four, half-inch to three-quarter-inch slices on one end of the roll to create four equal-sized flaps.
  • Open up the roll and fold in the four little flaps like a box bottom. seed started in toilet paper roll
  • Fill with soil and plant your seeds!

You can grow these indoors next to windows (for light) or under grow lights and then when it comes time to plant them in the garden just unwrap the bottom and stick it in the ground. The paperboard of the toilet paper roll will disintegrate over time.

Egg shells can also be used for smallish seedlings and be put directly in the ground for planting. It is easier to manage them if you keep them in an egg container so if you get egg containers from the grocery make sure to save them AND the egg shells. If you get fresh eggs (like I do part of the year) then ask a friend to save their egg containers for you. Freecycle is also a good place to ask people for their garbage, LOL. :)

newspaper potNewspaper is another super easy planter. Just take a piece of newspaper and fold it in half once or twice lengthwise. Then roll it around a can or a glass to make the basic “tube” shape. Pull the can or glass out and then fold one half in to make a bottom. Now you are ready to add soil and seeds and these planters can also go directly in the ground and you don’t need to unravel the bottom as newspaper will disintegrate pretty fast.

If you want to get a jump on your outdoor planting but worry about an unexpected frost I have a solutionmilk jug cloche for that too. Save your plastic juice or milk jugs … or ask neighbors for theirs if you don’t use them… and then cut the bottom 2-3 inches off so that you have the perfect cloche to put over your seedlings in the garden. You need transparent milk jugs though not the white or yellow ones that won’t let light through. Also, the 2-3 inch section you cut off can now be used as a tray to start more seeds.

This cloche will protect your seeds from cold, frost, and bugs while allowing them to grow still. Using cloches for bug management also helps you keep to your organic intentions too. :)

You can also use milk jugs to water your plants. I keep one under my sink (full of rainwater) to water my indoor plants but they also work for outdoor watering. Just heat up a sewing needle over an open flame and then use it to poke  4-6 holes in the cap.   Now the water will stream out of the holes to water your garden. Easy peasy!

I hope these ideas help you get motivated to start that dream garden this year. For more inspiration you may want to check out the book The Revolutionary Yardscape: Ideas for Repurposing Local Materials to Create Containers, Pathways, Lighting, and More. It’s full of ideas!

Recycling Stuff for Your Garden 1

  • great tips thanks

    Gina’s last blog post..One of my older photos

  • I can’t wait to start gardening. Thanks for the great ideas. I’m going to have to start saving milk jugs.

    Dawn’s last blog post..Bye, Bye Microwave

  • Anna Hackman

    Love your ideas. I keep my straws and use them to mark where I plant my blulbs to see if they actually come up. My neighbor thought my tulips had already come up since she saw something sticking up from the ground! I also use them for planting seeds right into the ground for the same reason.

    I also keep my torn screens since I have raised beds. Last year I used them to cover what was between the raised beds to give the plants some shade. I can’t wait for Spring! Anna

    Anna Hackman’s last blog post..Do You Have the Energy Bill Blues?

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  • Those little eggshells look so delicate. I never would have thought to use them for planters.

    Thanks for all of the great ideas!

  • Wow, those are great ideas! I never would have thought of the egg shells or paper towel tubes for seedlings. But since I buy recycled, unbleached paper towel and toilet tissue, I guess it *would* be good to break down in the soil with my little sprouts. Thanks!

  • Rebecca

    Great ideas! I don’t have a green thumb and can get discouraged with my failed gardening attempts . . . but you may have inspired me to plant a few seeds this spring.

    Rebecca’s last blog post..My Adventures in Organic Baby Food

  • I’m just beginning to plan our garden this year, and I really like your use of the toilet paper rolls for starters. It’s brilliant.

    Jenny at Green Mommy’s last blog post..Creating a Happy Place

  • Great tips for recyling! Thanks. :) I’m going to try the egg shells for my seeds this year.

    Summer’s last blog post..Being Frugal

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  • Thanks, Tiffany! We do this, too. The nice thing about using eggshells to start seedlings is that some plants require calcium, and this helps supply it. Tomato plants, for one, need it. If previous crops have yielded cracked fruit, it’s an indicator your soil needs calcium added to it., so this gives them a head start! :-)

    We usually start at least our tomato plants in early to mid February. As the plants grow, we plant them deeper into larger recyclable containers, like plastic or paper milk, creamer, or juice containers.

    As tomatoes get planted deeper, they produce more roots along the stem. By the time they are planted in your garden, they have a long, healthy, deep root system which makes them ready for any dry spells!

    Yes, yes, yes–Think Spring!!!

    Leza’s last blog post..XLII Reflections

  • Gruppie Girl

    I never knew!

    You have me peering through the snow looking for spring.

  • I really like the straw idea, too! I use sticks, and the dog either runs off with them, they blend in with the woodchips/mulch, or the kids and I trip over and break them! I’m going to use straws, from now on! Thanks for the tip! :-)

    I’ll say again, Think Spring! We’re possibly supposed to be having windchills down to –45F tonight/tomorrow AM… .

    Leza’s last blog post..XLII Reflections

  • We’re planting our first veggie garden this year, so thank you for the wonderful tips! I’m also interested in composting. Do you have any tips on this? I love your blog!

    heather h’s last blog post..Oooh la la, I want to win this beauty!

  • We used to use eggshells stuffed with cotton wool, sprinkled with cress seeds and watered. Painted faces made a cress head which was then given as a gift to mum!
    I throw them in the compost heap these days where they get really well recycled!
    I’ve used the cardboard tube idea a few years ago and it worked quite well and loads cheaper than those peat pots too.

  • Great thoughts, thank you!! :)

    Lyra’s last blog post..Southwest Walnut “Scramble” (raw)

  • Anthony

    Wow, great idea to use eggs shells for starting seeds. I would have never thought of that because i compost my shells. Hmm, I’m going to have to start saving some. Who wants an omelet?

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  • Frugal Wench

    You can also use the styrofoam egg cartons, just fill with dirt, and plant. When they seedlings are large enough, pop them out and plant them.

  • Some nice tips on recycling stuff in the garden, I particularly like the use of old egg shells, truly organic recycling, although drainage could be a problem if you were to over water them by mistake.

  • I’ll take an omelet, Anthony! ;-)

    To water, simply mist them with a mister or spray bottle. If you don’t have those, use an eye dropper (think you can get them @ a pharmacy…), or flick them with water with your fingers.

    Happy gardening, and Think Spring!!! :-)

    Leza’s last blog post..XLII Reflections

  • Thanks for the great ideas! This will be my first year to plant a garden. I am so excited to get started. I too would like some tips on composting.

    Jenny’s last blog post..Something Besides Bills in the Mail

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  • Cathy

    Great unique ideas. Got me thinking.

  • Rereading this, I can’t wait ’til spring!!! :-)

  • Wow, thank’s for the article. I was writing about paper recycling and yesterday I’ve made two pots for seeds from the eggs but I didn’t know about plastic jug – frost preventer. :)

  • Great ideas – thanks for sharing them!

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  • Jason

    My grandfather used to use old food tins to prevent cutworms from killing his veggies. Cut the bottoms off your tins and push them into the ground an inch or two. It might look a little weird but it works.

  • Jeannie

    To protect your young plants from critters and crawlers, take plastic pots (that you bought plants or flowers in and you’ve been saving) cut out the bottoms, place them over your plant, bury them so there’s only an inch or two sticking up around your plant. Many critters and crawlers will not pass this ring to get to the plant. Ask your family, friends and neighbors to save the plastic pots from what they purchase every spring.

    Though not pretty, covering your garden area with newspaper retains moisture and keeps weeds away. Any remaining newspaper tils nicely into soil. Paper from a shredder works well too.

    Happy Gardening!

  • John P

    Great blog post! I love learning about this online as gardening/landscaping are not only hobbies of mine but I actually do a little bit of work like that during the summer months as a second job. I appreciate your content in your blog and wish that you would keep up the good work :)

  • ema-emes770

    I love these ideas! Hope I see more like these!
    I use old discarded auto tires as planters.
    I have mint in the garden…..I put the tire over it, and it grows out the middle of the tire. i love it!
    We can all come up with ideas!!

  • I’ve started growing my tomato seeds in eggshells as well. I’m maintaining a diary with pictures

    My question now is how long do I wait before moving the eggshells into the ground? The second set of leaves have just started emerging on all four of my seedlings and are around 1.5 inches high.

    Also, when I transplant, I don’t know how deep to dig the hole or how wide to make it. If you have any data, do let me know…

    • Bhagwad, the second set of leaves is a good indicator. I just go by how hardy the seedling looks and if the ground temperature is ready for them.

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  • ema emes 770

    I take old chairs that were sitting to be taken from the garbage day pickup and let my vines grow on them. One has cucumber vines, and one has butternut squash vines. it looks very graceful, saves the chair from being one more thing to use up space in the garbage, and it is creating “upwards” space in the garden!

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    Hey there Captain hows hanging these days

  • Deb

    Great ideas! Thanks!

  • These are just the suggestions that I need! Thanks so much!!! Sharing this like crazy.

  • Mikes Ac

    Recycling is always good and recommended to protect the environment from the pollutions it is suffering with.There is ill health in return.Therefore it is very good to catch with all such recycling news.

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  • That would be a good choice if ever. Great idea.

  • Safe Repair and Sales

    Far superior and more green than plastic starter pots. I do
    not plant in the pots, though. They are biodegradable but I’ve found
    plants become very root bound prior to the pots breaking down.


  • Irene @ SmilingGardener

    Great idea! Very timely especially nowadays
    where the greenhouse effect is a big issue. This can surely help alleviate our
    environmental problems and make our planet a better and healthier place to live
    in. I hope everybody will keep these in their mind.

  • Chris

    Such great ideas here! Recycling things you already have in the house is so much better than purchasing new.

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  • Bzbrum

    I took a metal bedspring. I propped it up on sticks and other supports till it looked like a huge version of a picture frame propped up. I set it to have southern exposure, and put cucumber plants in front of it. When they get bigger, I will train them along the box spring and they’ll grow up it. As they grow along the box spring, they will do better and better, as they are getting closer to the sun!

  • Bzbrum

    use disposed coffeegrounds to help your acid loving medium (roses and azaleas)

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