7 Reused Items to Boost Your Garden

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With the bulk of the short and cold days behind us, it’s time to devote some extra effort to those empty flowerbeds and frostbitten potted plants. Whether you dabble with indoor plants or have a full-fledged outdoor garden and landscape, here are seven (re)uses for everyday items to give your garden a much-needed boost.

1. Create a (good) greenhouse effect

Plastic lemonade containers are recyclable, but why not reuse them first? Create a mini greenhouse to promote germination of seedlings so you can be ready to transfer them outside when the weather is right.

You will need a cleaned-out powdered lemonade container and a plastic bag.

How to do it:

1. Widen out the container by cutting off any narrow portions at the top.

2. Poke a few holes in the bottom of the container for drainage. Place soil in the container and water lightly.

3. Place your finger in the soil to create a small divot where you will plant the seeds. Make the divots an inch apart. Plant one seed in each of the divots.

4. Wrap the container with a plastic bag and use rubber bands to create a seal. Do not cover the bottom with the plastic bag. Place the mini greenhouse by a window so light can infiltrate and warm the soil.

5. Check soil moisture every few days and water accordingly. Reseal plastic bag after watering. To watch the progress of your seedlings, use a transparent plastic bag like those used for bread.

2. Egg carton seedling starter

Hate to throw out that foam egg carton? The small size and shallow depression make egg cartons (both foam and paper) perfect for planting seeds for eventual transplantation.

If you have a space indoors for the seeds to germinate, or a south-facing patio that gets enough early-spring warmth, the egg carton method is for you.

How to do it:

1. With a half-dozen or dozen carton, cut off the lid portion of the carton.

2. Puncture small holes in the bottom of each depression (where each individual egg once rested).

3. Evenly fill entire carton with soil. Place one seed per egg depression/section. Gently water entire carton (be careful not to wash the seed out).

4. If growing and watering indoors, place egg carton lid underneath the planted section of the carton to act as a water catchment device. Once seedlings reach optimal growth for transplantation, gently pop out each start from its section, keeping soil and delicate root ball in tact. Place in outdoor garden or in larger pot if container gardening.

3. Milk jug shovel

To give you precision when placing soil in pots, and to prevent a total mess indoors, small, easy-to-control shovels are a welcome addition to any gardening operation.

To make your own shovel from recycled materials, save those milk jugs!

How to do it:

1. Cut off the top portion of the milk jug (the spout). Depending on the amount of shoveling you need to do, both half-gallon and gallon jugs will work.

2. About 1-2 inches underneath the handle, draw a line around the entire milk jug. Puncture the plastic jug so you can cut along the drawn line.

3. Cut along drawn line, and then get to work shoveling!

4. Wine bottle hydro-plants

Earth911.com has featured plenty of ways to reuse old beer and wine bottles. For your home garden, another way to reuse wine bottles is to make water planters out of them.

How to do it:

1. Rinse wine bottles and fill with water.

2. With scissors, cut at a portion of stem where there are few leaves (you might have to take off some leaves from the stem).

3. Put leafless portion of stem in water.

4. Watch beautiful roots begin to grow!

5. Stylish cinder blocks

Too few cinder blocks to complete an entire project but enough that they are taking up space in the shed? Wondering what you could do with the extra blocks? Make planters out of them!

How to do it:

1. Turn cinder block to its upright position. Place block in desired spot in garden/ landscape.

2. Fill hole(s) of cinder block with soil. Place herb plants, flowers, aloe, agave, or other desired plant in cinder block planter.

3. Water well to ensure soil is moist, and marvel at achievement!

6. Spice up old pots

If you are sick of the same old look for your potted terra cotta plants, add some flare with your favorite beer or soda bottle caps. Choosing a beverage at the store just got a whole lot more interesting!

How to do it:

1. Place a few small drops of super glue on the bottle cap.

2. Press bottle cap onto terra cotta pot for recommended length of time according to super glue package. Space bottle caps according to taste and number of bottle caps collected.

3. Repeat until lip of pot covered with desired amount of bottle caps.

7. Temporary compost container

Still making excuses for not composting yet? Don’t blame the bad smell and lack of motivation to take out scraps every day. The solution is in your morning cup of joe.

We all know that coffee grounds are a welcome addition to the compost pile, but what about the empty coffee containers as a composting aid? Because most come with a snug-fitting plastic lid, these coffee containers are the perfect solution to temporarily storing your compost materials underneath the sink while reducing the smell.

Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock

You may also like…
Composting in the City
Making Your Green Dreams a Reality: Organic Garden
A Garden in the City: Home Grow Micro Farms

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  1. The pictures really helped me imagine implementing these ideas in my own home. I especially love the cinderblock idea. My husband said he would start a project years ago, but never did. I finally have something to do with the old cinderblocks in my backyard! Thanks!

  2. With the thoughts of gardening currently on my mind; some of these container ideas are really very creative and show constructive ways to reuse everyday household items in a very productive way..

    Great ideas! Thanks Haley!

  3. I am redoing my garden this year. I already ordered Rubber Much and i wanted to add something to it. I love the idea with the cinder blocks. It looks so neat and goes good with the color rubber mulch I bought!
    Nice article Thanks!

  4. I love the coffee container idea! I’ve been doing that for about 9 mo. now. My wife is even into it. Seals the smell and durable. I also use one to collect my batteries until I can take them to local battery store for recycle.

  5. I like the coffee can idea. I also reuse for compost. When grocery shopping, I mostly am able to avoid plastic bags (most fruit and veggies don’t really need them-I just don’t use them… and I have homemade bulk food bags, so I don’t use them there, either.) But…I always like to grab a plastic bag for green onions. Then, when I’m prepping my food for the meal, I just put all the cuttings back in that plastic bag, twist the top a bit and place the compost back in my fridge’s veggie drawer. The coolness arrests the decomp process a bit so I don’t have to take out the cuttings very often. (Maybe every week or two.)

  6. My Mom used the plastic container that the mushrooms came in to start some seedlings today. She also uses the container that those dishwashing machine cleaning tabs come in to collect organic waste in before they go out to the compost bin outside. You don’t lose the snap top because its stuck on to the container. My Father used to make a dome out of the top part of a 2 liter bottle of soda to help seedlings not get eaten by rabbits and birds and to protect them from the New England elements in the spring. Back when there was more eel grass (in the 70’s and 80’s,) he would collect extra after a storm blew it onto the beach and use it as mulch for the garden. It added nitrogen as it broke down over the plants. Ah the “olden” days.

  7. The previous owner of my house left about 15 cinder blocks and I was full of ideas on how to use them: as a raised flower bed, as planters, but I ended up just making a raised patio with the flat side. It provides habitat for insects and lizards and my son and cat love sitting on it and sunning or playing. I love the suggestion for using lemonade mix containers. I use one to collect change and the lids are perfect for scooping out just the right amount of dog food for my pets or for scooping bird seed for the feeder! The lids can also be used to collect small amounts of change or for keeping my kitchen junk drawer and desk supplies like paper clips organized! I was glad to see that I was on the right track using my empty coffee cans to put my compost in! It’s great not to have to take it out every day. The sealed lid really does contain the smell and encourages the decomposition process!

  8. These are great suggestions! I’ve also seen a great use for paper toilet rolls– they’re folded on one-half and used as seedling starters.

    I love to re-use what I can of our kitchen water by having a watering can near the sink for capturing used water after washing produce, cooking pasta and leftover teas.

  9. All very usable ideas. The last one, I am starting today – the empty coffee container. I always put fruit and vegetable scraps in my compost pile, so this is perfect for getting it out there.

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