Recycled bottles in a garden

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5 Fun Ways to Repurpose Recyclables for Your Garden or Yard

April 24, 2019

By Lori Melton

If you’re planting a garden or sprucing up your yard this summer, using repurposed recyclables is a fun way to dress things up and help protect the planet. Instead of tossing items into the recycle bin, give them new life with these eco-friendly ideas.

Newspaper Mulch

Spreading newspapers in the garden helps keep weeds at bay. Just place them over open spaces in the garden, making sure to leave an opening around individual plants. Cover the newspaper with a thin layer of compost, soil, or mulch. Weeds will be blocked, and water will sink into the soil through the paper.

Creative Plant Markers

Keep track of which plants or herbs are which by making cute and creative plant markers. Repurposing wine corks as markers is one fun idea. Just write the name of the plant or spice on the side of the cork, push it onto a wood or metal skewer, and stick it in your pot or soil. (See photos of this idea at Shine Your Light). Plastic yogurt lids also work great. Write the plant name on the lid, cut slits through it, and slide a skewer or chopsticks through for the stick.

Seed Packet Garden Sign

Save old seed packets and turn them into a fun garden-themed sign! For this project, buy unfinished wooden letters at the craft store to spell out the word you want. Suggestions include “grow,” “garden,” “flowers,” or “plant.”

First, sand all the letters down with sandpaper. Then, cut out pictures from the seed packets and glue them onto the letters in a collage pattern using decoupage glue (like Mod Podge). Once the entire letter surface is covered, seal it with another layer of Mod Podge, and let them dry. You could nail them to a tree or fence for a cute yard or garden decoration. See photos of this project from Birds and Blooms.

Paper Towel Tube Seedling Starters

If you have extra seedlings, empty paper towel tubes make perfect seedling starters. In one example, you can start tomato plant seedlings by placing them in the soil inside the tubes. Just wrap the tube with brown packing paper (to hold the dirt in) and tie it with string to hold it in place.

Mist the seedlings frequently to keep them moist. These petite packages make fun gifts and the nice thing is, they can be planted as is, as the wrapping materials will eventually compost. See detailed photos of this project via Carolyn’s Homework.

Compost Fertilizer

Composting food scraps and yard waste is one of the easiest environmentally-friendly things you can do for your yard or garden. It enriches the soil, helps retain moisture, helps stave off plant diseases and pests, and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

Making a compost pile is easy. You just need three basic ingredients: Brown materials like dead leaves, hay, twigs, and branches, green materials like fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, and grass clippings and water.

Depending on your space, you can make a compost pile outdoors in a shady spot in the yard. Or, you can buy a special bin at a hardware or home and garden store to compost indoors.

In outdoor compost, collect and add brown and green materials and moisten dry materials as they’re added. Once a pile has accumulated, mix grass clippings in and bury food scraps about 10 inches under other materials. Once materials at the bottom are dark and rich, the compost is ready to spread around flower beds, tree beds, or throughout your garden.