What Is Garden Recycling and How to Do It

If you’re trying to minimize waste, the trend of garden recycling is a unique way to give new life to the items around you. Earlier this year, garden recycling was named the second most popular spring gardening trend on Pinterest, with 909 boards dedicated to the phenomenon. A universal term that refers to the many ways people can reuse materials in their gardens, garden recycling comes in many shapes and sizes. From the kitchen scraps that become fertilizer to the furniture that’s repurposed into planters, here’s a look at how one of the most popular trends of the season is transforming gardens.

You may have heard that food scraps and yard waste make up about more than 30 percent of what people throw away. Luckily, many of the scraps you find in your kitchen can be used in your garden. For instance, crushed eggshells aerate the soil and contribute calcium, which is particularly helpful for growing tomatoes. Discarded citrus shells can attract snails and slugs, helping to draw them away from your plants. And coffee grounds, which are rich in nitrogen, can be mixed up in soil, whether it’s in a potted container garden or a sprawling backyard bed. These nutrient-dense scraps are all helpful when it comes to finding productive ways to use your waste. You can also use these leftovers to go a step further to create fresh compost. If the idea intimidates you, take a look at this ultimate beginner’s guide to composting.

Yogurt containers. Toilet paper rollers. Stewed tomato cans. All of these recycled items can come in handy in your garden. In early spring, you can start your seedlings anywhere from empty egg cartons to K-cups. As they grow, consider empty yogurt cups or juice cartons. Larger containers, like coffee canisters or 32-ounce yogurt containers, can be ideal for propagating plants, like a pothos or spider plant. If you live in a city, these large containers are ideal for growing vegetable plants out on a fire escape or balcony.

Occasionally you’ll spot a bicycle or a wheelbarrow that’s transformed into a garden, overflowing with pansies and leafy vines. Repurposing larger items as pots is another popular form of garden recycling. Tracy Hunter, who chronicles her garden adventures on her Instagram page, has used everything from a filing cabinet to a broken toaster in her garden. “Items that others might consider as rubbish, I view as treasure — they just need to be given a new lease on life,” says Hunter, who now grows salad leaves in the toaster and sweet peas in an old dustbin. “I grew up on a farm, in a practical family, where ‘make do and mend’ was very much a way of life,” she says. “Making something useful and beautiful again is not only good for the soul, it’s good for the planet!”

Garden recycling doesn’t always have to be directly applied to how you grow things. Maybe it’s using empty milk jugs as watering cans or sticking a seltzer bottle full of water into a houseplant so it can self-water while you’re away on vacation. The idea is to minimize the amount you’re throwing in the trash by repurposing it in your garden. As sustainability becomes an even stronger focus in our everyday lives, making use of the items we already have in order to minimize waste will become an increasingly popular goal.

Megan Johnson

Contributor

Megan Johnson is a reporter in Boston. She got her start at the Boston Herald, where commenters would leave sweet messages like “Megan Johnson is just awful.” Now, she’s a contributor to publications like People Magazine, Trulia and Architectural Digest.

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