Can’t recycle those items anymore? Use them in your garden

reuse plastic container to protect garden plants
I can’t recycle this plastic container, so I converted it into a mini-greenhouse. Cut the bottom off, remove the lid and it can protect plants from cold and pests. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Now that we can’t recycle as many kinds of items as we did before, can we find ways to reuse them in our gardens?

We already use lots of odds and ends in our gardens, but today let’s reach a little higher. Let’s look specifically at items that you can’t recycle anymore — items that get thrown in the trash and end up in a landfill.

And let’s look at things that you were throwing into your recycling bin, but that never got recycled — things like colored glass. I used to put any kind of glass in my recycling bin, but I recently found out that for years they wanted clear glass only. I guess I’ve been “wish-cycling” — putting items in the recycling that I thought could be recycled, but weren’t.

And let’s look at things that you were never able to recycle — things that went in the trash, such as broken blinds.

I have a few tips, but I bet you have more. Please share your tip in a comment at the end of this article.

Wide-mouth plastic containers

Did you ever buy nuts in big, square, clear plastic jars with big caps? I used to be able to recycle those containers, but now the recycling company in my town accepts only plastic containers with small openings.

I found a way to use those big plastic jars over and over again in my garden.

Cut off the bottom using a box cutter or strong scissors. Now you have a mini-greenhouse that you can set over tender plants. Basil likes warmer temperatures, so I stuck the mini-greenhouse over my plant on cool nights.

You can also use that former jar to protect small plants from rabbits or other pests. Rabbits ate my heuchera over the winter, so when I replanted some new, small heuchera plants this spring, I used the former jar and it protected them well.

wine bottles form garden border
Wine bottles form a border between the path and the garden in the Klubeks’ landscape, which was shared on the Williamsville Garden Walk. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Colored glass bottles

colored wine bottles at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Garden
A rainbow of wine bottles was used as a decoration during the Coleus & Color exhibit at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens in 2017. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Make a garden border out of wine bottles.

I saw that wine bottle border a few years ago in the yard of Linda and Jaime Klubek, who shared their landscape on the Williamsville Garden Walk.

The bottles are buried upside down between a garden bed and the path. It helps to keep the stones from the path out of the garden.

The Klubeks also have decorations made of wine bottles in their yard, which you can see in the last photo here.

The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens added color to their summer exhibit in 2017 using wine bottles.

If you don’t have wine bottles, or you don’t have the color you want, ask your neighbors and friends.

Window blinds

plant tag made from window blind
Make plant tags from broken window blinds. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

If you’ve come to my talk “Get Crafty in Your Garden,” you might remember this tip.

If you have broken plastic blinds, use the slats for plant markers. You can cut them to whatever length you want.

Write the name of your plant in permanent marker. You can get fancy and use colored markers.

You can use the back and front of the marker to add extra information, such as the variety of the plant and when you planted it.

If you don’t happen to have broken blinds, tell friends you’re looking for some. The blinds from one window can keep you in plant tags for years.

What else?

If you have ideas on how to use these or other items that can’t be recycled, please share by leaving a comment below!

6 Comments on “Can’t recycle those items anymore? Use them in your garden

  1. I found an old kid’s “racecar” bed in the trash … Filled with soil – instant raised bed! A child’s toy wheelbarrow becomes a planter, a toy car a planter.

  2. Those plastic containers they sell strawberries in is great for winter sowing! Cut holes in the top, add soil & seeds, then close it until seeds sprout!

  3. Jonathan, wow! You made great use of material that would have ended up in a landfill. Thanks for that wonderful idea.

  4. I recycled / upcycled our old playset once my kids outgrew it – the 4x4s became a frame around some garden beds, the steps became a shelf for several pots, the climbing wall now supports my rain barrels, the decking is a small fence to hide lawn furniture when not in use, and the slide now holds 7 pots.

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