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Tips for Using Recycled Materials in the Garden – Upcycled Gardening

Combine green recycling with green gardening through these fun ideas for using recycled materials in the garden. Recycled materials make for fun and interesting garden containers. Turn “junk” into charming gardening containers. Learn how to plant a container garden with kids.

Tips for Using Recycled Materials in the Garden

How to Make a Recycled Mini-Container Garden

By Francesca Singer

boots container garden
Photo credit: Nanimo on VisualHunt / CC BY

Some gardeners are so serious about gardening that it’s borderline obsessive and sometimes doesn’t even look like much fun anymore. This is a real shame because it can be such a great learning and sharing experience for kids to connect with the natural world.

From planting a vegetable garden to dropping some plants into an aquarium with fish, there’s just something satisfying about bringing plants into our daily lives.

So, I propose a simple project that uses household objects and things you would otherwise throw out to create a whimsical project. Here’s how to make a recycled mini-container garden.

Choose Your Plants

You can buy most plants in the “starter” form. However, a handful of veggies do best planted from seed. Beans, cucumbers, melons, peas, and squash will all thrive if grown from seed.

Plants you buy from a nursery or garden section of a hardware store will usually have a label telling you what conditions they require.

Sedums and succulents will do well in small spaces, and many will tolerate low light levels.

Find a Suitable Spot for Your Container Garden

Where you plant your garden will depend on what you would like to grow. A good location will help ensure success.

For herbs or vegetables, you must find a sunny spot that gets about eight hours of sun each day, and the early morning sun is best. Many ornamental plants will tolerate part shade.

You don’t have to sacrifice any of your lawn for a garden. A few containers around your patio will accentuate your centipede or Bermuda grass.

If your lawn consists of St. Augustine grass, you’ll want to move the planters far enough away so the grass doesn’t try to overtake them. (St. Augustine spreads very quickly.)

Design the Garden

soda bottle recycled garden idea

Designing is where the real fun begins. Look through your recycling bin or donations pile to see what you can use as a planter.

Finding Containers for Recycled Gardening

Empty milk cartons are great for container gardens. Plastic and glass bottles make an eye-catching retaining wall, but it may take a little planning to collect enough. Ask neighbors and friends if you need to gather some in a hurry.

Old boots, shoes, jeans, coffee cans, plastic bottles, and so many more things will make great planters, too!

Be creative and have fun with it. Anything you can fill with soil can become a planter.

gardening containers out of junk

Clear the Space

Depending on where you choose to make this garden, you may have to clear a little space in a flower bed or corner of the lawn.

If you pull up any turf, do so carefully with a spade shovel, and then use the turf to patch any bare areas of your lawn.

Otherwise, just make sure that the area is clear of weeds or grass before you begin. As mentioned above, there is no need to disrupt your turf if you prefer to plant in containers on hardscape.

Assemble Your Recycled Garden Masterpiece

When using recycled materials in the garden, take your time and arrange everything so it’s secure.

Any bottles forming “walls” should be firmly pressed into the soil, and if you’re using jeans or clothing to plant in, make sure that the bottom edges are securely sealed before you begin filling with soil.

Once all the elements are in place, fill all the containers and planting areas (that will receive transplants) two-thirds full with soil.

Now, gently place the plants in their new homes and fill the rest of the container with soil, patting it down gently to ensure a firm fit.

For areas where you will plant seeds, fill to the top, pat down, and sow seeds as instructed on the seed packet.

Water all the plants well, making sure the roots get moisture.

Daily Garden Care

Combine green recycling with green gardening through these fun ideas for using recycled materials in the garden. Turn "junk" into charming garden pots.
Photo credit: Chiot’s Run on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

Observe your garden each day with your children and note how it changes.

If leaves wilt, water the plants and make a note of how often they need a drink.

Pay attention to pests and symptoms of sickness. If you’re lucky enough to have visits from caterpillars, look them up to see if you can identify them. It’s a great time to teach your kids about metamorphosis. They may even be fortunate enough to witness a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. Combine your learning with this sweet caterpillar to butterfly craft.

No matter what size, shape, or type of garden you plant, it will be a lasting learning experience in biology, entomology, and ecology.

Growing veggies can also help picky eaters get excited about expanding their menu.

Even if your plants don’t last, you can always replant again later. Remember, you’re not just growing plants, you’re raising the next generation of gardeners.

More Gardening Ideas for Families

Gardening activities for families to enjoy together.

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Francesca Singer

Francesca Singer is a DIY enthusiast who splits her time between Texas and rural France. When not writing or wrangling a toddler, she can be found wielding power tools or working in the garden.

5 thoughts on “Tips for Using Recycled Materials in the Garden – Upcycled Gardening”

  1. I really admire your ability to take random objects (or trash) and turn it into such cute ideas for the garden. I am obsessed with the boot filled with plants idea! Your tips for choosing plants is going to come in handy when I try this idea. Thank you!

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