Container Gardening Using 8 Recyclable Household Items

You may not have a backyard, or even a front yard. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start a garden – a container garden. And if you’re also looking to go green in your household, you can get both things done all at once by using some common items around the house that you’d otherwise toss into the blue box.

But, how do you start? Landscaping and gardening writer Jakob Barry weighs in, helping you transform your space into the green gardening, de-cluttered home you’ve been looking for.


There are two paths to starting a garden.

Either buy the plants at various stages of growth and slip them nicely into the soil or cultivate them from scratch. Having done both the latter always seems to be more rewarding since it covers the lifecycle from little dry seeds to large plants giving forth fruit and then dying.  Of course, doing so takes a lot more time and effort than just driving back from the store and making a hole in the ground.

For one thing seeds need a hospitable environment conducive to germination, which usually translates into warmth and sprouting in those plastic cell trays you’ll find in most stores. Eventually when the seedlings are strong enough to withstand the elements they can be transplanted to larger pots or directly into the garden.

But the use of plastic is a big question. Is it necessary? Plastic has always been a convenient choice for sprouting because the bit of soil and plant is easily removed from each cell without doing harm to the root system.

However, alternatives are available that can be made from things all around us, many of which are 100% biodegradable meaning you can put them in the ground as is!

Just doing a quick survey of our homes and weekly purchases will provide many examples, some of which include the following:

1. Toilet paper roles (100% biodegradable)

OK, unless you have a compost toilet and after using the toilet clean up with dry material (leaves, wood chips, sawdust, etc) chances are you buy toilet paper. When that’s the case every so often the paper gets used up and what’s left is a role. With a pair of scissors these roles can be quickly turned into seed starters by cutting them in half making two smaller roles or potential starter pods similar to the cells in the plastic trays.

image courtesy of hardworkinghippy

Taking each half separately cut four slits in one end three quarters of an inch in length. This creates flaps that when folded seal the end making a cell that will hold seed and soil. NOTE: the same can be done with paper towel roles if you use them. Also, if you have different size roles just measure them accordingly to make more cells.

2. Newspaper (100% biodegradable)

For better firmness roll several sheets of newspaper together to a circumference of your liking and either use biodegradable tape or paper clips to hold the form. (If you use regular tape just remove it before placing the plant in the ground). Starting from one end cut smaller roles every two or three inches and then make flaps folding them in like with the toilet paper roll. If you don’t buy newspapers anymore this is also a good use for junk mail!

3. Cardboard egg cartons (100% biodegradable)

These are great for seed starters since they are already in fine form for each little seedling and can easily be cut into their separate compartments when transplanting to larger pots or the ground.

image courtesy of lovelihood

4. Tea bag boxes (100% biodegradable)

They are wider and deeper but don’t have to be filled to the brim with seed starter soil. Fill the box half way and trim the sides according to your liking.

5. Thin cardboard milk or juice containers (100% biodegradable)

Wash them out and cut them down to the size you want. For the remaining upper section utilize the steps from the toilet paper role to make flaps and more cells.

6. General cardboard (100% biodegradable):

It may be from cereal boxes or packages but cardboard can easily be cut up and made into small cubes for holding seedlings.

7. Shoe boxes, larger milk or juice cartons (100% biodegradable)

These can be good for starting a bunch of seeds at once and then transplanting elsewhere. At the same time, they can be transplanted into as a second stage before heading to the garden.

8. Plastic containers (100% recyclable)

Whether from yogurt, snacks, or other food staples they are just as handy as products purchased in stores. Clean well, poke holes in the bottoms for water to flow but remember they aren’t biodegradable. When your garden is in full swing recycle or save them for next year.


Thanks, Jakob!

Jakob Barry writes for a growing community of homeowners and contractors getting the most from their resources by sharing and monitoring home improvement projects together. He covers various home improvement topics including green gardening tips and landscaping maintenance.



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