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Recycling and Upcycling in the Garden

Remember the old saying, ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without’? Here on the west coast we’re all about recycling, upcycling and going green, from our compost bins and blue boxes by the side of the road to the long lineups at the bottle recycling depot on weekends.

Living in a natural wonderland, so close to forests, mountains and the ocean, gives us a unique perspective on keeping the planet cleaner and reducing waste. Have you thought about how you can upcycle and recycle in your garden?

When you think of garden recycling it might bring to mind super eager gardeners with eco-hip yards featuring used tire planters, bathtubs filled with petunias and painted silverware windchimes.

Although that’s the right direction, we don’t think you have to go as far as that. Raising your garden is a lot like raising a family, and we’ve got some tips on reducing waste and saving a few dollars in the process.

Starting when they’re young

Creating good habits with kids means starting when they’re young, right? Brush your teeth, eat your veggies and recycle your bottles. Well, we’ve got some ideas about recycling in your garden while your plants are still young too. Hey, it’s never too early right?

Just like real kids, your plant babies tend to need a lot more gear than when they’re adults (how many diapers, car seats and hats do they really need anyways?) and all of that can really put a dent in the pocketbook. Recycling can help!

upcycling in the garden

You can start when they’re just seeds, using old egg cartons as planters and filling each hole with soil. Milk cartons cut in half (or short creamer cartons) work fantastic for seedlings, or even keeping your morning paper coffee cups and using those! Those are especially great for tomatoes which grow quickly. If you bought a lot of plants the previous spring, save those little 4” pots and reuse them for seedlings the next year.

Once they’ve sprouted, all those BPA safe plastic bottles can be reused as mini-greenhouses for your seedlings. Cut the bottoms, leave the caps off, and use them to cover your baby plants to protect them from birds and also keep them warm (a super cheap incubator).

Don’t cry over spilt milk

Kids break things, it’s just the way it is. From toys to dinner plates, and occasionally an ankle -  accidents happen. Sometimes you can fix them, and sometimes it means a trip to the toy store (or the emergency room).

When you have broken things in your garden, think twice before throwing them out and instead try upcycling them into something new. Wheelbarrows make fantastic recycled planter gardens, since they always look like they belong in the garden! If yours has broken an axle or developed a leak, park it permanently and fill it with colourful annuals.

Broken terracotta pot? No problem! Don’t toss it, instead use it as a garden accent, turning it upside down and planting something cute next to it. This can work great in container gardens as well, especially with succulents. You can also use broken pots as attractive slug traps!

(Two more quick recycling tips: grapefruit rinds and used coffee grounds can help to get rid of slugs as well. Read about how this works in our blog post Embracing the West Coast Garden).

When they’ve outgrown their shoes again…

Kids grow up fast, and so do gardens. Before you take a trip to the thrift shop to unload some rarely-used goods from your garage, why not see if they could be repurposed in the garden? Old rain boots can be turned into really cute planters with just some drainage holes punched in the bottoms or side. For a shabby chic look in the garden, try using old birdcages as hanging planters and letting long vine plants drape over the edges.

Don’t forget, you can always upcycle your garden by cutting stems of your beautiful flowers and using them in vases around your house! A few stems of lilacs in the bedroom or some roses in the front hallway will give you a boost even on gloomy indoor days.

plants in boots

That birdfeeder that ended up never being used or maybe just got a bit rusty? It can easily be repurposed as a beautiful shallow succulent planter for the patio! (We’ve got a short DIY video on just that project, watch it and make your own!)

Creativity is the name of the game!

Getting creative with what’s around you can be a lot of fun, even if it’s already out in nature. Natural objects used as planters or accents, such as log rounds for stools or plant stands, always look like they belong. On the west coast we can add some beach style to our gardens with treasures found on sandy walks. Our driftwood succulent planter is one idea, and the DIY video below shows you how to easily turn it into a beautiful coastal accent for your patio garden.


Remember, there is no wrong answer! Harness your creativity and ingenuity in your garden and have fun!


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