50 Garden Hacks From Your Trash


There may be items in your trash that could help you with your gardening. Check out this list and see if any of these great ideas resonate with you, helping you pull a couple things out of your trash and, well, into your garden to green up your world. If you don’t have these items in your trash, ask for them on your local Buy Nothing group. I’ve categorized the ideas by item, and each one links to a unique reuse. Enjoy!

Plastic Bottles:

1) Plastic Bottle Mosquito Trap: This one is a trick using yeast and a cut bottle glued together. Read on and try it.

2) Plastic Bottle Cloche: It’s as easy as cutting a plastic bottle in half and sticking it upside down over your seedling or plant.

3) Plastic Bottle Self-Watering Seed Starters: These plastic bottles, cut in half and one inverted inside the other have a wicking system worth checking out.

4) Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation System: 4 small holes in your 2-liter bottle that’s buried in the ground provide excellent watering for your plants.

5) Plastic Bottle Greenhouse: A greenhouse like this is a true inspiration.

Milk Jugs:

6) Milk Jug Scoop: Milk or OJ jugs make easy scoops.

7) Milk Jug Cloches: Use Milk Jugs to protect your larger plants. Just cut the bottom out of the milk jug, turn it upside down and it’ll protect your plants.

8) Milk Jug Mini Greenhouses: These mini greenhouses in gallon jugs can prove useful.

Clear Plastic Containers:

9) Plastic Container Mini Greenhouse: Just turn it upside down and you have a mini cloche/greenhouse.

Winter Squash Seedling Basking in the Heat of a Lettuce Box, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Cereal Boxes & Cracker Boxes:

10) Cardboard Weed Block: Take your cereal boxes and cracker boxes to the garden and use them as weed blocking.

Bike Wheels:

11) Bike Wheel Trellis: Bike wheel trellises are beautiful.


12) DVD/CD Bird Scaring Trick: Birds don’t like reflective stuff. It scares them off. Put a few around your berries and you’ll keep those peckers away.


13) Mailbox Garden Tool Cache: Post an old mailbox up in your garden, and you have a water-proof place to store hand tools, planter markers, and your notes.

Make a garden tool cache out of an old mailbox. Photo © Liesl Clark


14) Drawer Seedling Starter: This one’s easy. Just use an old drawer as a seedling planter box.

OJ Cans:

15) OJ Can Plant Labels: The can tops make pretty labels for marking your rows.

Rain Boots:

16) Rain Boot Planters: Save a few pairs of the kids cute rain boots for whimsical planters.

Plastic Plant Pots:

17) Plastic Plant Pot Flowers: Add a little flair to your outdoor space with these plant pot flowers.

Trash Cans:

18) Trash Can Root Cellar: I’m interested in trying this for storing our potatoes, carrots, daikon radish, turnips and cabbages next year. It simply requires digging a deep hole.

Tupperware Tubs:

19) Tupperware Worm Farm: Make a few holes in your old Tupperware bins, order a few hundred red worms, follow the instructions here and you’ll have a worm farm.

Plastic Bottle Caps:

20) Plastic Bottle Cap Lawn Flowers: Michele Stitzlein creates beautiful blooms from plastic caps. She’s published a couple of books on plastic cap art, too.


21) Glassware Flowers: These bowls and dishes are all the rage.

Garden Hoses:

22) Garden Hose Flowers: If you have space on a wall, you could create flowery art from your old hoses.

Twist Ties:

23) Twist Tie Plant Trainers: Save your twist ties to use for training plants to fences and stakes.

We reuse twist ties for training our espalier fruit trees. Photo © Liesl Clark

Soda Cans:

24) Soda Can Planters: In a pinch, soda cans can be used as planters and seed starters.

25) Pop Can Plant Markers: With a little effort, you can make some pretty markers for your garden.


26) Styrofoam Planter Filler: Fill the bottom of your large plant pots with styrofoam so they don’t get too heavy.

Styrofoam Planter Filler, Photo: Liesl Clark


27) PVC Garden Tower: Drill holes in a PVC tube and you have a strawberry planter

Coaxial Cables:

28) Coaxial Cable Fence: Who knew that a coaxial cable could look so pretty with bamboo?

Tie a Bamboo Fence Together with Coaxial Cable

Wine Bottles:

29) Wine Bottle Waterer: Turn your empties upside down (with H2O in them) in your plant pots and go on vacation!

30) Wine Bottle Garden Edging: Wine bottles can make colorful garden edging.

31) Wine Bottle Hose Guard: A wine bottle and a stick are all that’s needed to keep your hose out of your garden beds.

Empty Bottle Hose Guard Hard at Work photo: Rebecca Rockefeller

Clementine Boxes:

32) Clementine Box Planters: Clementine boxes make excellent seedling starter boxes or planters for forced bulbs.

Blue Jeans:

33) Blue Jeans Garden Apron: Sew yourself a simple garden apron from an old pair of jeans that can hold your garden tools.

Plastic Mesh Produce Basket:

34) Plastic Mesh Seedling Saver: We use these baskets to prevent slugs and birds from destroying our seedlings.

Turn your trash backwards: Place mesh produce baskets over seedlings to protect from birds, frost, and really big slugs.


35) Windows Greenhouse: This is a simple design for a small greenhouse made from windows.

36) Window Frame Trellis: An old window frame with mullions makes a pretty trellis.

Broken Ceramics:

37) Broken Ceramics Pot Drainage: Put your broken ceramic pieces in the bottom of plant pots for added drainage.

38) Plant Your Broken Dishes: Plant your favorite broken dishes in the garden and enjoy them throughout the growing season.

Carafe and Pitcher under the Bean Trellis photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Broken Pot Planter: When our ceramic pots break, I plant them in our garden along with something planted to look as if it’s spilling out of the pot, having grown there over time.


Paint Cans:

39) Paint Can Planters: I love these paint cans turned planters at my friend Maya’s house in Tsarang, Upper Mustang, Nepal.

Even Paint Cans Add Flowery Color to a Household, Photo: Liesl Clark

Laundry Hampers:

40) Laundry Hamper Potato Planter: I planted potatoes inside an old laundry hamper and the harvest was easy.

Potato Leaves Begin to Poke Out, Photo©Liesl Clark


41) Ski Fence: If anyone lives in the Seattle area and wants to make one of these, please contact us as we have several hundred skis at the end of our Rotary Auction.

Window Blinds:

42) Mini Blind Plant Markers: These look really easy to make.

Panty Hose:

43) Panty Hose Deer Repellant: If you place a bar of soap inside the foot of old panty hose and hang it from your apple tree, it should deter the deer from nibbling on your tree. You can also use a single child’s mitten for this, as it looks cute and either put the perfumed soap inside or human hair (they don’t like the smell of humans.)


44) Headboard Trellis: A headboard makes a beautiful pea trellis.

An Old Headboard from Freecycle Makes a Perfect Garden Trellis, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller


45) Newspaper Garden Uses: There are many reuses for newspaper in the garden.

Cassette Tapes:

46) Cassette Tape Bird Deterrent: Pull the tape out of your cassette and string it over your garden. Birds hate the reflective quality of the tape.

Pet Food Bags:

47) Feed Bag Tarp: Sew your plastic woven pet food bags together into a tarp for garden needs.

Toilet Paper Tubes:

48) TP Tube Seedling Starters: Start your seeds in a tube filled with soil.


49) Sponges in Plant Pots: Cut up your old sponges and place them in the bottom of plant pots. They’ll hold moisture for a long time.

Kiddie Pools:

50) Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden: Hard plastic kiddie pools make excellent raised bed gardens.

What do you reuse in your garden? Help me add to the list.

Beachside Reuse

April is the month we visit Grammy on Anna Maria island in Florida. She lives in a sweet little house, one of the originals on the island, now surrounded by large 3-story condos. I feel like we’re in that story, The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton, about the tiny house that stayed put and a big city was built right around it. This cottage is the epitome of “If it ain’t broke, don’t trash it.” It survives, a cottage-in-the-rough amidst million dollar resort-style rentals, hotels, and Grammy keeps it tidy, functional, and full of simple beachside reuses.

The Little Cottage in the Rough, Anna Maria Island. Photo © Liesl Clark

A low coffee table by the phone holds phone books (Grammy doesn’t use the internet — actually the table doesn’t hold phone books, but a sagging box does just under the coffee table.) But the floor isn’t level so the table wiggles when items are placed on it. Solution? Grammy placed shells under the legs of the table, just like carpenter’s shims, to shore up the legs and prevent any movement.

Shells For Shims. Beachside Reuse at its Best. Photo © Liesl Clark

A plastic soda bottle fish adorns her antique fishnet on the sunroom wall. This fish, spray painted pink on the inside, was simply cut so fins and a tail were articulated, a glue gun was used to seal the fins and tail, and glitter glue was used to create the effect of gills. Done! A cute sparkly pink fish for her household decorations.

Coke Bottle Sunfish © Liesl Clark

An ancient palm tree was cut down on the property years ago. Today the stump is used as a planter for succulents and cacti.

Trunk Planter For Beach Cacti. Photo © Liesl Clark

Shells hung along the wall of Grammy’s potting shed add texture and bright Florida light to any day. These would make interesting downspouts on a gutter.

Potting Shed Shell Adornment. Photo © Liesl Clark

And geraniums in a tree trunk that frames nearby boats inspires the gardeners in us all!

A hole in a trunk makes room for pretty geraniums. Photo © Liesl Clark

Roadside Bottles: The Great American Beverage Crisis

Our nearest store is less than a mile away. Occasionally, my kids and I take a walk or bike ride there so they can have an ice cream. We run down a long hill and always bring a bag to collect the roadside trash. Each time we do this, we pick up more than 100 beverage containers. Why do Americans spend so much money on drinks when water out of the tap is, most often, clean and free? And why do we throw our drink containers out on the road? Here’s a general inventory of the kinds of beverage bottles we pick up:

Beverage Containers Picked Up on Just One Side of the Road. Photo © Liesl Clark

We find glass bottles including large and mini wine bottles, aluminum cans, box wine, plastic water and soda bottles, plastic cups with lids and straws, and single-use coffee cups. Why the need to have a drink while driving? If you’re on a long road trip, I can understand why you’d have a beverage by your side. But we live on an island 2 miles wide by 6 miles long and no single trip is very long. Why is the car the place where beverages must be consumed and then discarded? Surely, the beverages are not coming from pedestrians.

We Filled Our Bag With Bottles and Cans in a Matter of Minutes. Photo © Liesl Clark

The Keep America Beautiful campaign conducted a study of 240 roadways across the country and determined that there are approximately 6,729 pieces of litter per mile of roadway (on each side) in the United States. My road is certainly no exception and we could likely come up with that many pieces of litter along our little roadside. The study also found that the majority of roadside litter comes from motorists (53%) with pedestrians contributing some 23%.

My theory is that it’s less about the car and more about the road’s proximity to a convenience store. The shop is stocked with juices, sodas, coffee, and alcohol, so our road is hit with the litter from those who’ve just purchased a convenient drink. The Keep America Beautiful study found that roads near a convenience store tended to have 11% more litter. No surprise. And beverages figure high in the overall item percentages.

Here’s the depressing statistic: 40 – 60% of roadside waste comes from beverage containers. Why? We live in a country where tap water is readily available and quite drinkable. If you’re not convinced, go to any developing country and you’ll see how water out of a tap can threaten your life. Most of those containers are also recyclable, so if recycling were truly working in our great nation, we wouldn’t see any drink containers on our roadsides, right? The Environmental Working Group published a study that claims, “Every 27 hours Americans consume enough bottled water to circle the entire equator with plastic bottles stacked end to end.”

Litter, furthermore, costs taxpayers a hefty sum each year. According to the Keep America Beautiful stats on roadside litter, litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year.

Perhaps we need to require that each state has a bottle bill. At Oregon.gov, the statistics for the state’s beverage containers found along roadsides since the introduction of a bottle bill there are impressive: “In 1971, litter control was a primary reason for initiating the bottle bill.  Since then, the percentage of beverage containers among roadside litter has dropped from 40 percent to 6 percent.”

Kicking the convenience store single-use beverage fix is likely the best step an individual who wants to make a difference can take. That’s what I’ve done. When you discover the environmental impact of single-use beverage containers on the environment, a.k.a. the amount of energy , toxins, and virgin materials needed to produce that bottle or can that will likely go unrecycled, you might reconsider the need for that beverage. Bring your own bottle and fill ‘er up at the tap. Water is what your body needs. Save the wine and beer for your home, or dinner with friends, not your car. And if you’ve been out with your buddies and just want to get that stash of wine and beer out of your car to cut the clutter, find a dumpster or recycle bin, they’re usually right next to the convenience store where you bought the wine in the first place.

We Were Able to Recycle These Right Across From the Convenience Store. Photo © Liesl Clark

Single-use beverages and their containers are only benefiting the companies who manufacture them. American kids are over-consuming over-sweetened single-serving drinks and we have a juvenile obesity crisis to prove it. Who can blame kids, when according to this infographic, in 2008, Coca-Cola spent over $2.67 billion in advertising? Kids are their prime target.

My 9-Year-Old, Picking Up Your Wine and Beer Bottles Next to Our Driveway. Photo © Liesl Clark

I can tell you, from first-hand experience, that these roadside bottles are ending up in our watersheds and floating down into our oceans. Cars run over them and break them into smaller plastics, which also become part of our ocean ecosystem. The roadside ditches are filled with every kind of plastic and we know what’s in them washes downhill to our rivers, streams and seas. In my family, we consider recycling a last resort for our stuff as recycling requires more virgin materials to actually close the loop for things like plastic. We’re more about the other R’s, especially reducing and reusing. Reducing means refusing single-use disposables, taking action to pick up those that we find in the environment and bringing attention to them so others see their impact. Help curb our collective disposables habit by refusing them in the first place. Then move on to the next R and keep your reusable cup and bottle with you in your car for yet another laudable and sustainable R: Refill.

Klean Kanteen BPA-Free Water Bottles with custom The North Face Logo