Backyard Recycling

Revamp your garden with these creative tips for repurposing trash

| May-June 1999

Most of the food that nourishes a good garden is recycled from somewhere else—manure, for example, or leaves turned into mulch. But lots of other things can be used in the garden, too. These creative recycling tips will save you money, benefit the environment, and get you in the habit of using your ingenuity. Watch out—this kind of fun can be addictive!

Leave old bones in the bottom of the oven to dry out. After a few weeks of baking, they’ll be brittle and you can add them to your compost bin or dig them into the soil under shrubs to add calcium and phosphorus.

Egg cartons
Plant large seeds, like pumpkin or zucchini, in potting mix in old cardboard egg cartons. When the seedlings each have two leaves, place the egg carton in a shallow dish of water till the cardboard is soft and pulpy. Then plant each segment; the soggy cardboard will rot away and leave the tender plant roots undisturbed.

Cardboard boxes
Use them along paths to keep weeds down (they’ll gradually break down). Warning: Rain doesn’t penetrate cardboard very well—so don’t use them around trees or anything else that needs a drink.

Mortar broken crockery onto your concrete path or patio (file off sharp edges). Or use it to mosaic a bird bath.

Panty hose
To collect seeds from sunflowers, herbs like lavender, or vegetables like parsnips, slip a panty hose leg over the seed head while the seeds ripen. The seeds will collect in the toe, and you can hang them in the garage (protected from mice) till you need them.