Starting a garden is a great way to give back to the earth, but if you are not careful, gardening can produce a lot of unnecessary waste. Thankfully, there are ways to intentionally reduce and reuse everyday objects while tending to your garden.
The best place to start is to make a list of resources you already have. Taking inventory will keep you from purchasing items you do not need and get you started on thinking of ways to repurpose items that you do not plan on using.
Many day-to-day household items can be used as planters, markers, or even watering cans for your household garden. If you only need to use a tool once, consider asking to borrow it from a friend to reduce the waste used in making it. Sharing is at the heart of many gardening communities, and at the nature of many of the plants themselves.
Planters can be made out of anything from old two-liter soda bottles to tires, depending on what you have around. There is a simple train of thought to follow when deciding whether or not something will function as a planter. Simply ask yourself these questions:
- Can it hold the intended plant and its root structure? If yes, use it.
- Does it have holes on the bottom so that the water can filter out? If yes, use it. If not, drill some holes.
You would be shocked by how many items can be repurposed. Old strainers can become beautiful hanging baskets and drying racks can be very useful as trellises. Most people know the trick of starting seeds in an old egg carton, but if you have already transitioned away from disposable eggs cartons, seeds can also be grown in the eggshells themselves and easily transitioned into the soil. Paper towel rolls can also be folded to form tiny planters that are also biodegradable. Some gardeners used old ice cube trays or even muffin tins if they have enough space.
Most food waste can be set aside for composting used to enrich your soil. Food waste can include everything from fruit tops and veggie stalks, to coffee grounds and tea bags. Even non-food items like hair, full cotton fabric scraps, and cardboard can be used in composting. It is an incredible way to cut down on your personal waste production and help your garden reach peak productivity.
Some food items can be reused as opposed to being recycled, and rather easily at that. Celery, green onions, carrots, and lettuce can all regrow from scraps. Pineapple can as well, but it takes a notoriously long time. It is a beautiful plant to watch, and extra rewarding once you get to cut it open a year later. If you have friends who also garden, don’t be shy about asking for cuttings or offering to trade.
Many plants benefit from a healthy pruning anyway and even the smallest scrap of mint or basil can be placed in water, root, and grow an entirely new plant much faster than they would take to start from seeds. If you do buy starter plants from a nursery, try to buy from a locally grown seller that doesn’t use plastic pots.
Avoiding plastic is one of the best ways to kind to the environment, but plastic can still have a place in backyard gardens if used responsibly. One of the most innovative uses seen recently is repurposing rotisserie chicken containers or salad containers as miniature greenhouses. They can regulate humidity and temperature for leafy greens if your natural environment is too dry or unpredictable. Umbrellas paired with laundry baskets can create a similar effect for larger plants.
Before throwing away anything, ask yourself if it can find a new home in your garden. Even if it has no practical application, many items can be kept and used for decoration. Wine corks and unmatched silverware make delightful markers if you collect enough of them. An old teapot seamlessly transitions into life as a watering can. Gallon jugs are not the most visually appealing, but can certainly make an encore as watering can as well. If your green thumbs are troubled by a forgetful watering schedule, try upending a wine bottle to create one of the self watering bulbs.
Setting out old jars and buckets or even trashcans to catch rainwater is a great way to conserve one the world’s most precious resources. Recycling rain water stops you from wasting water from the hose and saves you some money on your water bill. Even small amounts of water from unfinished glasses around the house can be saved and given to the garden.
The most important thing to remember is to get creative and make the most of what you have. Attend local classes, read up as much as you can, and try your hardest to make responsible, ethical choices even when they are not convenient. The more love you pour into your garden, the more you are likely to get back in the end. Anything can find new purpose in an indoor garden if you try hard enough.
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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