Introduction: 28 Upcycles for the Garden

About: I like to DIY and I hate to waste anything.

I have been gardening for about 8 years. Over the years I have upcycled many things into my garden, some for practical reasons, some to save money, some to be environmentally responsible and some just for fun.

In this Instructable I will demonstrate how to upcycle 28 (or more) everyday household items for gardening.

Step 1: Styrofoam Cups With Dome Lids

Styrofoam cups with dome lids, like the kind coffee or bubble tea comes in, can be upcycled as micro green houses for rooting cuttings, transplanting seedlings and seed starting.

Just wash well.

For cuttings; fill cup with sand or light potting soil, poke small hole in bottom for drainage, dip cutting in rooting hormone powder, stick stem in soil, put dome cap on and place in cool, shady to semi-shady spot.

For seed starting; fill with seed starting mix, add seeds, water lightly, place dome on top.  If dome has hole in center, cover with tape, remove after seedlings get first true leaves. Set in warm (not hot) spot.

For transplanting seedlings; poke small hole in bottom for drainage, fill cups with light weight potting soil, poke a hole into soil with pencil, add seedling, damp soil lightly around seedling, water. Add dome and set in semi-shaded to partially sunny spot.

Check regularly to make sure the soil is not drying out if dome is the kind with a hole in the center.

Step 2: Styrofoam Mushroom Containers

Styrofoam containers, the kind mushrooms come in, make great trays for seed starting or seedlings.

Just wash, fill with seed starting mix, sprinkle in some seeds (these are good for starting basil) cover with a plastic bag or put in green house. Mist as needed.

Step 3: Styrofoam Egg Carton Rooting Boats

I use Styrofoam egg cartons for rooting "boats." What I mean is that I use the egg cartons to float plant cuttings in water until they develop roots. After they root, I can pot them up and have lots of free plants.

Here's how:
a. remove lid from egg carton, save.
b. poke 1 hole in each egg cup and several in lid using a pencil or pen
c. place cuttings in holes -- inside cups and lid (lid should be upside down)
d. float in plastic bin
e. watch for mosquitoes! replace water every few days.
f.  when roots are dangling, then cut away Styrofoam (don't try to pull plants out or you will damage roots) and lift out plants gently.
g. pot up in good quality potting soil.

Step 4: Milk Cartons and Ice Cream Take Outs

Wash empty milk cartons, cut off the tops, poke several holes in the bottom for drainage.  Fill with potting soil and use for larger seedlings or transplants. The milk cartons are lightweight and water proof.

Use the left over top section of milk cartons to make plant markers. Cut into 1 inch wide strips and add plant name with ink pen.  Add to pot.

The ice cream/frozen yogurt cups are much like the Styrofoam cups with dome lids but not as insulated. They are shorter and wider however, which makes them good for starting seeds.

Step 5: Plastic Bags for Mini-Greenhouses

Upcycle clear plastic bags; after planting your cutting, seeds or tender seedling, use small sticks or pencils or chop sticks as posts, cover with plastic bag (think tent) and you have a mini-greenhouse.

Step 6: Crib Upcycle 1

After my granddaughter's crib got too small and too rickity for her to use (and she graduated to a regular bed) I disassembled it. I used the various parts in my garden. The crib mattress springs are now a trellis on the fence.

I just tacked the springs to the fence with a couple nails and it has stayed and worked beautifully. Last year I used the trellis to grow luffa sponge vines.

Step 7: Crib Upcycle II

Our AC condenser unit blasts out hot air which is very harsh on any plants nearby so I used one crib side to make a wind break.

I painted the side rail blue, covered the inside with a grass rug I got at the dollar store but wasn't using. The metal rods which are attached to the rails were perfect to stake the rail to the ground in front of the AC unit.

Step 8: Old T-Shirts or Pantyhose or Yarn Bits

Old t-shirts or pantyhose or yarn bits are perfect for tying tomato plants to stakes or lashing any plant that needs to be held in place. Ties need to be soft and stretchy.

To make ties:
Cut t-shirt into strips
Use knee high hose intact or cut pantyhose in pieces
Use left over yarn bits at least 8 inches long

Step 9: Old Fence Pieces Up-cycle

Use old fencing, a trashcan and sisal rope to make a large container for growing garden veggies or whatever you want.

Here's how:
a. dig a hole the circumference of the trashcan, about 4-5 inches deep.
b. cut out bottom of trashcan or poke several large holes for drainage. (this would be a good up-cycle for a leaky trashcan)
c.  sink trashcan into hole
d.  place fence pieces around trashcan (get a helper for this part)
e.  lash the fencing to the trashcan with rope. (go around several times)
f.   lash a second row
g.  secure rope(s) with knots and wire
h.  pack dirt around base of trashcan
h.  fill trashcan with good soil.
i.  plant up

Step 10: Old Trash Cans

I used two old trash can to make compost bins. They work really well because the lids lock down which keeps animals out and stink in. This method of composting is easy, cheap and doable in almost any size yard.

Here's how:
a. dig a hole the circumference of the trashcan, at least 6 inches deep
b. drill holes every few inches all over sides of can (these are to let in necessary oxygen for the composting process)
c. cut bottom out of trashcan
d. sink can into hole, open bottom first
e. fill with layers of browns and greens-- news paper, old leaves, grass cuttings, and kitchen scraps,etc
f. add a little garden soil for microbes
g. spray with water hose
h. snap on lid
i.  turn (or stir) with a garden fork every few days

When the compost process is complete it will look like black soil and have a sweet/minty smell, like fresh earth. Just remove can lid, lift whole can up and the contents will spill out onto the ground. Shovel contents onto a tarp for shifting out big chunks of roots, sticks, etc.

Place empty trashcan back into hole. If using more than one bin, this will become the "New" compost bin.

Usually the bottom layer of compost is more finished than the top layer--if the top isn't done "cooking" just scoop it up and put in the top of the other can. Or you can add it back to the same can, making it now be the bottom, either way is fine.

Step 11: Wine Corks

Upcycle wine corks to dress up cheap flower pots and make them look fancy.

Here's how:
a. cut corks in half, length-wise
b. hot glue to pot, filling in like a puzzle

I used a cheap (ugly) plastic pot.

Step 12: Sisal Rope Pieces

If you have some short pieces of sisal rope hanging around, upcycle them by using hot glue to dress up an ugly flower pot.

Here's how:
a. unbraid rope, use only one strand (whole rope is too thick)
b. wind around pot, glue with hot glue gun
c. plant it up

Step 13: Old Milk Crates

Upcycle old milk crates and/or faux milk crates by using them as outdoor shelving and/or plant stands for your plants.

Step 14: Yard Art From Junk

You can go crazy with this one...upcycle old license plates, bike parts, ceiling fan parts, old glass bottles, stuff from your neighbors trash, yard sale finds and thrift shop treasures and turn them into garden art.

Step 15: Wine Bottles

Upcycle wine bottles by turning them into flower bed edging. Simply dig holes around the edge of the bed using a bulb planter or post hole digger, turn bottles upside-down and "plant" them in the holes. Place them side by side, leaving little to no space between each. Fill in around bottles with dirt and tamp down to secure.

Step 16: Logs

Upcycle logs or thick tree branches from your yard (or your neighbor's yard) by using them as edging for flower beds.

Find straight pieces that fit or cut with saw into right length. Place on edge of flower bed, hold in place with wire (I up-cycled pieces of garden fencing which came apart) bent into a "U" shape and shove into ground like a staple or use mallet to hammer into ground.

Step 17: Logs and Stumps

Upcycle thicker logs or tree stumps to use as plant stands.

Bundle two or three together with baling wire and stand on end. Set flower pots or yard art on the top end of each log.

Step 18: Old Shower Curtains

Upcycle used plastic shower curtains, children's (leaking) wading pools, or black garbage bags by using them to line 1/2 whiskey barrels for container gardening. The plastic will help slow the rotting of the wood plus hold moisture in the soil for plants.

Duct tape around the outside edge will hold the liner in place. Or you can try staples.

Don't forget to poke a couple holes in the bottom of the liner for drainage!

Step 19: Potting Soil Bags

Upcycle empty potting soil bags by using them to line hanging baskets and as "mulch" in pots.

For hanging baskets; cut to shape, fit into basket frame, poke drainage holes, fill with soil, plant up.

For mulch: Cut to fit pot, leaving a hole in center for plant. Slit and slide under plant and cover soil. Cover mulch plastic with pebbles, straw or wood mulch to hide it. The plastic will hold the moisture in pots during the heat of summer, saving water and stress on plants.

Step 20: Water Bed Frame

Ever wonder what to do with that old water bed your uncle gave you? Upcycle the frame into a raised garden bed!

Here's how:
a. make sure all corners are securely attached on the frame, tighten if necessary
b. measure the length and width of frame
c. mark out the garden space to fit, use a water hose or string and sticks
d. inside the marked area till the earth or turn with shovel
e. dig down several inches
f.  place frame in tilled area
g. press into place by hammering with mallet or stepping on edge
h. add soil and amendments as necessary, turn
i.  water well and let settle for a week to 10 days before planting

Step 21: X-mas Ornaments

Upcycle old X-mas ornaments by hanging in fruit trees to ward off birds. (It really works!)

I added a little glitter to some old ornaments and hung them in our fig tree. We got figs for the first time in years.

Step 22: Broken Terra Cotta Pots

Upcycle broken or cracked terra cotta pots into toad habitats ie. toad houses.

Heres how:
a. wash and dry pots
b. if cracked only, break a entrance hole in top edge of pot--use pliers or carefully chip away with hammer until you have at least a 3 inch wide hole
c. sand edge of hole with sandpaper until sharp edges gone
d. decorate
e. put in damp cool spot, upside down (bury into earth a little)
f.  pray for toads

Step 23: Cracked Terra Cotta Pots

Upcycle cracked but intact pots by turning upside down and using as plant stands.

Step 24: Food Cans

Upcycle interesting or pretty food cans that are solid metal and painted (not just labeled) by turning them into vases to hold flowers cut from your garden.

Step 25: Mesh Produce Bags

Upcycle mesh produce bags by using them in the garden to protect your tomatoes and support heavy veggies as they grow bigger like egg plant or cantaloupe.

Step 26: Worn And/or Stained Area Rugs

Upcycle old area rugs by throwing them out on the patio. The rugs help to slow dirt from being tramped into the house and they give a homey feel to the yard/patio.

Step 27: Fence Rails and Other Cast Offs

Keep your eyes and mind open as you wander your neighborhood. My daughter rescued this old porch rail years ago when the next door neighbor remodeled his house.  I have used this as a shallow shelf to set small pots on and other things. (It has been painted several colors.) Now it rests against the fence and is used to hang potted plants.

Step 28: Kitchen Scraps Up-cycle

Lots of things from your kitchen scraps pile can become beautiful or edible plants.  I have grown several pineapple plants from the discarded tops of pineapples. One year one of the plants actually went to fruit and I grew a real pineapple. It was delicious!

Pineapples once planted, take 2-3 years to fruit. When you water your pineapple plant, pour water in the crown (center).

Here's how:
a. save the top of a fresh pineapple, leaving an inch or so of flesh intact below the crown
b. set aside let dry for a day or so
c. put builder's sand or potting soil in a Styrofoam mushroom tray or other shallow container, punch a drainage hole
d. place pineapple top in sand, water
e. put in a cool semi-shady spot
f. forget about it--remembering to water occasionally
g. after several weeks it will grow roots
h. pot up
i. feed occasionally with liquid sea weed or fish emulsion
j. water occasionally
k. forget about it
l. pot up as it grows--they grow into large spikey plants
m. bring inside or into a greenhouse for the winter--they can't take the cold!

Other "scraps" I have upcycled included but are not limited to --  seeds from store bought Texas grapefruit. I now have several small (1-2 ft) grapefruit trees in pots. I plan to plant them in the ground soon.

I was given a Myer's lemon tree and it fruited. I saved some of the seeds and planted them. They took forever but now I have 2 tiny lemon trees.

I have also saved seeds from store bought tomatoes and grown cherry tomatoes.

There are lots of plants you can grow from "scraps" as well as save seeds from your garden and yard. For example, every year I grow moonvines. I save the seeds in Fall to be planted the following Spring. Upcycling at its best!

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