One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Flower Pot

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on January 21, 2010 10 Comments
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Alea bringing in the tomatoes before the frosts arrive

Alea bringing in the tomatoes before the frosts arrive

This week’s guest post is from Alea, who writes “Premeditated leftovers” and “one determined gardener

Alea has been married for 20 years to an amazing man, who has the unique ability to fix everything she breaks. They have three children, whom she has forsaken a career to homeschool, much to the relief of the public school system. They live on 2 acres of salted earth in the high desert, where Alea enjoys managing a small menagerie and turning sand into vegetables.

Alea blogs primarily about the ideas she has implemented to save money, time, and reduce  waste in her household.

In this inspiring post, Alea shows us how to reuse and recycle some of our plastic rubbish and turn it into valuable resources around the garden.

Before you get excited, this is not a post encouraging you to go to rummage sales and search for the perfect antique basin to repurpose as a stylish flower pot; my idea is much less subtle than that. When I say trash, I actually do mean trash.

Many items that would normally be discarded can be reused in your garden. If you poke a couple of holes in the bottom of yogurt cups you can use them to start seedlings. Plastic salad containers with lids or inverted cake trays can be used as mini greenhouses to rush those seedlings along.

Plastic containers reused as mini greenhouses

Plastic containers reused as mini greenhouses

Milk jugs can be used in a variety of ways in your garden. Cut off the bottom and you have a cloche. Leave the lid on when the temperature is below freezing and remove it when it warms up to vent. Keep the bottom of the jug, a by-product from making your cloche, to use as a saucer for a flower pot.

You can make a nice plant pot, by cutting the milk jug just below the handle. Poke a couple holes in the bottom and couple it with your saved saucer, and you have a serviceable  pot to start cuttings.

Milk jug recycled into a plant pot

Milk jug recycled into a plant pot

Keep the leftover jug top from making your plant pot and you have another cloche for a small, low lying plant. Or invert it and remove the lid and you have a funnel.
You can create a wall of water around plants by filling milk jugs with water. They absorb heat during the day and help keep plants warm at night as they release it. In colder regions, the water jugs can be used inside a cold frame or green house. The water jugs can also be used to hold down tarps or drop cloths thrown over plants to protect them from the cold.

Alea's spontaneous cold frame

Alea's spontaneous cold frame

Do not despair, even if you buy your milk in returnable glass jugs, make your own yoghurt, and grow your own salad, you can still use trash in your garden! You just have to find friends who will share their garbage with you. I have one friend who likes to start seedlings in an egg carton, and another uses toilet paper rolls, so we have worked out a swap. I have some non-gardening friends who willingly save milk jugs and yogurt containers for me. Of course, I bribe them show my appreciation with produce baskets when I harvest my vegetables.

There are many more uses for plastic containers in your home and garden. Have you discovered a way to employ plastic containers, especially those like yoghurt cups which are hard to recycle?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (10)

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  1. Sharon says:

    Fruit corner type yogurt pots make great paint pots – paint in the small compartment, water in the large side. the plastic tray you get inside tins of biscuits or crackers (which keeps all the different varieties in neat piles) is also good for painting – squeeze a different colour in each hole.
    Our “bath toys” are mainly old shampoo bottles, and the children love to play with water in a squirty washing up liquid bottle. You can make skittles with empty plastic milk bottles.

  2. What great idea’s! I will be extending my garden this year and these idea’s will come in handy. My garden will be mostly organic this year too so im super excited. I have seeds up to my ears and will need to start all of them from seed. Gonna have to start saving my yogurt containers or any containers that can be converted to seed starters. Thanks again!

  3. Alea says:

    Sharon, I love the paint pot idea! I will be putting that idea to use with my 2 year old.

  4. Alea,

    These are great ideas! Since the “cute” little woodland creatures ate all my garden salad, we are buying it from the store once again, which means I can use your ideas for reusing the containers 🙂 I’m thinking of trying to grow indoor micro-greens in one. We have a room with eastern facing and southern facing windows that gets lots of light. I could put it in there and see what happens. Thanks for the ideas!!


  5. Caroline says:

    The plastic containers that package computer ink cartridges also make good paint pots. I use them for painting with acrylics.They are very sturdy.

  6. Ben says:

    We save the one gallon green tea containers and have found so many uses for them. So many things can be reused with a little imagination.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks for a great article, Alea – it’s great to see so many inspiring reuse ideas. I love the photo of all the milk bottles warming up in the sun!

    @Sharon: Sharon, your painting ideas are great – especially the fruit corner yogurt ones.

    @surviving and thriving on pennies: Good luck with your garden – I think you’ll have a wonderful harvest and it’s fab to think we can start gardening with virtually no budget at all if we reuse things.

    @Lori (The Book Lady): Hi Lori, welcome to the site. I love how Alea’s article has inspired you and hope you have a more successful harvest this year 🙂

    @Caroline: Thanks for sharing your idea, Caroline. I’d never thought of using those, but you’re right, they are very sturdy…

    @Ben: Fab idea ben – you’re right; it’s all about looking at items in a new way; seeing our ‘rubbish’ as a ‘resource’.

    Thanks again, Alea – you’ve got me all fired up for some garden planning now!

  8. Karen says:

    Fresh soup containers from chiller cabinet are good for storing store cupboard items. The ones with screw tops are the best.SPC Natures Finest fruit containers are good for storing home made soup in the freezer.
    Old Cds cam be used under vases , flower pots , ornaments etc to protect wooden surfaces.Keep old toothbrushes to clean the hard to get bits. Good for round taps and plug holes. Old jam jars with metal lids can be utilised in garage or workroom. Screw the lids to the underside of a shelf then screw on the jar. This will give twice as much storage.Cut open the top of a plastic milk bottle keeping the handle intact. They are then useful a container cleaning for cleaning paint brushes.

  9. H0gg1t says:

    Our School has recycled 1Litre plastic milk bottles as plant pots.

    If you cut about the top 2 inches off, retaining half the handle, fill with compost and water in the half-handle, then the water goes straight down where it’s needed and doesn’t run off if the compost is dry.

    They have been jazzed up the whole look by attaching differing coloured insulation tape around the body of the container and look really effective, especially as they have been tied at varying levels on the school railings!

  10. tammy says:

    LOVE the cold frame idea. Though our ground has been frozen often this winter! Very inventive!

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