Sustainable Gardening: How To Reuse Packaging In Your Garden

Sustainable Gardening: How To Reuse Packaging In Your Garden

I’ve been using sustainable gardening practices long before this was a hot topic. I’ve always made my own compost from vegetable scraps, lawn clippings and fallen leaves. I have two compost bins in my garden and these produce lovely rich compost for my vegetable beds.

Another sustainable gardening practice I’ve been using for a long time is adding mulch to my garden beds. You can read more about the importance and benefits of mulching in a previous article I’ve written. 

Additionally, I like to use natural fertilizers made from animal manures and I avoid using pesticides and herbicides as much as possible. This has allowed me to create a nice ecosystem in my garden that attracts beneficial insects and birds and doesn’t harm the environment.

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I also like to wash and reuse pots and punnets from plants that I’ve purchased for my garden. But, in this article, I want to show you how you can use the multitude of packaging that comes with products that you purchase in-store or online, in your garden.

So, let’s get started.

How To Use Bubble Wrap In Your Garden

used bubble wrap

If you’ve ever purchased breakable items online, you’ll often find that the products are wrapped in bubble wrap. While many people find popping the bubbles of air quite fun, you can actually use this wrap to protect cold-sensitive plants.

All you have to do is wrap your small potted plants in a sheet of bubble wrap. The air-filled pockets will provide insulation from the cold but will still allow light through. 

If you happen to end up with really large sheets of bubble wrap, you can use these to insulate your greenhouse if you have one. Similarly, if you’ve built some cold frames to protect plants growing in the ground, you can use sheets of bubble wrap to insulate these as well.

How To Use Empty Toilet Rolls As Individual Seed Pots

using empty toilet rolls as seed pots

Seasoned gardeners would know that root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips don’t like to be transplanted. This is because the long tap root which is actually the vegetable that we eat, can easily become deformed when replanted.

That’s where using empty toilet rolls can be useful as seed pots. To make your seed pots, just cut some slits into the roll on one end and then fold up the cardboard to make a base for your pots.

Fill the rolls with seed-raising mix and plant 1 to 2 seeds in each one. Once the seeds have germinated, you can just plant the entire container with the growing plant into the garden.

This avoids disturbing the roots of the young plants and the toilet roll will eventually break down to feed the soil.

How To Use Second-Hand Padded Envelopes To Store Seeds

padded envelopes for seed storage

Another packaging material that you’ll likely end up with is padded envelopes. These are absolutely perfect for storing seeds that you may have collected from the plants growing in your garden.

If the envelopes are large, just cut them up into smaller sections and seal the open parts with tape. Then you can use a pencil or marker to write on the envelopes so that you know which seeds are inside.

One benefit of using padded envelopes is that the padding will protect the seeds and keep them insulated. You might also like to invest in some small packets of silica gel that you place inside each “seed packet”. These will help to absorb any moisture and keep your seeds nice and dry.

How To Use Perforated Air Pocket Packaging As Plant Ties

plastic plant ties

Inside boxes that you receive from online purchases, you’ll often find plastic packaging that has air pockets. This packaging has perforations so that you can split it up into smaller pieces.

Once you remove the air from the pockets by puncturing them with a Stanley knife, you can tear the plastic into strips. Then, you can use these strips as plant ties. These are useful for tying trees or young plants to a stake or even to secure your vining tomato plants to their trellis.

How To Use Polystyrene For Insulation

Before discovering this clever trick, I used to hate getting packages that had lots of polystyrene in them because this material is not recyclable. However, I have been known to use polystyrene boxes to plant vegetables in. 

The good news is that you can use those pesky polystyrene sheets to insulate your greenhouse from the cold. This can be as simple as just securing the sheets to the walls and ceilings of your greenhouse or shed.

How To Use Brown Wrapping Paper To Store Your Produce

It’s common that your packages will come with some perforated sheets of brown paper that are used to fill empty spaces in the boxes. This brown packing paper can be separated into individual sheets. You can then use these to protect your garden produce for longer storage.

By wrapping your produce, such as apples and pears, individually in a sheet of brown paper, it stops them from coming into contact with each other and keeps them fresher for longer. 

Keep Those Cardboard Boxes For Storing Produce Over Winter

Vegetables such as carrots, onions, potatoes and pumpkins can be stored in cardboard boxes in your garage or store room. You can even use polystyrene to insulate your boxes before placing the produce inside.

If you dig up frost-sensitive bulbs and tubers, you can also store these in cardboard boxes lined with polystyrene.

Using Cardboard In The Garden To Suppress Weeds

using cardboard as a weed suppressant

This is a sustainable gardening practice that I’ve used many times over the past few years. It’s especially useful if you’re trying to turn lawn areas into garden beds. Or, you have a weed-invested spot in the garden that you want to turn into a productive growing area.

Cardboard boxes can be opened up flat and spread over weeds or lawn areas to kill off unwanted weeds or grass. Because cardboard is fairly sturdy, it stops light from getting to weeds and successfully kills them.

To keep the cardboard in place, just cover it with a layer of mulch such as wood chips. Eventually, the cardboard and mulch will break down and feed your soil. 

One thing that I have found though is that if you’re trying to cover a lawn with grass that grows from underground runners, you may find that eventually, the grass will start to break through again.

But, when this happens, it’s fairly easy to just pull out the individual runners and dispose of them in the compost. 

Remember to only use plain cardboard in the garden and not any boxes or cardboard that have a plastic coasting. Also, ensure that remove any sticky tape from the boxes as this will not break down. 

You can also lay sheets of cardboard in the base of raised garden beds to keep any weed seeds that may be in the soil from germinating. This will ensure that you will spend less time weeding and more time enjoying your garden.

When you want to plant in areas that you’ve covered with cardboard and mulch, just push aside some of the mulch and cut planting holes into the cardboard using a sharp knife.

As a bonus, you can even add torn-up bits of cardboard to your compost as it will add valuable carbon.

If you love these tips and want more, here’s an easy-to-follow video from the GrowVeg YouTube channel that will show you exactly how to repurpose packaging materials in your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I use plastic bottles in my garden?

Plastic bottles have a multitude of uses in the garden, Commonly, I’ve used them as plant cloches for propagating plants and protecting young seedlings. I’ve also used them with watering spikes to keep young plants watered during periods of dry weather.

What can I do with old newspapers in my garden?

Like cardboard, newspapers are great for suppressing weeds when creating new garden beds. You just have to layer them fairly thickly so that you provide an effective barrier to weed growth. They can also be torn into pieces and added to the compost.

How can I use egg cartons in my garden?

Egg cartons, not made from plastic, are really useful for seed planting. All you have to do is fill them with seed-raising mix and then plant 1 to 3 seeds in each little compartment. Then, when the seeds have germinated, you can cut up the individual sections and plant these straight in the garden as the cartons will break down.

What are some creative ways to use wooden pallets in the garden?

Wooden pallets have numerous useful applications in the garden. You can use them to make raised garden beds. Or, repurpose them into a vertical herb garden as illustrated in this article.

Can I repurpose plastic bags for gardening purposes?

There are plenty of ways that you can repurpose plastic bags in the garden. For example, you can use them as plant cloches to provide humidity for cuttings that you’re propagating. Or, you can use them to protect individual fruits on your trees from pests and wildlife.

Final Thoughts

Using sustainable gardening practices is something that every gardener should endeavor to incorporate into their gardening journey. There are plenty of ways that you can garden more sustainably. Repurposing the packaging you receive is just one of them.

Hopefully, this has given you some good ideas. Plus, I hope it’s inspired you to look at all that packaging material around your home in a different way.

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