The Green Scene “October”

Green Earth 04Recycling in the Garden

Extension Agents often share ideas with each other which can be utilized both on the job and personally. I remember an Escambia Family and Consumer Sciences Agent telling me about a border in their office gardens that was made out of recycled wine bottles. Since I was in the midst of landscaping my back yard, I immediately put the word out to all of my friends that I would utilize any wine bottles they wanted to offer. Before long I had enough to finish this project. I now have a border that is made out of all beautiful blue bottles of which I placed upside down at various heights to make an interesting back drop for a planted area. It provides such a colorful addition and cost me nothing. I know of another friend who plans to use colored recycled glass that will be carefully broken and used to enhance the stepping stones she is making to place in an outside area that has insufficient light to grow plants.

I was happy to see that the UF/IFAS Solutions for your Life website utilized materials developed by the St. Lucie County Extension Agents to post ways to re-purpose household items for the garden. This allows you to creatively use an item instead of allowing it to be trashed, delivered to our landfill to remain for years. I would like to share a few of their ideas offered while inserting a few of my own.


I love the idea of using scratched or discarded CDs as coasters for potted plants that may stain your deck or patio furniture. The holes provide the necessary drainage for plants while protecting the wood from discoloration.


If you lay carpet over an area you intend for a new garden bed and leave it for several weeks, all the grass underneath will decompose, making it easier to dig. Carpet can also be used as a pathway liner that you can top with stone or mulch. It is recommended that you use woven, not rubber-backed carpet. The Wakulla County Extension Office, in partnership with the Department of Transpiration (D.O.T.) and Sustainable Big Bend had the silt cloth used along highway construction to control water be delivered to the Office so that people could stop by and take as much as they needed for similar situations. The D.O.T. was happy not to have another delivery to the landfill and residents were happy to get weed resistant covering for gardens and flower beds. Consider contacting DOT if you see something similar in your county. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

Styrofoam Peanuts

Although we are finding more and more packing companies asking for the return of Styrofoam peanuts so they can be reused, the peanuts can also be used in the bottom of potted plants. It is recommended that you first insert a dryer sheet and then a layer of peanuts. Add your potting soil and plants. This helps reduce the weight of a big planter. Larger foam pieces can be broken or cut and used as space fillers in larger pots or as bases for raised garden beds.

Plastic Bottles and Containers

Cut the bottom off gallon jugs and place them over seedlings and young plants to protect them for the cold. Take them off during the day to keep the plants from overheating. Turn them into funnels or scoops needed when gardening. Make a bird feeder by making cutouts with cross dowels for perches on the side of the bottle. Keep the lid on to keep the seed dry.


It is so simple to collect and use rain water. With planning, rainwater can be collected and used for watering plants. Whether it is through bucket collection or a rain barrel, this is a resource that should never be overlooked. The ideal is to put collection barrels or buckets under downspouts. I don’t have that option due to the design of my home but you would be surprised at how much I can collect even without the downspout location for my rain barrel.

It is necessary that after you collect the water, in any fashion, you put a screen over the water to keep mosquitoes for being attracted. Screen is lots more user friendly than it has been in the past; the materials used are more flexible and less harsh with which to work. Stretched elastic is a perfect way to keep the screen in place.


Consider these ideas. A dryer sheet in the bottom of a flower pot keeps the soil from coming out of the drainage holes. Very few women wear hose any more, but if you can find some, discarded hose, cut in desired lengths make excellent ties for vines and tomatoes. Discarded mini-blinds cut it 6-8 inch lengths make great identification tags for plants.

Look around and see other items that can be utilized through garden repurposing. Perhaps you have old dishes that can be converted to planters, utensils used as plant markers or wind chimes, tree branches and trunk as sculptures, bed sets turned into benches, and headboards, sunk into the ground as trellises or furniture pieces planted with flowers.

If you have additional ideas, I would love to know them. County Extension Office staff are always trying to encourage the creative re-use of things to keep our environment cleaner and less waste finding its way to landfills. I would share your ideas with my colleagues across the Panhandle.

Recycling is a good way to bring out your creative side and build a uniquely beautiful garden area.

For similar articles and more information, please visit, or email Shelley Swenson.


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Posted: October 10, 2011

Category: Conservation, Natural Resources
Tags: Community, Conservation, Environment, Families & Consumers, Family & Consumer Sciences, Family Youth & Community Sciences, FYCS, Green Living, Recycling, Shelley Swenson, Sustainability Community, Sustainable Big Bend, Sustainable Living, The Green Scene, Wakulla, Wakulla County Extension

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