Upcycling Ideas – Garbage in the Garden

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The amount of trash humans produce is staggering. There is a mass of trash floating in our oceans that is twice the size of Texas. Think about how much trash your family has each week. Would you like to do your part and start upcycling?

Upcycling is a great way to reduce the amount of trash our families produce each week. (As is composting–learn how to make compost at home!) This week, let’s look at some upcycling ideas for our garden.

Milk jug rings scattered on a table.

Upcycling Ideas to use your “Garbage” in the Garden

Milk Carton Birdhouses and Feeders

Instead of tossing those milk cartons or milk jugs, why not turn them into birdhouses and feeders? Your kids can spend time decorating them and then you can find a special place to hang them in your garden.

Even if you don’t have kids, this is a fun craft and a great way to upcycle milk containers into something useful.

Collage of making bird feeders.

Pinecones and cardboard tubes can also be used for fun hangable feeders. Just roll them in peanut butter and seeds, then hang from the trees.

Yogurt Cup Seed Starters

Do you eat a lot of yogurt? Instead of tossing those little plastic cups, why not use them as seed starters? Wash the cups out, add your soil, and plant your seeds. Use a magic marker to write the type of seeds on the containers.

Another great tip is that if you have ice cream cones that have gone stale, they make excellent seed starters and can go straight in the ground when you’re ready to plant them outdoors.

Americans throw away tons of food every year. Why not turn some of the old food into something useful?

Milk Jug Rings and To-Go Containers

I don’t always have a plan when I save random things like plastic milk jug rings, but as any good hoarder knows–a time will come when they’re needed.

Plastic to-go containers are great for starting seeds, especially when they have matching clear lids to create an insulated greenhouse effect. If you poke a few holes in the top to allow a little airflow, the lid prevents the soil from drying out too quickly and protects seedlings from evil-doing house cats.

The trick to preventing mold is to never overwater your seeds. A plant mister is essential.

However, if the to-go container doesn’t have compartments and you’d like to start a variety of seeds, colored milk jug rings are perfect for outlining the location and coding for plant type.

We upcycled a plastic cookie platter with a lid and used milk jug rings to label three different types of herbs.

Three seed packets with milk jug rings on them and the rings in the garden in a collage.

Plastic bottle rings are also great to prevent smooshed frosting and for use in a plethora of crafts.

Pie Pan Slug Traps

Slugs can be such a huge problem in the garden. One way to get rid of slugs without using harmful pesticides is to use beer. All you need to do is take an old pie pan and fill the bottom with beer (you can use the cheap stuff).

The slugs will crawl in, drink the beer, and not be able to make it back out of the pan. You’ll need to empty and refill the pan every few days.

Garbage Scarecrows

You can also upcycle a number of items to make scarecrows. For example, if you have old clothing that isn’t worth donating, upcycle it into a scarecrow. You can stuff the clothing with plastic grocery bags or old newspapers. You can then use a paper plate or pie pan to create the face. Just use whatever you have and get creative. This is a great project for kids to work on.

Upcycling is easier than you might think. You just have to be a little creative. Think about how items can be reused for something useful. Everything from glass jars to soup cans to plastic spoons can be reused to make something that you would normally have to pay for. Why pay for something when you can upcycle?

Using yogurt containers as seed starters in a greenhouse. Collage of images showing seeds growing into plants.

What other upcycling ideas have you tried in the garden?

Read these for more DIY and gardening tips:

17 Plants that Repel Mosquitos
How To Make Biochar for Improved Garden Soil
5 Spring Arts and Crafts Activities for Kids

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  1. I live in an apartment, so gardening isn’t something I can really do at home. I have a balcony though and would love to make the DIY bird snacks and try to plant some stuff in planters. I would love to spruce it up outside!

  2. how clever,,good ideas,,never would have thought of these ,,thanks for sharing very interesting

  3. These are really terrific and creative ideas! I would love to make birdhouses, since my cat loves to look at them out the window.

  4. Are you leaving pie pans with the beer just on top of the soil? Or do you dig out a space for in the soil?

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