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Linda Gray

One of the pleasurable spin-offs in organic gardening is finding alternative ways of coming up with the same, if not better, end result..... Household throwaways can be valuable to the alternate enthusiast. Here are ten recyclable ideas to make gardening a little less hard on the pocket!

1. Hedge clippings: Instead of burning or direct composting, beg, borrow or even buy, if the quantity justifies the price, an electric garden muncher. Branches up to an inch in diameter are posted into a slot and the machine munches them up into small chips. Spread these chips thickly around shrubs or fruit trees to help keep moisture in, and control the temperature of the soil.

2. Food Waste: All food waste must be composted. Composting is becoming quite an art form, and special composting bins can be bought, or very simply made. There are many different theories and each gardener will find his or her preferred way. Keeping the compost fairly warm is the overall key to a good result. Or, if you're in no hurry, simply keep adding to a heap, and dig out the bottom when required. Sieve before using and the compost will be ready for planting small plants and even seeds.

3. Old carpets, large damaged cardboard boxes: and similar materials can be laid over the vegetable plot in autumn to help prevent those early spring weeds appearing. Spread over a whole patch and weigh down with stones or logs. Lift off on a sunny day in early spring a few days before digging.

4. Paint trays: Keep old roller painting trays and similar containers for seed trays. Punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Add a little fine gravel before filling with seed compost. Seed trays shouldn't be deeper than 15cm.

5. Yoghurt pots: All plastic yoghurt or dessert pots can be washed and saved for re-potting seedlings. Make a hole in the bottom of each and add a little fine gravel before filling with compost or soil..

6. Glass jars: Glass jars with sealable lids are excellent for storing seeds, beans and peas for planting next year. (Safe from mice as well) After washing the jars, dry in the oven to remove all traces of moisture before storing your seeds. Collect dark glass jars, or wrap paper round clear jars to prevent seeds being damaged by light.

7. Ice Lolly sticks: Make perfect row markers in your seed trays or greenhouse beds. The wooden ones won't last for ever but you can at least write on them with pen, pencil or crayons!

8. Wire coat hangers: Make mini-cloches with discarded or broken wire coat hangers. Pull into a square shape. Place the hook in the soil and push down gently until the natural bend in the wire rests on top of the soil. Place another a short distance away in your seed bed to create two ends of a cloche. Now throw over a sheet of plastic and hold down with logs or stones. Note: this will work only when creating very small cloches.

9. Clear plastic: Keep any clear plastic containers that could be placed upside down over a plant. Cut a mineral water bottle in half to make two handy individual cloches. Large sheets of clear plastic from packaged household items are fine for throwing over mini coat hanger cloches.

10. Aluminium bottle tops: Keep aluminium tops from milk or juice bottles, and also coloured foil around beer or wine bottles. Thread together to make a bird scarer. Simply thread with thick cotton and hang on your fruit bushes before the birds find the new fruits.

Look out for other tools for the garden from kitchen throwaways such as:

old kitchen spoons and forks for transplanting tiny plants in the greenhouse.

Leaky buckets for harvesting small quantities of potatoes, carrots etc;

light wooden boxes for harvesting salads through the summer, and transporting pots etc;

Keep an eye on that rubbish bag and turn today's throwaways into tomorrow's tools!

About the Author: Linda Gray is a freelance writer and, with her partner. has spent ten years renovating a neglected acre of woodland. Find heaps of straight gardening advice and pots of inspiration at


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