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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Grow It In Garbage! Repurposing Waste To Build Your Garden

We love these six ideas for recycling through gardening.

  • Six straw bales are arranged in a square with two large glass windows laid over the middle. Small potted plants grow under the glass.

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    Photo: Backyard Diva

    Colder weather gardeners will appreciate this mini-greenhouse made out of old windows and straw bales. The glass lets in light while the straw holds in the heat, creating a great outdoor space to sprout seedlings early in the year.

  • A white dresser with an opening cut in the top and two drawers pulled open.  The opening and the drawers are full of soil with small plants growing.

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    This one requires some sawing, but that just makes it more fun. If you don't have an old dresser lying around in your garage, you can probably pick one up at a local thrift store. Cut open the top and stagger the drawers to create terraced garden beds.

  • Rows of old rain gutters hung along a wall, filled with dirt and growing different kinds of plants.

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    Photo: Homegrown.org

    Fill some old rain gutters with potting soil and hang them along a bare outdoor wall to grow a garden without any floor space. Gutters can be bought new for just a few dollars a foot, but try scrap yards if you want to give waste metal a new home.

  • Seven old tires are painted bright colors and stacked in a staggered arrangement.  They are full of soil and growing flowers.

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    This picture shows up all over the internet, so we don't know who deserves credit for it. (We found it at Junk Drawer Décor.) Every tire store has piles of used tires awaiting recycling. Paint them, stack them, and fill them with potting soil for a funky urban garden in a small space.

  • Nine steel coffee cans hanging spaced out on a green wall.  Each is full of soil and growing herbs or small plants.

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    Everything about these is simple: simple to find, simple to add drainage, simple to hang. Collect as many cans as you have space for, and use them to grow herbs or flowers.

  • Rows of green and red two-liter bottles are hung horizontally on a large wall.  They are filled with soil and have plants growing out of holes cut in their sides.

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    The color pattern of these red and green two-liter bottles make this planter arrangement especially sexy. The great thing about the idea, though, is that you can use as many or as few bottles as you need to take advantage of the wall space you have. We love this idea for growing herbs and flowers, but also for light vine-grown veggies like snap-peas.

Our social media platforms have been flooded with images of people building gardens out of all kinds of waste materials.

With a little ingenuity, everything from egg shells to yogurt containers to old closet doors can be diverted from landfills and recycling centers to become vehicles for growing food or flowers.

Check out this slideshow for some of our favorites.

Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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