Do’s & Don’ts: Reusing Items & Tools in Your Garden

An important part of sustainable gardening involves reducing garden waste. One easy way to reduce this waste is to reuse items you already have.

Check out these tips to learn what materials you can and can’t reuse in your garden and some ideas for giving non-garden items a new purpose!

Garden Items & Tools You Can Reuse

There are some items in your garden that you can reuse from year to year. These reusable items include…

  • Plastic, ceramic, and clay pots
  • Plant & seed starting trays
  • Tools
  • Seeds under 2 years old
  • Trellises
  • Garden twine
  • Seed labels

Of course, these items being reusable is contingent on their condition and your willingness to maintain them properly. Trellises can be reused as long as they are still intact. Garden twine is reusable if you can easily untie it. Seed labels can be reused if you’re using the same types of seeds or if you can wipe the label clean. Some seeds can be reused if they’re only a year or two old, but it’s best to test them first.

Photo by Gary Barnes on

Tools can be reused if they are in good working condition. Regular maintenance of your tools will help them to continually work properly and protect your garden from disease. Any tools that you plan to reuse should be cleaned after each use, or at the very least at the beginning or end of each gardening season. Wash your tools regularly to prevent dirt build-up and keep your tools from getting dull by having them sharpened (or sharpening them yourself if you have the equipment). Use a bit of disinfectant spray or wipes on your tools to help prevent the spread of disease in your garden.

If you’re going to be reusing pots and/or seed starting trays, it’s incredibly important that you clean them well in between each use. Cleaning your pots and starting trays helps to prevent molds and diseases which could harm your current and future plants. To clean these items, you’ll need to first brush or scrape any dirt or residue off using a stiff brush. To disinfect, use one part bleach to nine parts water. It’s generally best to do this in a tub or wash-bin where you can let your pots soak for 10 or so minutes and be sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards.

Photo by Rachel Claire on

Garden Items & Tools You Shouldn’t Reuse

While it can be tempting to reuse as many things as you can in your garden, there are some items that just shouldn’t be reused. Examples of non-reusable items include:

  • Potting or Garden Soil
  • Seeds that are more than a couple years old or haven’t been stored well
  • Plant matter that contains weed seeds
  • Tools in poor condition
Photo by Lukas on

Tools in poor condition, whether they are rusted, broken or just simply old, can be dangerous. Plant matter with weed seeds will spread the weeds to part of your gardening space, making it hard to grow new plants and flowers. Potting and garden soil can be reused a few times, but nutrients in the mix will diminish with use and you can more easily spread disease between plants.

What Else You Can Reuse

There are plenty of non-garden items that can be given a second life in your garden.

  • Milk jugs, plastic cups, and soda bottles can have many uses in your garden including carrying water, holding plants, and soil, and functioning as bird feeders. You can also cut them into scoops for moving soil.
  • Yogurt and takeout containers are perfect for storing seeds and small garden objects.
  • Empty fertilizer, soil, and mulch bags can be used as storage.
  • Egg cartons make great seed starters.
  • Glassware of any sort is super useful because it’s durable and can be used to store fruits, veggies, herbs, and so much more!
  • Scraps of cloth like shredded pieces of old clothing can be used to help secure plants.
  • Many food scraps and yard waste can be composted and added to your garden. Learn more about composting in last week’s blog!
  • Hoses with leaks can be repurposed into drip irrigators.

There’s clearly quite a bit that we can use from year to year for our gardening and landscaping tasks, whether it’s simply making the most out of our garden tools so they last longer or repurposing household items that would usually end up at the landfill.

For more tips on making your garden more sustainable, check out these other blog posts:

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