Modern life in the ‘developed’ world is largely based on waste and profligacy but the idea of recycling has been around since the earliest civilizations, and probably before that. After all, why throw something away if it’s still got a useful life? But we do, and in huge tonnages every year. Now, I’m not a rabid eco-freak who lives in a tent and wears clothes made from twigs. I just don’t like the idea of wasting anything that still has a use so I try hard to come up with alternatives to landfill.

Strictly speaking a lot of my activity is not recycling but salvaging and reusing but I’ll stick with the one word for the sake of convenience and because most people have some idea what I mean.

So, what do I ‘recycle’ in the garden?

The pics below will give you some idea but you should never be afraid to come up with your own solutions. Whenever you find that you need something, think can I do this by: (a) not spending money on a new item or (b) using what I’ve already got or can easily find.

If you can't find it lying around and you have a local freecycle or freegle group then a simple post on their website may well get you what you are looking for.

containers can be found, scrounged, begged and borrowed
and they are great for giving crops an early start in the greenhouse
before moving them outside. I now grow large amounts of food in an assortment of containers
mini-cloches made from cut plastic bottles
Strawberry plants growing happily in an old tyre.
I found four of these tyres just dumped by the roadside near here!

plant labels cut out from plastic ice cream tubs
and a seed tray made from a supermarket mushroom tray with a few drainage holes added

 mini propagators made from supermarket meat trays. the lids are hinged with a twist of wire

Saving your own seed is also a good way of recycling and is not difficult with many crops. Some can be a bit fiddly but others, like peas and beans are easy as you just need to let them dry naturally before using them the following year.

Making your own compost is really the ultimate in recycling and is something that every gardener should be doing. Amid all the debate about peat versus peat-free composts what people lose sight of is the fact that if we all made our own compost there wouldn't be a debate. See my section on composting.

Many of you will also collect and store rainwater for use on your crops. If you don't, why not?

Not only is it very easy to do but rainwater is actually better for most of your crops. Some, like blueberries, positively hate tap water!

I hope this is making you aware of some of the stuff that we often throw away but which can be put to good use rather than filling up our dwindling number of landfill sites.

This edging was made from old tiling laths scrounged from a house re-roofing project nearby

If you use bamboo canes for plant supports, bean poles, etc. consider using locally grown hazel sticks when you need to replace them. A farmer I know lets me cut hazel coppice when I need it and it should last two or three years before it gets too dry and brittle. After that it can be recycled in two ways. Either put the sticks through a shredder and use as ground cover/mulch or burn them and use the resulting ash as a fertilizer as it is rich in potash.

two-year old bean poles which I hope will give me another season.

And don't forget that you can and should re-use your compost wherever possible. I try to get two crops per year from each container full of compost. Hungry crops such as early potatoes can be followed by lettuce or other quick growers. With crops that have a long growing period this won't be possible but the spent compost can be added as a mulch around fruit bushes or just put on the heap to rot down.