Cardboard can often feel like it is piling up – especially if you have been ordering less in the shops and more online lately. Of course, most of us will be able to put that cardboard in a recycling bin and have it collected from the kerb. But it is a more eco-friendly option to recycle untreated cardboard yourself at home than it is to have it collected by the authorities.
Bear in mind that sending recycling away to be dealt with in municipal systems involves trucks on the road. It involves energy and pollution. So recycling cardboard at home whenever possible is one more way to reduce waste and minimise your negative impact on people and planet.
But if you have a lot of cardboard to deal with, what should you do with it? Well, here are 7 ways to recycle cardboard in your garden.
1. Make Your Own Biodegradable Plant Pots
Toilet roll tubes are famously commonly used to create small biodegradable plant pots for seedlings. But you could also use small cardboard boxes too. Or even take larger pieces of cardboard and make a pulp that can be formed, papier machéstyle, into little pots. Or simply folded to create new smaller boxes in a range of simple but effective ways.
Biodegradable pots can be used for seed starting, or for potting up seedlings once these have emerged. They can simply be planted along with the seedlings or young plants when they are placed in their final growing positions in your polytunnel or outside in your garden. They are particularly beneficial for plants that do not like having their root systems disturbed.
2. Make Temporary Seed Trays
You can also cut off the bases of larger cardboard boxes to make flat seed trays or seed starting flats. Of course, you will have to use these outdoors, or place something beneath them to catch the water. And they will obviously not last all that long and will begin to break down.
But they can be useful, for example, on the staging in a polytunnel or greenhouse, where they will certainly last long enough to start seeds before they are pricked out into their own individual pots. Egg boxes can be useful for windowsill seed starting projects. But you can potentially use other pieces of cardboard for this purpose too.
3. Use a Sturdy Cardboard Box as a Planter
A large and sturdy cardboard box can be put into use as a planter for larger annual plants that you might want to grow. You could use a large cardboard box as a planter for potatoes, for example. Of course, the size of the box and how sturdy and strong it is will determine exactly what can be grown within it. But there are a wide range of options. Though it will likely only last for one season, a sturdy box should remain in tact until harvest time rolls around.
One of the good things about using a cardboard box as a planter for potatoes is that when the time comes to harvest the tubers, you can simply rip or cut the box open to see what is inside. And you won’t have to worry about cleaning out any containers or grow bags once the harvest is over.
4. Lay Cardboard to Create New Growing Areas
If you have plenty of cardboard, you can lay this over an area of your lawn to make new growing areas. The cardboard will form the base of new ‘lasagna’ or hugelkultur style beds, which are excellent ‘no dig’ garden options. Layers of brown and green organic material will then be layered onto this card base and topped with soil/ compost to complete your new beds.
The cardboard will break down over time, but should remain in place long enough to suppress grass growth and reduce the number of weeds that pop up from below in your new growing area.
5. Make Cardboard Collars to Protect Your Plants
A piece of cardboard can also be cut to make protective collars for your plants. These collars could help protect your plants from cutworms and other pests that make their way up to eat the plant from the soil below. Cardboard collars could also act as a barrier against a number of other pests that you might encounter in your garden.
6. Use Cardboard as a Substrate For Growing Mushrooms
If you already grow fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in your garden, you might like to branch out and try something a little different in the world of home growing: growing mushrooms. Shredded cardboard can be used as a substrate or growing medium through which mushroom mycelium can spread. And from which mushroom fruiting bodies (the bits we eat) will grow.
Growing mushrooms is something new and interesting to try if you have not done so already. It could allow you to grow even more of your own food at home. And again, cardboard is a material that can potentially help you in your endeavours.
7. Shred Cardboard And Add It To Your Composting System
Of course, even when you use cardboard in one of the ways mentioned above, you can still compost it. You can use the card first before composting any scraps, or compost it right away if you do not have any other use for it. Ripping up or shredding the card and then adding it to your composting system is an efficient and effective way to deal with this waste material.
Cardboard is a carbon rich (brown) material for the purposes of composting. It should be added in conjunction with green nitrogen rich materials like fruit and vegetable scraps. Add some shredded or torn up cardboard to your composting system every time you add some green material. This will help to keep the system in balance. It will keep all the materials breaking down aerobically as they should. Popping brown materials like cardboard over food scraps will also help reduce problems. For example, it might help with flies etc… or with scavengers in an outdoors heap.
Using Cardboard Inside Your Home
Of course, you might not want to relegate card to the composting system just yet. Bear in mind that there are also a plethora of ways to reuse cardboard inside your home. From making recycled paper, to a range of craft projects… There is almost no end of ways to find a second use for cardboard boxes before they are thrown away. But using cardboard to improve your garden and grow your own is a great place to start.
The ideas in this article are just the beginning. There are a huge number of ways to use/ reuse/ recycle cardboard in your garden and around your home. If you use your imagination, using that card can not only help you reduce waste. It can also help you live in a more sustainable way – making it easier for you to grow your own. And making it easier for you to make the most of all that nature can provide.
How do you recycle in your garden? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.