Recycling – some notes and observations

Denim Jeans

1 Re-Use: My wife is currently working on a floor rug made from old denim jeans cut into strips and then woven together.

2 Re-Use: Once its reincarnation as a rug is coming to an end it would make a great blanket cover for a worm farm or bedding for a dog kennel before finally adding it to the garden or compost bin. But maybe not before using it as a weed suppressant or footpath!

3 Re-Use: Strips of denim can be used to tie plant stems to support poles as they can be cut 2-3 cm wide and offer support without cutting into the tree bark or soft stem.

4 Recycle: Add to the bottom of pots to stop soil coming out of the drainage holes.

5 Re-Use: Denim jean pockets can be cut around and make handy buffing or polishing ‘gloves’ for treating wooden furniture using beeswax or orange oil.

6 Recycle: My wife has used old jeans to make handbags with her girl guides.

Cardboard Boxes

7 Re-Use: Moving items when moving house.

8 Re-Use: Placing recyclable materials in from the kitchen.

9 Re-Use: As a make-shift guinea pig cage. They really enjoy a cardboard box shelter and will quite often have a nibble at it from time to time.

10 Recycle: added to the compost bin to compost down.

11 Re-Use: Large boxes can be made into a protective envelope to ship paintings in to exhibitions.

12 Re-Use: Cut down again to use as padding for furniture to sit on to protect flooring.

13 Recycle: Soaked and buried into garden beds as a hotel for compost worms.

14 Re-Use: Broken down and added directly into pots before adding soil to prevent soil escaping and holding moisture at root level.

15 Re-cycle: When we first moved in and I was working on the sandy situation in the garden I mulched heavily with cardboard boxes flattened out. After twelve months or so I have discovered wonderfully friable, dark soil with the odd length of masking or packing tape which I then remove from the garden. My lesson being from the last twelve months that often I am better off putting things directly where I want them and let nature sort it out. Patience is required, but it works better. I’ve never had what I would call a rapturous success with compost piles or bins or worm farms, but my soil is growing in its richness and there are areas where it is simply seething with worms and other soil life.

Plastic Bottles

16 Re-Use: To hold water for various uses. Or organic fertiliser liquid. Ie worm compost tea.

17 Re-Use: Use as a watering reservoir for individual plants in the garden. Quite often frozen during summer to allow the water to seep out slowly.

18 Recycle: Used for creating sculptures.

19 Recycle: I have grown very successful seedlings in pots made of plastic bottles with the top half cut off and placed inside the bottom. The hole is filled with shredded paper and then soil and seeds. Once the seedlings send roots into the bottom water reservoir they will cope quite happily with very hot days as long as the water reservoir is topped up now and then. It’s a miniature hydroponics set-up in a way, though using soil.

20 Re-Use: Not quite filled completely and then frozen to make the guinea pigs day a little more comfortable during very hot spells.

21 Re-use: I have also had some success with using plastic containers from a café (used for ice-cream) as planters for my water chestnuts. These are long containers and sit in the pond rather well and the black ones are quite disguised. Other larger plastic containers are used to trap greywater when I want to hand water specific parts of the garden. Any excess greywater is plumbed directly to several areas of the garden.

Green ‘waste’

22 Re-Use: Larger branches of mallee are used for chicken roosts rather than cutting down and putting in land fill. Others may be used in art projects.

23 Recycle: Limbs of trees that require removal are mulched where possible and the mulch put back into the garden or used to line a pathway through the garden.

24 Recycle: Any kitchen scraps are placed in either the compost bin tub or the chook tub. Now that we have chickens we are also supplementing them with scraps from my in-laws kitchen and the odd bag of lettuce leaves and greens from the vege shop. I have also piled in truck-loads of grass clippings from a friends lawn mowing round.

25 Re-Use: To date, just about everything from the garden that requires removal is simply used elsewhere. For example, plants needing moving are usually planted in another location. Tree prunings are mulched and used to dress the garden. Large vines are put into the compost bins. The main difficulties are with larger logs which are usually still used in some area of the garden through necessity. We did not have a green waste bin when we moved in and do not intend getting one.


26 Re-Use: Used for packing objects for putting into storage boxes.

27 Re-Use: Scrunched sheets of newpaper used with vinegar are used to clean our windows and mirrors. Recycle: They are then added to the compost bin.

28 Re-Use: Made into seedling pots for those seeds that need pot raising. Planted direct into the garden. Recycle: Those that don’t have healthy seedlings in them can be put into the compost bin or used to mulch around a plant out of view.

29 Recycle: Frequently I add sheets of newspaper and ripped cardboard to the sink pit to soak up some of the moisture which then feed the worms as they make the mass of paper and cardboard their temporary home. I have even seen worm cocoons deposited between the sheets of thick newsprint.

30 Re-Use: Used to put down on the bottom of the guinea pigs hutch when they were in the hutch. Later placed into the compost bin to break down further.

31 Re-Use: I have also used torn paper mixed with grass clippings to stuff into pvc tubes that are then used to grow strawberry plants. The paper holds the moisture and is used to transport the moisture to all of the plants.

32 Re-use: When creating our pond, rather than using fine sand to put over the base to cover sharp rocks and sticks I used very thick wads of newspaper. This was for a number of reasons. I had the newspaper available and I didn’t have to buy or obtain fine sand. I am confident that the paper actually won’t break down as quickly that deep down given that there is mainly sand dune sand and most of the worms are active closer to the soil surface and mulch. Also, when and if the pond needs moving it will be easy enough to do and the soil will have some substance to it rather than being devoid of organic matter.


Re-Use: Used in the garden as a weed suppressant pathway. Also placed across top of kitchen sink ditch to create a perfect environment for the compost worms.

Re-Use: Would make a great blanket cover for a worm farm or bedding for a dog kennel.

Re-use: Used to carpet the shed in areas where the floor is better off being covered by something.

In addition to the above items, I have used them all in artwork where I use them as a base structure and build around them with paper clay to form sculptures. I am planning on using many of these to decorate the garden and to add to the interest of the garden and also our house. In time I may sell them to inspire others to use recycled materials in a like manner.

Mirrors in the garden have been used to great effect rather than throwing them out. I am about to reposition many of them now that the sun is changing its angle.

Milk cartons have been used successfully to make water-wise plant pots for chillies. The chillies thrived in them and even on hot days when the water had evaporated, because the plants had developed roots down into the water reservoir, even when they looked really parched and wilted they soon sprang to life with a good watering to fill the water reservoir again.

I am hoping that this same technique will work with larger pots and perhaps some other moisture loving plants such as pineapple using some sort of fabric as a wick to carry water further into the soil so the plant is not required to fully extend its roots in search of the water in the reservoir.

Water reuse – linking greywater to the garden from the kitchen sink so that waste water is used by garden plants that require regular watering and moisture such as banana, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, pineapple. Comfrey, groundcovers.

I also like to make the most of potted plants and using them to act as individual compost bins. There is plenty of fine, water-repelling sand under the house which I have gradually excavated while setting up my work benches. To render this sand useful I have used it as a potting mix. I mix sand with either a liquid wetting agent or with crystals and about 5 – 10 % composted lawn clippings. To this I usually also sprinkle a handful or two of dynamic lifter pellets. I guess you could also add some seaweed liquid too, though I have not tried this yet. In the bottom of the plant pot I put either shredded paper, ripped up pieces of cardboard or a few sheets of newspaper. I have also added crude organic matter at times as well such as large leaves, straw, kitchen scraps, fish scraps, pond weed and nasturtium foliage and such things. Then I add the sand mix and sow either the seeds or put in the bulbs or cuttings. In order to save water I usually place my pot plants on areas of garden beds that are not planted. This allows for excess water to go into the garden and keep the moisture there. More often than not this leads to worms accumulating in and around the base of the pots and breaks down the organic matter in the garden beds quicker while allowing the worms free-range into the pot plants to work on the organic matter there also. Basically, these pots become miniature worm farms and over the course of a year the sand in the pots is really incorporated well with the added organic matter and rendered much more useful and loses its soil repelling tendency.

Further notes on paper products.

I have used many boxes of newspaper and cardboard over the first twelve months of setting up the gardens here. It might seem a daunting challenge to be able to recycle all the waste paper from an average household but I would say that in my experience a garden will take whatever you are prepared to give. We do not have a newspaper subscription so we receive only the two local, weekly newspapers which we used happily while the guinea pigs were in their hutch. Once we moved them into the garden as the free-range occupants they currently are we no longer used the newspapers and shredded paper brought home from work. No problem. I have found that just adding this paper to pot plants as mentioned above or laid in the garden beds quite thickly (though with some soil sandwiched in between) and mulched over means the slaters, worms and other soil life make light work of it and turn it into such a dark, wonderful, light, water attracting soil that I just can’t get enough of the stuff. We even have taken on collecting the newspapers from my in-laws who usually buy the daily state-wide newspapers and the local ones. The garden is happy to accommodate these, and I am happy to feed it – especially given my views on the newspapers, that they are best used for the garden as the content really is a bit dismal I find.

Even the pots are re-used pots either from plants purchased at a nursery or from friends or family that no longer want them.

I have recently potted up many pots of snowdrop bulbs which were also likely to have been thrown away, but have been re-used!

Magazines – handed on from friends and family. Many are passed on. Others are stripped of handy articles and filed whilst the rest of the magazine is used for art and anything else left is used for the garden. I am mindful as to what parts of the garden they go into given the high ink content on them but areas where I have applied them the worms are thriving. It was only the other week that I read a snippet in a magazine about a study that showed that compost worms have been found to be about to render heavy metals in the soil harmless. I will keep observing and being a little cautious though.

Some newspaper and cardboard finds its way pretty swiftly into the compost bins, but after unsuccessful past attempts and breaking down large amounts of paper and cardboard I have curbed this addition to the compost, preferring instead to get the worms involved directly.

As for the aerobin, I have been a little disappointed with it as far as the speed with which it works and the compost produced. I am finding that its working well simply with the kitchen scraps that don’t go to either the guinea pigs or chickens and the odd addition of bulk green waste from the garden such as removed vines, large weeds etc. I have also started adding frequent sprinklings of dolomite to assist with the breaking down on the organic matter. It humours me still that there is a resident family of mice that either live in it or take food hunting forays into the bin and are often sighted upon first opening the bin each day. I am therefore being extra patient with the aerobin and figure that over a twelve month period it will produce some compost worthy of using whilst we still add our small contributions of kitchen scraps to the top of the pile. I have also set up another compost bin for larger green waste pieces and some cardboard. This will be used for growing potatoes in the top and will be added to with straw as the pile sinks and the potatoes grow. Over one of my water ditches I have had healthy potatoes sprouting and have relocated a large drum over this ditch in order to use it as a potato/compost bin also. As the potato plant grows I have some hay and pea straw put to the side to add to the drum so that over a couple of months we get a nice crop of spuds and I have a good compost to spread over the soil come spring. The other attraction is that this vertical growing method really suits the smaller garden and makes the most of the space. So far this is working well and the potato plant is working its way up. I have already added three layers of hay as the rain has settled it and weighed it down a bit more.

From time to time many vegetable parts are re-used also. Carrot tops are planted out and have given me the seeds for this seasons crop which I am hoping will grow as they come from a reasonable source. I have also had other plants come up through seeds scattered in the garden.

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