Recycling in the garden

by Adam Pasco

[...] all cardboard rolls, tubes or egg boxes make great biodegradable pots that can be filled with compost for seed sowing.

Recycled toilet rolls and egg boxes used as pots for seed sowingWe're all looking for ways to recycle more, save money and grow our own edible crops, so it's great finding a way to combine all three at the same time!

OK, there's nothing new about re-using cartons and packaging that would otherwise find its way into the recycling bin (hopefully your local authority does collect and recycle a good range of materials), but I'm sure there are still a few gardeners out there who could benefit from doing more.

For instance, all cardboard rolls, tubes or egg boxes make great biodegradable pots that can be filled with compost for seed sowing. The secret to using is to keep the cardboard moist, otherwise it acts as a wick removing moisture from the compost within. Dry cardboard also prevents seedling roots penetrating. By encouraging roots to grow through you can plant out the entire thing, so roots grow out into surrounding soil and the card eventually disintegrates as it decomposes.

Careful planting out is important, ensuring the rim of any cardboard container sits below soil level. If it sits proud it easily dries out and restricts access for roots.

Old card toilet roll tubes are my favourite. They're the perfect size for sowing peas, beans, sweetcorn and many other large crops. Being that little bit deeper than small flower pots they hold more compost and have a deeper root run.

Large households may well accumulate more cardboard or egg boxes than they can use for raising plants, so I compost all this instead. Just tear the card up into small pieces, moisten with water and mix in with kitchen waste before adding to the compost heap. Its surprising just how quickly this all rots down, producing valuable compost to dig into the soil.

And if you need any additional incentive to compost a little more, have you seen just how much a small bag of soil conditioning compost or manure costs at the garden centre this spring?

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Gardeners' World Web User 19/04/2010 at 11:31

I have just thrown an accumulated pile of empty toilet roll tubes into the recycling. This post reminded me I was planning to grow lots of sweet corn this year so I'll go and take them back out. (The loo rolls.) Then I'll find the sweet corn seeds. (Do we call them 'seeds'?) Right! Esther Montgomery

Gardeners' World Web User 19/04/2010 at 12:08

I do hope the rotting fish at airporta is recycled as fertiliser. Banana skins under rose bushes, toilet roll tubes for sweet peas, thinned out bamboo for bean sticks - I'm a past master at recycling. This spring I am having a new hall runner and the old one(83years old) is being recycled up-side down as a compostable path in the veg. plot as it is all natural fibre.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/04/2010 at 21:09

I am growing runner beans and sweet peas in toilet roll tubes at present and are growing nicely but they have gone very white and furry on the outside. Can anyone shed light on this and will it affect my seedlings?

Gardeners' World Web User 21/04/2010 at 07:37

Good news that the recycled volcanic ash about to descend on our gardens will be beneficial for them, but personally, having seen how carbon black deposits killed even trees in Avonmouth, I am sure it will depend on the amount. Let's hope it will fall gently like "the quality of mercy"!

Gardeners' World Web User 21/04/2010 at 08:30

im useing cardboard rolls to grow sweet peas and pumpkins ther do great in they

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