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5 Easy Ways to Reduce Gardening Waste

Looking for ways to reduce gardening waste?

There are many ways to reduce gardening waste. And not all of them relate to reducing how many pulled weeds you send to the landfill. In fact, much of the environmental waste gardeners create comes from some things that might surprise you.

So let’s look at 5 surprising ways you might be harming the environment by gardening. And more importantly, let’s consider ways to reduce these wasteful gardening practices in positive ways.

And when you do this, you’ll likely be doing a better job gardening for the environment. Plus, you might do a better job crafting a garden that thrives during climate change.

1. Less gardening pots means less garden trash!

Have you ever considered what happens to all of those plastic gardening pots?

In truth, most of them end up in a landfill. So that means when you pop a tree out of a pot and toss that pot, you’re adding garbage to the landfill.
Reduce Gardening Waste with fewer plastic pots
Yes, some gardening pots can go into the recycling. But most of them don’t get recycled.

Fortunately, there are ways to get new plants that don’t involve planting containers that end up in the trash!

  1. First, purchasing bare root plants means you’ll be buying plants that don’t come in pots!
  2. Second, dividing plants in your own garden to transplant requires no extra pots.
  3. Third, grow your own plants from seeds or cuttings.
  4. Fourth, share plant divisions with friends and don’t put any of them in pots!
  5. Fifth, look for trees & shrubs with roots wrapped with burlap instead of plastic. That’s because burlap can decompose much faster than plastic pots will. These are often called “balled & burlapped” at a nursery. So ask for them when you shop!

2. Stop buying peat potting soil to reduce gardening waste

Most potting soil contains peat moss. And peat moss comes from peat bogs, which are important for storing carbon. So when peat is harvested for potting soil, carbon is released. And that’s a problem for the environment.

Plus, almost all potting soil comes in plastic bags. And what happens to that plastic bag after you dump the soil in a pot? It goes into the garbage. Therefore, using less bagged potting soil is a good way to reduce your gardening waste.
recyclable plastic pots may not actually reduce your gardening waste.

However, if you want to grow container gardens, you could look for potting soil made with coir instead of peat. That’s because coir is a more renewable resource.

Moreover, products like this one not only reduce or replace peat, but they also divert waste from landfills!

3. Reducing your lawn reduces lots of gardening waste!

Lawn is a a resource hog. And it doesn’t give much back. Yes, it can release oxygen into the atmosphere. But many other plants do a better job of this. And they offer many other benefits as well.

Not only does lawn potentially require a lot of watering, chemical applications, time to mow, petrochemicals to mow, and more inputs. But, it doesn’t give much of anything back for all it takes.

Instead, reduce gardening waste by planting more than just grass seed. So for instance, include plants like clovers in your lawn blend. That way the clover can help fertilize the grass and the pollinators. Plus, with blended plantings like this, you’re likely to need much less water and much less mowing.

Or, better yet, convert your lawn into diverse plantings or meadows.

4. Don’t carpet your garden with trashy fabric.

A sure-fire way to increase your gardening waste and frustration is to assume landscape fabric will make life easier. The reality is: this stuff will neither reduce your gardening labor nor your garden weeds. But, in the end, you’ll likely pull it up and send it to the landfill. And that’s no way to reduce your gardening waste!

5. Invest in long-living plants for your garden.

By choosing perennial plants that return year-over-year is a quick way be a less wasteful gardener. That’s not just because you’ll be buying fewer plastic pots!

Woody and herbaceous perennials often do much more for the environment than annual plants.

Reduce gardening waste industry

For instance:

  1. Long-lived plants become a part of the long-term ecology of your garden.
  2. Herbaceous plants die back and return their top growth to the earth, which helps “feed” it.
  3. Long-lived plants have roots in the soil year after year, adding to nutrient and water exchange (among other things).
  4. Long-lived plants don’t require you to disrupt the soil year after year. And that means you’ll reduce wasting your time gardening on repetitive tasks. Plus, you’ll stop messing up the living world beneath your feed.
  5. Many annual plants may look pretty, but they often provide very little in the way of resources for the environment. And, of course, there’s a lot of wasteful activities and resources that bring them to the nursery for you to buy.
  6. Of course, if you’re not sure what plants are best for your garden, we’ll be happy to help. Sign up now for free help right away!

Ways you can help others reduce gardening waste too:

If you’d like to help others reduce gardening waste, consider checking out This group is offering education and outreach to help everyone become more environmentally friendly gardeners. And most of their focus is on the dirty truth about plastic garden pots filling up landfills.

The info-graphics included in this post are courtesy of this organization.

2 comments on “5 Easy Ways to Reduce Gardening Waste

  1. Ruth Taylor on

    Thank you for the information about plastic pots, they are everywhere! I wish there was another alternative for garden centers to sell plants. There are certain nurseries that will take the pots back for reuse. It is also great to know that coir is a more sustainable alternative to peat moss.

  2. Garden Mentors on

    Ruth, I’m so glad this information was helpful. If you didn’t know, nurseries do offer bare root plants in winter. When you purchase bare root, you omit the plastic pot AND there’s not potting “soil”. So that’s a great help. And if you purchase woody plants with roots wrapped in burlap instead of a plastic pot, that’s helpful too. More good news is coming from plant growers that are starting to offer re-usable silicon seed starting potsand pots that decompose. Hopefully, these get adopted as the norm and the plastic manufacturing can go way down quickly!

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