Upcycled ideas for the garden

Recycling and upcycling are key components in the ongoing battle to save the planet, and things we can all do more of with a little imagination. Toilet roll tubes play a role in many upcycled garden ideas – the versatile nature of these cardboard tubes makes them ideal for a variety of projects. 

Upcycled pieces tie into the natural rusticity of the garden. Some garden recycling ideas involving toilet roll tubes include making a homemade bird feeder or crafting your own biodegradable seedling pots.

These two projects are simple to accomplish, easy to use and more durable than you might think.  

Create a homemade bird feeder

Making a homemade bird feeder from a used toilet roll tube could not be simpler. Learning how to make a bird feeder with waste material benefits the planet in many ways. Not only does less rubbish go to landfill – we are also helping multiple species of birds survive, particularly throughout the harsh winter months when natural food sources are scarce. 

Estimates suggest that as many as three-quarters of all UK households enjoy feeding birds. There is also evidence that those species of birds that have access to regular food provided by humans have higher survival rates than those that do not.

These homemade bird feeders are simple enough for even very young children to help make.

To make a DIY bird feeder, you will need:

A used toilet roll tube
String or twine
A butter knife or lollipop stick
A bowl or plate
A variety of bird seed
A digestible fat, such as lard, vegetable shortening or peanut butter

Then following these easy steps:

1. Using the butter knife or lollipop stick, spread a thick layer of lard, vegetable shortening or peanut butter over the outside of the toilet roll tube. Not only does this help the seeds to stick, it also makes the tube waterproof, ideal for putting out homemade bird feeders in UK weather. Fats also help birds survive during the winter.

2. Once the tube is completely covered, roll it in a bowl of mixed bird seed so the seeds stick to the fat. 

3. Loop some string or twine through the inside of the toilet roll tube and use to hang on the branch of a tree or from a hook in the wall.

4. Once the birds have finished all the seeds, you may be able to make another DIY bird feeder from the toilet paper roll. If not, don’t forget to recycle it! 

Make biodegradable seedling starter pots

Toilet roll tubes can be adapted to create biodegradable seedling pots ideal for starting off numerous garden plants and vegetables. Making a set of seed starter pots is quick, easy and above all, free!

To make DIY seedling pots, you will need:

Several cardboard inner tubes from toilet rolls
A tray or large plate
String or twine
Potting soil or compost
Seeds for planting

Depending on how large the seedlings are expected to grow before being re-potted, you may wish to cut some of the toilet roll tubes in half to make different sizes of DIY paper plant pots.

1. Start by squashing each roll flat one way and then the opposite way to make creases. You can then manipulate the roll into a square tube rather than a cylinder.

2. Make a small cut about an inch down each crease at one end of the tube to create four flaps.

3. Fold the flaps in on one another and overlap to create a base.

4. You now have a set of DIY seedling pots ready to be filled with potting soil and seeds. 

These seed starter pots can be filled with almost any type of seed so long as they are re-potted once they start to grow too big for the pots. Toilet roll seed starter pots work well with plants that prefer not to have their roots disturbed.

Ideal starter seeds for these DIY paper pots include:
Sweet peas

The beauty of these biodegradable seedling pots is they can be replanted in larger pots or directly into the garden without disturbing the roots of the plant. Simply tear off the bottom flaps and re-pot the whole tube, ensuring all the cardboard is underneath the soil. The tube will naturally degrade and the plants will hopefully thrive in their new environment.