Gardens, the Original Recyclers

by Janice F. Booth

Feb. 07, 2023


8 Free, Useful Garden Resources

Gardeners are known to conserve and recycle. As gardeners we are particularly tuned to the power and beauty of refresh, renew, reuse—seeds to plants to mulch. What about those free gardening catalogs that come to us, and we pass along to friends or add to our recycle bins? 

Maybe, like me, you also pick up tempting pamphlets at fairs and farmers markets—pamphlets on all things related to gardening. I have the best intentions, but seldom study them. They pile up on my desk or tumble out of folders labeled “Projects for next year” or “Read these first.”

With this in mind, I decided to take these catalogs and pamphlets in hand. Now I’m ready to share with you, recycle if you will, eight ways to acquire free and recycled items and resources for your garden.

Since there’s little else to do about the garden in February, here’s a way to keep your gardening juices flowing.

1. Pollinators—Why not plant some Milkweed seeds and lure Monarch butterflies to your garden? Visit, the site of the Live Monarch 2023 Seed Campaign. For six years they’ve been sending out into the world milkweed seeds and seeds of other plants that attract Monarch butterflies. The project often engages with schools and provides seeds and information for entire classes. The site has excellent photos of Monarch-friendly plants for identification purposes.

2. Plants—Who wouldn’t like to acquire healthy plants for free? Whether you use a gardening service or do your own planting, after winter passes, there’s always a bare spot or two that needs some new plants. Alternatively, spring may find you preparing to lop off or dig up some of those “volunteers” that threaten to overtake portions of your carefully planned flower bed. Try the website This site reviews the easiest plants, shrubs, and trees to propagate, coaxing new plants from old. The site explains: • Dividing clumps of perennials. • Collecting seeds. • Using cuttings (rooting, dividing, transplanting.) •Reduced-price plant sales.



3. Seed Exchange—Winter is not the time to put this in practice, but now is a good time to organize a Seed Exchange among your neighbors, relatives, and friends. Send out an invitation with a list of the types of seeds easily harvested and shared. Plan to send reminders to participants as harvest time approaches. It will be fun seeing what is shared. There’s no cost and very little work gathering, drying, and distributing seeds. The only caution, be sure participants label the seeds. Not everyone wants a flower bed filled with surprises.

4. Sprouting—Vegetable gardening is satisfying and valuable. Additionally, you can plant a healthy vegetable and herb garden from cuttings you have sprouted in your own home.

  • Carrot tops in shallow water
  • Potato sections with “eyes” sprout in shallow water
  • Onion and garlic cloves produce healthy sprouts
  • Tomato, chili, pumpkin, and squash seeds are plentiful (dry on paper towels, plant seeds in moist soil in a sunny window.)

5. Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace offer free garden items – tools, soil, plants, and decorative accessories. You can post things you’re offering and find useful items you may not have known you need.

6. “Sort Out”—We all have sheds or closets or basement cubbies, or several of these, where we keep our gardening supplies—the extra clay pots, potting soil, tools, flowerbed diagrams, and plaster statues. Apply the same ruthless energy that you expend on closet cleaning to your gardening stash. Get rid of what you don’t really need. Someone in your neighborhood may need a smiling gnome statue. If you can talk friends into doing a clean out too, you may end up replacing your unwanted items with a few lovely old bricks or iron bunny from someone else’s garden stash. You can also post your items on the “Free Cycle” web site,

7. Design Templates – Whether you work with a professional gardening service, a personal gardener, or do the gardening yourself, you need a plan. Your gardener will ask you to describe what you are looking for. You may already be working out your spring garden design on those sheets of graph paper on your desk. Well, here’s some good news. Online you can find free: • Building plans for: greenhouses, garden sheds, potting sheds, and potting benches. • Templates to help place fences, sprinkler systems, hedges, and walls. • Lists of supplies needed to compete a particular design (valuable for budgeting.)



Free Planners and Templates:

“Plan-a-Garden” from Better Homes & Gardens: provides 3-D images and drag-and-drop design Welcome to Plan-A-Garden! (

“Online Kitchen Garden Planner” at Pre-Planned Gardens ( You can print out your plan and how-to information on executing that plan. The site also provides prepared plans if you’d rather not do it yourself.

“Garden Visualiser” is a British offering from Marshalls Garden ( It works something like a 3-D video game, allowing you to specify sizes and themes for the garden’s design. 

8. Finally, since free advice is either useless or invaluable, here’s a wonderful site to tuck into your gardener’s diary! The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center ( The site is maintained by the University of Texas at Austin. It provides a fascinating plant-finder that allows you to identify plants based on a wide variety of characteristics, including location, lifespan, bloom, leaf characteristics, average size, and more! Your fellow gardeners will be impressed with the extent of your knowledge.

by Janice F. Booth


About J. F. Booth

I am a writer and educator.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to

  1. says:

    Boy, I was going along great guns until I got to #6 and you mentioned cleaning!! You lost me on that one. But I loved #8. I had forgotten about Lady Bird’s wildflower campaign. Do you remember we went on vacation with Mom and Daddy and we passed this beautiful field of wildflowers and either Mom or Daddy said it had been planted because of Lady Bird. Now, your articles are sort of doing the same thing. They are making this a prettier place to live.

  2. Planting Milkweed is fun and fascinating. If your clump is large enough, Monarchs will lay eggs that will become caterpillars. The caterpillars are gorgeous, and their cocoons are even more amazing with their row of golden beads. And watching a Monarch butterfly come out of the cocoon is an unforgettable event.

I would be interested in your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s