10 Ways to Recycle Clothes in the Garden

Using old clothes in the garden is a great way to recycle them! Many clothes contain man-made fibers and therefore are not suitable for some of these gardening tasks. Other old clothes are made from natural fibers and are ideal for other uses. When they are too worn out to go to the thrift store or charity shop, using them in the garden is an ideal way to recycle your old garments.

Before you recycle clothes in the garden, wash them without detergent or fabric softener. This ensures that detergent chemicals are not added to the soil accidentally.

Make a scarecrow

Scarecrow made from recycled clothes

Whether you stuff your old clothes with straw or newspaper, hang clothes on a simple frame of sticks or use them to adorn another recycled item like a dressmaker’s dummy, making a scarecrow is a fun.

We used a metal ornamental dressermaker’s form to create a simple scarecrow and dressed it with a hat, gloves and old boots.

Quirky containers

Cut the legs off old cotton jeans and cotton or linen slacks and use to make pant pots (see below). Turn the remainder of the jeans inside out (the seat, waistband and zipper section). Sew both the leg holes closed. Turn back out the right way. Fill with compost to make a planter for a quirky display.

Pant pots

Cut the legs off old cotton jeans and cotton or linen slacks. Turn inside out. Cut across the legs to create pieces about 6-8 inches (15-20cms) long and sew along one of the open edges. Turn back out the right way again and fill with compost. Once planted with young plants, they can be transferred into the ground without removing the pant pot. The roots of the plant will then grow through the pant pot into the surrounding soil.

Recycle clothes in the garden to make compost

pile of compost ready to use in the garden

This is probably the quickest and easiest way to recycle clothes in the garden. You can add clothes made from all natural fibers, like wool, cotton, linen and silk, into the compost bin. Cut them into small pieces to speed up decomposition.

Tree ties

Just planted a tree and have nothing to tie it to the stake? Use hosiery like tights, pantyhose and stockings to secure a newly planted tree to the stake. Tie the hosiery to the stake first, and you can secure it with a nail if preferred. Then loop the fabric around the tree truck. It makes a soft tree tie that is unlikely to damage the delicate bark of the tree.

Gardening apron

Cut a pair of jeans around the waistband across the front side and leave just the seat side attached. Carefully cut down the leg seams and then below the pockets at the back. You can now use this section as an apron. Put the jeans apron on back to front, with the button fastening at the back and the two back pockets now at the front.

Wool mulch

Recycle a woolen jumper by placing on the soil around plants. It will shade the soil to reduce water evaporation and eliminate light, therefore limiting weed growth. As it breaks down over time, worms and other soil life will incorporate the woolen jumper into the soil, feeding the soil and improving its texture. If you use a cardigan or sweater with buttons, remember to remove them before using the in the garden. Buttons are usually a welcome donation to charity shops and thrift stores as they can be used by craft-makers for new projects.

Support climbing fruit

recycle clothes in the garden, old pantyhose to support melons
Image courtesy of Paul Cartledge

Climbers like melons and squashes can produce heavy fruits. Supporting the fruit reduces the risk of them falling off the plants and bruising. Old, clean hosiery like pantyhose, tights and stockings, are ideal for supporting melons as they mature. Tie the hosiery to the support of the climbing plant and then pass it gently underneath the fruit to cradle it. Alternatively, carefully put the foot section of the hosiery over the plant to and tie the leg part to the support as shown on the right in the photo.

Boot planters

recycled boots in the garden
Image by Andy Greenacre

Use old boots to create planters. Be sure to make some drainage holes before you fill the boots with compost. Cassiefairy at My Thrifty Life made some lovely planters from wellie boots.

Simply wear them

Although your clothes may be too worn to be seen out in public, an extra layer of clothing when you’re gardening in the cooler months can be jolly useful! Keep a spare set of clothes somewhere handy like a shed or greenhouse. Have them to hand if you need extra warmth or if you have got soaked through to the skin in the rain and want dry clothes.

Check your spare set of clothes occasionally, to ensure that no mice have taken up residence in them. If they have, use for another project or add them to the compost heap.

More ways to recycle clothes in the garden?

If you have more ideas of ways to reuse old clothes in the garden or yard, please share your ideas in the comments. I’ll pick some of my favourite ideas to add to and include in this article.

Liz Zorab
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