Cardboard is a ubiquitous packaging material, especially if, like me, you order a lot of things from the internet. You could let those cardboard boxes, supports, and more stack up until you head to the recycling place...or you could put them to use, getting a few more rounds of creative use out of them before you finally send them off into that good night.
1. Seedling starters
If you buy eggs in cardboard, you may have pondered all sorts of uses for them, and there are a ton (enough for an entirely different roundup post!). But here's one in fitting with the accidental gardening theme of this one: seedling starters. Add rich clean soil to each egg cup along with some seeds, and watch your plants grow! Handily, you can cut the egg carton apart and plant it directly in the soil without disturbing the seedlings, because the cardboard will break down as the plants mature.
2. Floor protection for events
Big cardboard boxes are perfect for this. If you're renting an event hall and you want to protect the kitchen and other flooring during setup, cooking, and service, put cardboard down. It will catch spills and stains, prevent scuffs, and add some shock absorbency for workers who might be on their feet for a while. It doesn't necessarily look pretty, but it doesn't need to go in the public areas where people would see it.
3. Knife sheath
If you have a cardboard tube (toilet paper, paper towel, etc.), flatten it to make a sheath for protecting knives while packing, traveling, or camping. Many knives come with their own sheaths, but they tend to get lost in the shuffle; now you never have to worry about insulating sharp blades again!
4. Compost material
Cardboard is a great layering material for compost to balance out the composition of greens and browns. Use it when you need to up the carbon of your compost, and it will also helpfully keep things a bit contained, to boot!
5. Recycling and trash organizers (especially for events)
If you're planning on taking cardboard to the recycle place anyway, let it do one last round of double duty. Organize your separated recycling into cardboard boxes, and place them strategically around events with clear signage to encourage guests to separate out compost, trash, and recyclables.
6. Quick and dirty raised beds
Raised beds are primo for gardening, but a real pain to install. Guess what works really well, even if it doesn't look gorgeous? That's right, cardboard boxes. Place them, fill them with soil, and go to town. You can also use a cardboard box for the straw potato gardening technique — fill a box with straw and seed potatoes cut into eyes, and when you fancy a potato, dig a hand in for one! (The great thing about this growing method is that you don't have to painstakingly wash dirt from your potatoes.)
7. Plant guards
Young plants are vulnerable to lawnmower and weed whacker accidents, as well as nibbles from animals like deer and rodents. A cardboard tube can be cut in half and taped around a trunk to offer a little extra protection. (For issues with garden pests, you'll also want a larger plant cage to deter snackers.)
It just so happens that many cardboard boxes are the perfect size for filing. You could buy expensive boxes at the office supply store ... or you could use cardboard. Handily, these boxes stack and are easy to label if you have materials that need to be stored, including digital media that might get hard to manage if you have large archives of backup discs, tapes, and other supplies.
9. Weed control
Weed barriers are expensive, and cardboard is usually free. Put down a few layers in the garden around problematic areas, and weeds will struggle to get through. The cardboard itself will eventually mulch back into the soil and enrich it, so you'll need to add more later, but your plants will appreciate the weed control/mulch combo!
10. Be my fire starter
Like other paper products, cardboard is, of course, flammable. If you have clean cardboard that hasn't been painted or waxed (to prevent unpleasant offgassing), it makes a great fire starter. Cut a strip and light the end before applying it to key points at the fire you've laid to encourage it to burn hot and evenly — and then toss your fire starter in with the rest of the pile when you're done!
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