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6 crafty ways to use old clothes in the garden – and give your old wardrobe a new lease of life

 A scarecrow in a wheelbarrow.
A scarecrow in a wheelbarrow.

What to do with no longer wanted clothes is a constant question. If they are still in good condition, then donating to a charity is best. But what if they are old, tattered and perhaps even stained? Well, if you have an outdoor space then you’re in luck because there are several ways to use old clothes in the garden.

Repurposing unwanted clothing in your outdoor space makes for a great upcycling idea for the garden – you just need to put your crafty cap on. Or just grab some scissors and get to cutting as that’s all some of our favourite ways to use old clothes in the garden require.

So without further ado, here are 6 of the best ways to reuse old clothing in the garden as approved and recommended by both gardening and organising experts.

A gardening table with a hat, an apron and a bunting above it
A gardening table with a hat, an apron and a bunting above it

How to use old clothes in the garden

If you’re looking for an upcycling project for beginners, then these qualify. According to a report by TheRoundup, 92 million tons of textile waste is produced by the world each year with the majority ending up in landfill. So instead of throwing out your clothing, why not find a way to repurpose them in the garden?

‘If you're looking for creative ways to spruce up your garden while also reducing waste, upcycling is the perfect solution,’ says Siân Pelleschi, founder of Sorted! and APDO president. ‘Upcycling involves taking old or unused items and repurposing them into something new and useful. Not only is upcycling environmentally friendly, but it can also add a unique and personalised touch to your outdoor space.’

Jenny Davis of Forest Garden continues, ‘Old clothes can be surprisingly handy in the garden. Natural fabrics like cotton, wool, and linen tend to work best for most gardening applications.’

1. Use old clothes to make a scarecrow

A scarecrow in a wheelbarrow
A scarecrow in a wheelbarrow

Perhaps the most obvious and fun way to reuse old clothes in the garden is to make a scarecrow out of it.

‘Complete outfits can be made into a scarecrow to keep birds away from fruit and vegetable gardens,’ says Susie Smart, APDO member and founder of Smart Organising. ‘Sew the arms and bottom of a T-shirt, leaving a small hole to push a tall stick or old rake through, then stuff it from the neck with straw or something permeable. Secure into the ground then add other clothing items such as a jacket and trousers to make it vaguely resemble a human form.’

You can really have fun with this one and even change the outfits seasonally. And the less appealing garments can be turned into scarecrow stuffing instead of straw.

2. Use old clothes as weed barriers

A blooming garden with a garden furniture and parasol set
A blooming garden with a garden furniture and parasol set

Similarly to using old towels in the garden, clothes can also be made into weed barriers to stop any unwanted, invasive growth from coming into your borders.

‘Use old cotton material as liners for your beds to help limit the weeds,’ Siân says.

Jenny confirms, ‘Lay down cloth under mulch to suppress weed growth.’

3. Turn old dresses and blouses into bunting

A garden furniture set with a flower vase and bunting above it
A garden furniture set with a flower vase and bunting above it

Another enjoyable craft project that you can take on board is making bunting out of your old dresses, blouses and shirts – or anything with a fun colour or pattern.

‘Old dresses, blouses and shirts are ideal for making bunting to decorate outdoor seating areas and summerhouses,’ says Fiona Jenkins, gardening expert at MyJobQuote.co.uk.

4. Make old boots into planters

A pile of wood next to wellington boots and a basket with blankets
A pile of wood next to wellington boots and a basket with blankets

Old unwearable boots that are either broken or have holes in them are one of the best upcycled planter ideas for the garden.

‘Worn out shoes and boots can easily be repurposed as planters. It doesn’t matter if there are holes in the soles as this will provide drainage. Simply fill them with compost and pop in your flower bulbs or young plants,’ Fiona says.

5. Cut T-shirts and tights into plant ties

Climbing roses attached to a frame
Climbing roses attached to a frame

Soft textiles like cotton and stretchy nylon are the ideal materials to turn into plant ties to support climbers and vines. So get those scissors out and start cutting up your old T-shirts and tights into thin strips.

‘Old laddered tights make great plant supports. They are strong enough yet soft enough to act as ties for tall fleshy perennial plants that might suffer in the wind, such as delphiniums, as well as woody-stemmed small trees and shrubs that need to be kept upright,’ Susie explains.

And that way, you’ll save on buying twine or garden wire which are usually used for this purpose.

6. Use old clothes as plant insulation and frost protection

A winter garden covered by snow
A winter garden covered by snow

Clothes can be some of the best plant covers to protect them from frost and unfavourable weather in the cold months.

‘Most old clothing can also be wrapped around pots as insulation in cold weather,’ Fiona says.

Jenny agrees, saying old clothes can be made into ‘temporary cloches to protect young seedlings or tender plants from unexpected frosts.’

So don’t throw away your clothes just yet and think how you can reuse them in other creative ways before you get rid of them.