15 Ways To Use Old Phone Books In The Garden


More than 500 million phone books are distributed in the United States every year. Unfortunately, only a fraction of them ever see the inside of a recycling bin. Like newsprint, there are a number of ways to reuse phone books in the garden.


Make Seed Starting Pots: Roll 2-3 phone book pages snuggly around a small jar, making sure it is loose enough to slide the jar out. Fold the excess length across the bottom of the jar and secure it with tape. Now you have a biodegradable seed-starting pot that can be transplanted directly into the garden.

Eliminate Odors: Wad up several individual pages and stick them into your gardening shoes or boots overnight to help absorb moisture and eliminate odors.

Make Hat And Shoe Forms: Stuff crumpled pages into hats and shoes to help them keep their shape while in winter storage.

Press And Preserve Flowers: Place flower heads face down between the pages of an old phone book. Close the phone book and place several heavy objects on top. Check back in 2-3 weeks to see if your flowers are dry.


Make Kneeling Pads: To make it waterproof, bind the phone books together using duct tape or wrap them with in an old shower curtain.

Suppress Weeds: For a no cost mulch option, use a layer of pages (8 to 10 pages thick) around garden plants to block out light and suppress weed growth. Top with a thin layer of grass clippings or leaf mold to keep the pages in place.

Create Seed Envelopes: Deconstruct an old envelope to see how it's made. Use phonebook pages to make new envelopes in the sizes and shapes you need to store your garden seeds.

Ripen Fruits: Speed up the ripening process by wrapping tomatoes and pears in individual pages. Store them in a cool, dry place until perfectly ripe.

Pack And Store Bulbs: Run pages through a paper shredder or wad them into balls and use them for packing material around delicate bulbs.

Use For Worm Bin Bedding: Tear up pages by hand or run them through a paper shredder before using them as fresh bedding. Use only the white pages with black ink. Some colored inks contain heavy metals, which may be harmful to your worms.


Make Compost: Like newspaper, phone book pages are considered "browns" when composting. Tear the pages up or shred them first and they will go quickly!

Make Fire Starters: If you have an outdoor fireplace, fire pit, or chimera, roll up individual pages tightly into logs and use them as kindling to start fires.

Clean Up: Rip out pages and use them like paper towels to wipe off tools or clean glass.

Prop Up Pots: Use old phone books to elevate potted plants off the ground. Wrap them up in plastic bags to make them waterproof.

Stop Leaks: Place a few phone book pages over the drainage holes in the bottom of your flower pots to allow drainage without losing soil.

Eliminating Your Extra Phone Books

For many of us, the age of Internet and cell phone technology has reduced our need for phone books. Unfortunately, there is no way to stop new phone books from piling up on our doorstep, whether we need them or not. In an attempt to solve this problem, a Missouri college student has started a national movement to stop the delivery of unsolicited phone books through a website called


The website allows users to fill out an "opt out" form, which is then forwarded to phone book publishers. The form requests that phone books stop being delivered to your current address and tells publishers that if you need a phone book, you'll call and order one. This action doesn't guarantee you'll never be sent another phone book, but it does shift responsibility onto the publishers to act in accordance with your wishes.

The goal of the campaign is to provide consumers with a way to encourage the industry to change its wasteful practices voluntarily, but if necessary the organization may also seek to get a National No Delivery Register enacted similar to the National Do Not Call Registry.

Do you use old phone books in the garden? If so, I would love to hear about it.

For more information:


About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at

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April 1, 20110 found this helpful

Wow, this is great about the biodegradable seed bowls to plant in the garden. I am looking forward to doing that!


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January 18, 20130 found this helpful

Wow! Lots of interesting info. Thanks

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