Using Phone Books In Your Container Garden

Posted on Oct 16 2009 - 5:00am by Mike Lieberman

I finally found a way not only to use phone books, but to use them in your container garden.

Since fall has quickly arrived, the weather’s dropped. I’ve been planning to build a hothouse, but don’t think that the weather has dropped to that point yet.

As a first step to building one on my fire escape garden, I knew that I wanted to raise the containers off of the cold metal.

The initial plan was to fold up cardboard boxes and place them under the containers. That plan changed when I went running the other day. As I was running, I noticed that I was running through an obstacle course of phone books. Within a three blocks, I had to have literally passed 3-4 dozen stacks of them still wrapped up and on the sidewalk.

Shawna Coronado wrote a post on how phone books are a complete scam a few months back. Since reading her post, I’ve been thinking of ways to reuse them. Then it hit me. I could easily use them in my gardens to raise the containers off of the cold ground.

It won’t make a huge difference, but it’s a start. I wrapped the phone book in a plastic bag that my roommate had from grocery shopping and taped it up to keep it dry. Then I slid them under the containers.

I think it’s the most use a phone book has gotten in years


  • Melanie Fleur

    That's such a good idea.. mine are still wrapped in the plastic they were delivered in!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks. I've been thinking of ways to use them and thought this was perfect.

  • MichellePierson

    Brilliant idea! I like this.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thank Michelle. Much easier than folding up cardboard boxes.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Using Phone Books In Your Container Garden | Urban Organic Gardener --

  • AnitaAvalos

    Should I start saving some for my upcoming garden??

  • Mike Lieberman

    If it gets cold at night, then it's likely smart to.

  • alasha

    I'm totally jackin' this idea. I have a question (maybe two);

    I've been with you since nearly the beginning of your journey, and I guess sometime in May, I decided to start my own little thing. The difference is, I started from seed, but you didn't.

    I did it like that because a) I'm a cheap shiksa and I started some things from the seeds of food I'd already eaten, LOL b) I figured I could get away with such a late start since I'm in Atlanta. I'd say I'm doing alright, but trial and error combined with my late start hasn't gotten me the harvest I want yet, but I anticipated that going in. My fall greens and and my onions are right on point, though.

    Oh yeah, I was supposed to be asking a question! So, now that you've had two full seasons to your credit, do you think you'll be starting from seed come spring? why or why not?

  • Mike Lieberman

    Jack away Alasha. Jack away. I won't hate.

    Thanks for following throughout the entire time. Hope it's been as fun for you as it's been for me. Next spring, I'm gonna start some from seed and some from plants. This first go round wanted to do just plants.

    You just gave me another idea for a longer post…thanks.

    You got any pics of your garden that you'd like to share? Hit me up.

    Stay tuned because it might be fall, but it ain't over.

  • balconygardener

    smart idea.
    delays having these books in the dump, assume they have great insulating properties, probably can take a lot of weight, abundance of them in my 'hood and can also be used in the spring as platforms to vary the height of containers on the balcony. all good until they get wet.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the comment. To protect them from getting wet, I wrapped them in a plastic bag and taped it with duct tape. That should keep it protected from the elements.

  • Pingback: Miniature Greenhouse For Hanging Soda Bottle Planters | Urban Organic Gardener()

  • lauranimist

    great idea – no need to “protect” those phone books, though. Being organic material, if left alone, they'll turn into soil eventually, and then you can put some more phone books under there.

    wrapped in plastic – those phone books could last a thousand years or more.

    if the reason for wrapping the phone books in plastic is to keep them from curling open and getting all warped, then try just wrapping some twine around them. After a couple years, throw them somewhere that needs some fill material, put new ones in.

  • Mike Lieberman

    So they'll just crumble on my fire escape and turn to soil?

  • lauranimist

    Kinda – in the way a pine plank would crumble… very slowly…:-)

  • Mike Lieberman

    I think crumbling stuff on the fire escape would be bad. I'll just keep them in the bags. Good to know though. Thanks!

  • Jennifer


  • Jennifer


  • Pingback: Grams Weighs In On My Greenhouse | Urban Organic Gardener()

  • Pingback: 101 Uses for a Dead Phone Book()

  • Accidental friend

    Colored covers are not the best for the soil, I think Mike did right, he may later recycle those phone books when he no longer needs them, discarding different materials accordingly in a different group /sorting out the recyclables.

  • Accidental friend

    He did not wrap it up perfectly, so at some point the inside will get some moist and starts to break down, even if it is wrapped. Those bags get chipped in a land field [birds, 4 legged animals, tossing it around with machines & stuff] so do not worry about the phone-books, they will disintegrate, it is those bags and duct tape that will not break down in field in a long run, if not separated & recycled.

  • Cprgreaves

    “… wrapped the phone book in a plastic bag …” Just a thought: Why wrap them in plastic?
    Leave them free to soak up water if the plants get too wet (rain, hand-watering etc.) and you’ll be less likely to attract the dripped-on people underneath.
    Bonus: As the weather dries, some minor raise in humidity will occur near the plants.
    Double-Bonus: After a year of leachate soaking into the books, they’ll be ideal as bedding for a vermicomposter!
    P.S. Don’t fret; there’ll be another crop of books next year …

  • Mike Lieberman

    Good call on that. Thanks for the tip.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Good call on that. Thanks for the tip.

  • Elena/SimplyNu

    Great idea! Now I can feel good about having those pesky phone books.

  • Mike Lieberman

    They are such a pain.

  • Melanie Scriptunas

    Great idea! Why do they keep making phone books, anyway?

  • Mike Lieberman

    Lots of advertising $$