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


29 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Melanie Fleur October 16, 2009 at 7:02 am -

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

  2. Mike Lieberman October 16, 2009 at 8:12 am -

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

  3. MichellePierson October 16, 2009 at 8:41 am -

    Brilliant idea! I like this.

  4. Mike Lieberman October 16, 2009 at 8:44 am -

    Thank Michelle. Much easier than folding up cardboard boxes.

  5. AnitaAvalos October 16, 2009 at 9:30 am -

    Should I start saving some for my upcoming garden??

  6. Mike Lieberman October 16, 2009 at 10:30 am -

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

  7. alasha October 16, 2009 at 8:49 pm -

    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?

  8. Mike Lieberman October 17, 2009 at 6:24 am -

    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.

  9. balconygardener October 17, 2009 at 11:59 pm -

    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.

  10. Mike Lieberman October 18, 2009 at 10:33 am -

    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.

  11. lauranimist October 19, 2009 at 10:13 am -

    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.

  12. Mike Lieberman October 19, 2009 at 11:04 am -

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

  13. lauranimist October 19, 2009 at 3:49 pm -

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

  14. Mike Lieberman October 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm -

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

  15. Jennifer October 22, 2009 at 9:53 am -


  16. Jennifer October 22, 2009 at 4:53 pm -


  17. Accidental friend February 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm -

    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.

  18. Accidental friend February 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm -

    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.

  19. Cprgreaves April 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm -

    “… 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 …

  20. Mike Lieberman April 15, 2011 at 11:29 pm -

    Good call on that. Thanks for the tip.

  21. Mike Lieberman April 15, 2011 at 11:29 pm -

    Good call on that. Thanks for the tip.

  22. Elena/SimplyNu April 22, 2011 at 6:05 pm -

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

  23. Mike Lieberman April 22, 2011 at 8:38 pm -

    They are such a pain.

  24. Melanie Scriptunas April 24, 2012 at 8:31 am -

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

  25. Mike Lieberman April 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm -

    Lots of advertising $$

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