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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Get growing with recycled planters

First suggested by WWF
You don’t need a garden to get growing – make some recycled planters to turn even the smallest space green.

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You’ll need

  • A4 paper
  • Rope
  • Scissors
  • Sticky labels
  • Coloured pens or pencils
  • Seeds
  • Gardening gloves
  • Compost
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Garden fork
  • A sharp implement (like a screwdriver)
  • Watering can
  • Gravel or stones
  • Yoghurt pot
  • Kitchen roll
  • Cress seeds
  • Wood nails (optional)
  • Breathable membrane (optional)
  • Items to use as recycled planters such as old wellies, shoes, trainers, bags, old or punctured balls, pallets and so on
What is biodiversity
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Food for thought
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Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here.  Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough helpers for each team to have one. You may need some parents and carers to help out if you’re short on helpers.

Finding the perfect pot

  • Ask people to bring their own recycled planters to use.
  • If people don’t have old wellies, footballs or pallets at home, they could use yoghurt pots, jars or other items of clean recycling. 

Choosing your compost

  • Use peat-free compost, as this is better for the environment.
  • If you don’t want to get messy with compost, we’ve included instructions for making cress heads out of yoghurt pots and kitchen roll.

Deciding on seeds

  • Choose plants that are native to the UK and pesticide and peat-free. Choose seeds that are organically grown and not genetically modified. 
  • Different plants have different needs, so think about the seeds or plants that will work best for you.
  • For example, tomatoes need a long, flat, stable container, while potatoes need a deep space for the tubers to grow. Courgettes, marrows and squashes need lots of ground surface around the planting area, while raspberries and cherry tomatoes need space to grow tall and some canes to support them.
A white mug with the red Squirrels logo on and brightly coloured shapes is on a pebble path. It has been filled to the brim with soil and has a purple and green, leafy plant growing out of it.

Get ready to plant

  1. Everyone should chat about what plants need to grow: light, water, and nutrients (usually from soil).
  2. Explain that you don’t need acres of green space to grow things. It’s easy to rummage through the recycling to turn upcycle things into interesting, practical planters.
  3. Ask everyone to hold up the item of recycling they’ll be turning into a planter. Take a look around and see the variety of different items people will use.
  4. To start, adult volunteers should help everyone make holes for drainage.  

The best way to do this depends on the item – you may want to drill holes or puncture the planter with a sharp screwdriver or sharp nail. Put something like a block of wood behind the surface you’re making holes in. We’ve included instructions for specific items below. Make sure an adult’s involved to keep this step safe.

  1. Next, people should line the bottom of the planters with gravel or stones to help water to drain. 
  2. Then, everyone should fill up the planter with peat-free compost. 
  3. Give everyone some plants or seeds to add to their planter.
  4. Everyone should make the finishing touches. They could add labels to tell people what they’ve planted, stand their planter on a tray or plate to catch water, or figure out a way to hang their planter from a hook, shelf or outside.
  5. Everyone should take their planters home. Remind them to take care of the plants by watering them every few days when the soil begins to dry out.

Pull ripped shoes or trainers from your cupboard or fetch the hole-riddled wellies collecting water outside.

They’ve got a new life as a planter waiting for them. You could also use old cloth bags or even old handbags – just make sure the owner agrees first!

  1. If you’re using a shoe, remove the laces and pull out the tongue to get as much potting space as you can.
  2. Make sure there’s drainage so extra water can escape. You may need to make holes in the soles with a sharp screwdriver or sharp nail – put a block of wood on the other side, so the sharp end goes into the wood. An adult should help with this. . 
  3. Line the bottom of the shoe, welly or bag with gravel or stones.
  4. Add some peat-free compost, then put in your plants or sow some seeds. 
  1. Label your planter, so you know what’s inside. Continue to add water every few days when the soil begins to dry out.
  2. Decide how you’ll display the planter. You could stand it on the ground outside or use nails or tacks to fix it to a wall or fence.

You may not be able to play with punctured balls – but there’s no need to throw them away. Give them a new purpose, and give a plant a new home.

  1. Use sharp scissors or a craft knife to cut out a section of ball about two thirds of the way up. This means so you can see (and plant) inside the ball. An adult should help with this.
  2. Unless there're already holes in the base of the ball, stand the ball on a block of wood and use a screwdriver or large nail to make some holes for drainage. Again, an adult should help with this.
  3. Create a loop for hanging by make four holes equally spaced around the ball, about three centimetres below the rim. Thread strong twine or thin rope through to meet at the top and tie a knot.
  1. Decide whether you’ll cut some slits in the sides of the ball, so plants can poke out from all angles.
  2. Line the bottom of the ball with gravel or stones.
  3. Add some peat-free compost, then put in your plants or sow some seeds. 
  4. Label your planter, so you know what’s inside. Continue to add water every few days when the soil begins to dry out.
  5. Display your planter for everyone to enjoy.

A pallet on its side makes a great vertical planter for trailing plants, such as aubrietia or campanula. They don’t take up too much space on the ground so they work well in small areas.

Before using it, make sure the pallet's solid, with no loose slats. Check for loose staples or nails before you begin, too.

  1. Line one side and the bottom with a breathable membrane. 
  2. Secure the pallet to a wall carefully. An adult should help with this.
  1. Line the bottom of the pallet with gravel or stones.
  2. Add some peat-free compost, then put in your plants or sow some seeds. 
  3. Label your planter, so you know what’s growing. Continue to add water every few days when the soil begins to dry out.
  4. Display your planter for everyone to enjoy.

Don’t worry if you haven’t got soil or compost. You can turn a yoghurt pot, or a similar item of recycling, into a planter for some tasty cress.

  1. Remove the label and draw a funny face on the yoghurt pot.
  2. Put some wet kitchen roll in the bottom of the pot. Put some damp cotton wool on top of the kitchen roll.
  3. Evenly spread cress seeds on top of the cotton wool and gently press them down.
  4. Put the pot in a warm place that gets some sunlight - for example, a windowsill is perfect.
  5. Watch the cress grow, but be patient. It’ll take about seven days.
  6. Take a photo of your cress head and share it with your group.
A mixture of upcycled planters can be seen on a picnic bench, in front of a field. Lots of brightly coloured plants are growing from the planters. There's mugs, egg boxes, water bottles, tote fabric bags, teapots and wellington boots.
Logo containing the words Scouts for SDGs. The O in Scouts is made up of 17 coloured segments, representing the 17 goals.

This activity helps contribute towards some of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Find out more about the SDGs, and how Scouts across the world are getting involved.

Logo with the number 12 and the words responsible consumption and production, with an image of a arrow in the shape of a sideways figure 8 below.


This activity was all about valuing the outdoors and helping the community. Did people enjoy getting stuck in to planting seeds or plants?

Do people think they’ll be able to take good care of the plants in their recycled planters? How will the planter help their local environment?

People could think about encouraging wildlife (including bugs) to the area and making it a greener place for everyone to enjoy.

Was anyone surprised by the items that could be reused as planters? How else could they help their local environment, encourage wildlife, or reuse things so they’re not thrown away?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Animals and insects

Be aware of the risks before interacting with animals. Be aware of anyone with allergies, and make alternative arrangements for them.

Gardening and nature

Everyone must wash their hands after the activity has finished. Wear gloves if needed. Explain how to safely use equipment and set clear boundaries so everyone knows what’s allowed.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Glue and solvents

Always supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions that could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.


Before completing this activity make sure you have suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). This could include eye or ear protection, gloves, and anything else you need to protect yourself. You’ll know what you need as a result of completing the risk assessment for the activity.

  • If everyone plants similar seeds (or plants) then you could hold a growing competition. It’s up to you how you judge it – you could look for the tallest plant, the most impressive flower, or the tastiest produce.
  • You could invite a local park, shop, or community centre to display your planters for everyone to enjoy.
  • You could challenge the group to come up with a list of other recycled items that could be used as planters and what plants would be best to grow in them. Ideas could include: car tyres, livestock water troughs, old furniture drawers, dustbins, buckets, colanders, old hanging baskets.

Set the materials up so everyone can access them – some people may want to work on the floor while others use a table. You could offer gloves if anyone doesn’t like the texture of the compost. 

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Take photographs to record your creations. You could create a poster, send them to your local paper, or share them on social media.

Backyard Nature aims to get all children and young people to spend more time enjoying and protecting nature where they live. They believe everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy nature and the tools to protect it.

Discover more at