Top 10 Upcycling Ideas for the Garden

By Nikki Tilley | January 13, 2018
Image by Nikki Tilley
by Nikki Tilley
January 13, 2018

I’ve certainly never been accused of being normal or in need of trying to keep up with the Jones’ by any means. This applies to my life, in general, and also transfers into the garden. I prefer to think outside the box, always daring to be different. I don’t like to follow the “rules” when gardening and tend to make my own as I go. One of the things I love most is upcycling, both inside the home and in the garden. Upcycling, by definition, is basically the act of reusing items that have been discarded or are no longer in use and giving them new life, by crafting them into newer versions with functional uses elsewhere.

This form of “garden recycling“ is a great way to help the environment as well as your pocketbook. And for those that dare to be different, it’s a wonderful opportunity to put those creative juices to work. Whether it’s sculpting unique garden art or reusing old objects for practical purposes, the ideas are endless and the sky’s the limit! Like kitchen recipes, you can take simple ideas and turn them into something all your own. I never know which direction a project is going to go, but that’s half the fun. Let your imagination take over and enjoy the ride.

With that in mind, here are 10 upcycling ideas for the garden to help jump-start your own creativity:

1. Whimsical containers – Whimsical items can pretty much come from anything laying around the home. Instead of tossing them out, look at them in a different way…truth is, you can add a plant to just about any item so long as it has some type of drainage, which is easy to add by the way. I’ve planted in old shoes and boots, teapots, coffee/veggie cans, toys, purses, tackle boxes, books and more.

2. Metal madness – Anything that can hold dirt can be a planter, and metal or aluminum trinkets are no different. If you plan on using these for edibles, adding a liner or smaller pot inside is advisable. And placing these containers in a shadier location helps prevent plants from becoming too hot. Other than that, though, anything goes – galvanized pails, wheelbarrows, old tool boxes, and even colanders make interesting upcycling additions in the garden.

3. Pallet appeal – You can normally find these for free or next to nothing, and it is especially beneficial to anyone that has recently renovated where pallets of stuff have been delivered. No need in hauling that leftover pallet to the landfill. Put it to use in the garden. You can dress it up or leave it natural. They’re great for adding vertical height to small space gardens or simply plant in them horizontally. Ideas for this one are endless.

4. Repurposed furniture – So you’ve done some spring cleaning or simply decided to upgrade your old furniture. Again, you have the option of tossing these out, but why would you want to? Maybe these trinkets hold a bit of nostalgia. Whatever the reason, don’t throw them out. Give them new life instead. That chair could make a nice planter for flowers. You can always decorate that old dresser or desk and add some plants in the drawers.

5. Chimes – Did you know that wind chimes are not only a nice addition to garden areas but can be made rather easily, and from just about anything? Got a bunch of shells from that beach trip years ago? What about old utensils or other metal-like clinkety objects? Turn them into chimes and hang nearby where you can enjoy their sweet sounds. Go a step further and attach your chimes to an old teapot or the like and add a plant inside.

6. Raised beds – Again, if it can hold dirt, then it can hold plants. Turn unlikely items into raised beds such as an old canoe, bathtub, wine barrel, or couch. You can also literally use the headboard and footboard from an old bed to create a raised flower “bed” for the garden. Some objects, like cinderblocks, can even perform double duty as edging for the raised bed with individual planting pockets for additional plants.

7. Unique edging – Just as a number of items can be reused to create raised beds, lots more can be utilized as edging for gardens and walkways, or even to help divide certain areas of the landscape. Some interesting ideas here include the use of old bottles, broken dishes, tires, balls, bowling pins, etc.

8. Tire rotation – Sure, you might be a redneck if you have some old tires laying around so why not show them some love by cleaning them up, slapping on some paint and using them for unique planters in the landscape. You can even use them to plant specific themes for a child, like a dinosaur or fairy garden.

9. Feed the birds – I love wildlife and enjoy putting out food for them so I can watch from afar and laugh at their antics. Birds are at the top of the list and all manner of things can be upcycled into festive bird feeders. An old tea cup and saucer, for example, can both enliven the fall or winter garden while providing much needed nutrition for birds when other food sources are scarce.

10. Interesting garden art – Got some old garden tools? Turn them into unique art pieces for the garden. How about all those old out-of-date CDs? These can make nice artistic additions too. Those traditional gazing balls so many people use in the garden can actually be fairly pricey, but you can work around this by repurposing an old bowling ball (or any suitable round object) with a little paint or glued on mosaic pieces.

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