Re-use and Re-purpose in the Garden: Tutorial

I am a believer that edible garden can be interesting and beautiful. The goals should keep in mind all the basic principles of landscape design: unity, line, texture, form, color, transition, proportion, and balance. The concepts have different names depending on who you are reading, but the concepts are the same. You can read up on this here and here if you want.

Anyhow- in an urban setting and typically small lot sizes, I find it even more important to pay attention to details. This space must perform multiple duties: food production, visual interest, space for recreation and entertaining, and privacy. It is a lot to ask from a small space.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

One way to add visual interest is to re-use items in the garden. Above is an old coke box turned planter and holder of odds and ends.  I like the shiny orange glass carrot I found at a second-hand store for $1.  The frog was part of a wind chime that broke.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

We found this old stove thing at a salvage shop years ago and for about $5 we have a funky place to rest drinks or set a potted plant on.

I come by this naturally. Growing up we had a lobster trap coffee table, outdoor tables made from cable spools, and plants growing out of all kinds of receptacles.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

Empty wine bottles become edging.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

And old bread baking pan I found in the Amanas probably 15 years ago. It has been many things over the years, including mini-shelves inside the house. Now it is a planter for sedums.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

Another find on the same visit to the Amanas- an old dresser drawer with dividers, makes a fun planter.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

The Babylady has a banging wall. Broken wind chimes  and old pans (no longer in use or passed down) attached to a board gives the kiddo a place to bang and make noise outside.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

Salvaged windows from a free pile are hung from the bottom of the deck as a screen.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

A ladder found for a few dollars at a salvage shop becomes a bean trellis every year. Obviously this is from summer, here is what it looks like now. The cinder blocks were also recycled and given a face lift.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

Random piece of old fencing helps hold a floppy oak-leaf hydrangea up.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

Horse-bits hang bird feeders.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

Another coke box-turned-planter.

You can do this too! You could spend a lot of money buying fancy new pots.  You can also spend a lot of money buying salvaged items because (at least in Seattle) salvage shops are smokin’ hot.   But don’t do either of those! Look around…there are all kinds of things out there to find that are  free, or close to it.  Most of the things I use were found in salvage shops under $5 or were things that were passed down to me and I have no indoor space for.  Here is one way!

Tutorial:  (Possibly) The Easiest Way to Grow Plants in Found, Re-used, or Re-purposed Objects

It is fun to grow plants in things other than the standard pot.  There are a myriad of ways you can do this and, like most things, no “right” way to do so.  There are just a few things to keep in mind…and after that- go for it! Experiment!


  • Plant needs. Containers will dry out faster. It helps to plant drought tolerant plants.
  • Smaller containers dry out faster.
  • Good drainage is necessary.
  • I like to use sedums or hens-and-chicks (both members of the Crassulaceae family) as they tend to do well in dry and/or rocky conditions.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

I went to an estate sale and scored this old tool box for $5.00! Yay me!  I was either going to store my gardening hand tools in it by the front door or use it as a planter.  Planter won.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

Drill drainage holes around the bottom of any container that doesn’t have natural drainage.    I think pencil sized holes, spaced a few inches apart, are ideal.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

The box was more difficult to drill through than I had hoped so I didn’t place as many (or as large) holes as I would have liked.  Because I thought it could use a bit more drainage and because the container was deeper than I needed for the plants I chose, I put about 1-2″ of small gravel on the bottom.

grow and resist reuse repurpose in the garden

Fill with good quality planting mix or soil/compost mix, plant your plants, and water well.

You are done!

grow and resist reuse and repurpose in the garden

Tool box, broken copper watering can, broken mixing bowl, and old metal farm tin planters.

Have fun!

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12 Responses to Re-use and Re-purpose in the Garden: Tutorial

  1. emmycooks says:

    I love this! I used to have an herb garden in a claw foot bathtub and was sad to say goodbye to it when we moved. I should look for another one (but like you say, the good junk is a little hard to come by in Seattle!).

  2. Mary Brown says:

    We love your yard and you are so creative in using all of those things! The next time you are down you will have to find some things to take and use. When you are in Iowa maybe we will have a little time to scrounge around – there are some really neat places in Kalona and Amana! You amaze us!!

  3. Using the ladder as a trellis for the beans is genius! I am going to start prowling garage sales and second hand stores for one of these.

  4. Sean says:

    Pretty please post this to Punk Domestics?

  5. Winnie says:

    I enjoyed this very much. I love my garden and love crafts, so I plan to use some of these. Thank you.

  6. Awesome ideas! Can’t wait 2 try out a few in the morning:) we r building r AZ Pallet Ranch out of re purposed re used & re cycled materials. New ideas r always great!

  7. Milla says:

    I love it! These are amazing. I’m trying to feel inspired instead of overwhelmed these days and having a hard time, so I appreciate this post. Beauty, functionality, fun, heck yes!

  8. Pingback: Upcycling in the garden | Growing | The Simple Things

  9. Pingback: Top Five. Or Note to Self- It Seems You Like Tutorials | Grow & Resist

  10. Doretha Hodo says:

    I love your ideas and I’m planning to have one like yours. Thank God I found your blog!

  11. Pingback: Garden Hopscotch and Games | Grow & Resist

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