It’s easy, free and good for the environment.
So why not reuse — or upcycle — household furniture, equipment and other items for your garden?
In this week’s episode of the video gardening series Dig In, master gardener Debbie Courson Smith shows off five things she has repurposed, including some old pinball machines that are now being used as planters.
The pinball machines are colorful and whimsical, and that’s part of the attraction to upcycling.
“It adds the unexpected to the garden,” said Debbie, who has been recycling all sorts of things for the past 15 years.
The first things she upcycled?
“I used an old, tiered plant shelf as a tomato cage and a broken, three-sectioned fireplace screen as a trellis for sugar snap peas,” she said.
Other items she’s turned into plant cages or trellises include parts of chairs and bar stools, tents and cribs.
A couple items you might want to be careful about upcycling due to possible contamination: old tires and railroad ties (or any treated wood). She recommends they only be used for nonfood plants.
Other common things that can be used that most of us have around the house or in the garage — or can be acquired for a few dollars at yard sales or on Craigslist — are old bookcases, blinds, mail boxes, ironing boards, baby cribs and fence pickets.
Debbie cleaned up and spray painted an old mailbox, and now it’s being used to store garden twine, tools, plant markers, Sharpies and gloves.
“It could be mounted on a pole, but I like to rearrange things often, so I park it on my wooden potting bench, or the portable one,” she said.
Her portable potting bench is a metal ironing board that she rescued from a dumpster. When she’s done with potting, she plans to stand it on its end to use a cucumber trellis.
She’s turned some glittery gold metal blinds that someone trashed into sturdy plant markers. Just use scissors to cut the blinds down to the size you want and then use a Sharpie to label them with plant names.
Fence pickets can be turned into larger garden markers. If you’re not artistic enough to freehand the letters, you can create your own stencil.
Debbie makes a printout of each letter that she’s going to draw on the picket — Times New Roman at size 420. She then uses those to trace the outline on the wood with a Sharpie. The marker weathers well, but may need a touch-up after a few years.
There are a plethora of websites with cool photos of upcycling projects — plants growing in bathtubs, desks, boats, rubber boots and teacups. When you look at these sites, it opens your eyes to all the possibilities.
The pictures on these sites may look great but keep in mind that if you want your plants to survive, they will need good drainage. There are many upcycling opportunities that require little effort beyond paint, drilling holes and/or a zip tie.
“I’ve seen giant garden sculptures made of old tools and machinery parts, and those who work with metal can make beautiful garden gates and arbors out of discarded fittings and other pieces,” Debbie said. “One of my sisters made an arbor out of old doors and it is beautiful.”
Have fun out there, and send us ideas for future gardening videos. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call, 377-6413.
To process (used goods or waste material) so as to produce something that is often better than the original.