Using re-purposed items in the garden is not just about being more sustainable. It is also a great way to add character to the items in your garden, save money and can be a lot of fun.
Cleaning empty aluminium cans and decorating with hessian may well be eco-chic right now, but it has been done out of necessity for as long as there have been aluminium cans.
The enormous supply of cheap plastic pots that gardeners have access to these days is a reasonably recent phenomenon and one way in which gardening is simply keeping pace with our modern disposable lifestyles.
Re-purposing is a term we are hearing more, and simply means using an item for something other than what it was made for. Here are a few ideas to get you away on your re-purposing journey.
Many older items are full of the sort of character we now associate with a time gone by. They are things that may have nostalgic value or be of a shape or style that is no longer made.
It constantly amazes me the things people discard. Most major cities have some form of annual kerbside collection of rubbish that is too large to fit in the rubbish bin. This is a treasure trove of great items to reuse in the garden. So much that is thrown away simply needs a little imagination to see what it could become.
I love old metal buckets myself, but things like old tins, coffee pots, tea pots and saucepans can all make great planters. On a larger level so too can old gas bottles, wheelbarrows, cement mixers and washing machine drums. Just be aware of the potential for these to get hot in the sun and burn roots.
Reconstructed pallets these can look fabulous. Any quick internet search will give a plethora of ideas. Realistically, the majority of pallets available for free are cheap pine with a short lifespan. Before you put a huge effort in to your project, check that the quality of the wood is up to the task. Quality hardwood pallets are out there, just a little harder to find.
A simple teapot collection, or a collection of blue and white tea cups can make a dainty and beautiful set of planters for small plants. Use a fine drill bit to carefully put a drainage hole in them.
Chairs can make great pot stands – with or without their seats on. In my garden I have chairs for sitting on, chairs holding pot plants, chairs protecting plants from dogs, chairs as plant supports, and some that swap between these jobs!
Things like old CD towers, unwanted dolls houses or even old medicine cupboards all repurpose well as insect hotels. Insect hotels can then be filled with all sorts of fun objects which appeal to you – so long as it has snug holes of lots of different shapes insects will move in.
Anything that holds a plant and some soil can be turned into a pot. In having fun with selecting items to plant into, perhaps the most important question to ask is – does this item make me smile and will I enjoy seeing it my garden?
Baskets tend to work best if the plant in its original plastic pot is sat inside the basket for visual appeal. If you want to plant directly into the basket, line it first with an old t-shirt then plant it up with plants like orchids or hoyas which like good drainage.
Hardy, drought tolerant plants with small root systems will cope in small containers that dry out easily. Succulents are ideal, as are pepperomias and spider plants Chlorophytum. In general the larger the plant, the larger the container it should be planted into. Generally old wheelbarrows are very shallow and dry out quickly. Factor this in to your plant choices and you will have success.
Try and keep some sort of theme to your items. This is important to unify the garden. A lot of unrelated items can end up looking like just that – a lot of junk with plants stuck in them.
A chair, a gate, a feature pot and the letterbox all painted the same bright colour can be very dramatic, particularly in a garden without a lot of other colour.
Don’t throw away those old tools in the back of the shed. Hang them on the fence for effect or weld them together to make interesting sculptures or onto a plain gate for an element of fun.
Children will be particularly keen to help with re-purposing to make a garden they find exciting. Old toys trucks make good planters, perhaps with a toy dinosaur or two for added fun. The crystals from old chandeliers are fun in fairy gardens.
Old gates, ornate bed heads, even a series of bicycle wheels attached vertically to a pole can make artistic and interesting trellises.
Let your imagination run wild
A birdbath that no longer holds water can instead hold succulents or bromeliads. An ornate bird cage without a base can provide protection for plants from birds, possums or other unwelcome visitors. A garden gnome with a hat broken off can have a plant put in the top. An old cupboard can be converted to a characterful potting table, complete with a place to store pots and garden items.
The greatest joy in re-purposing is that you get to have a lot of fun creating your own unique items for the garden. Unleash your imagination and see what happens. If most of the items you use were discarded to begin with, it is no big deal to discard them again if they don’t work for you, which means you have nothing to lose!