Recycling in the garden can be a trash-to-treasure happy ending for your storage space, the environment and your garden! Here is a sampling of creative ways in which potential discards can be used for containers, edging or fencing, labeling, supports and just plain fun in the garden.
Drainage is always a consideration when moving beyond traditional pots, but if you're willing to punch a few holes in your repurposed container or can simply place a drainage ready pot within it, the real work will be narrowing your choices. Hats, shoes, and purses make fun containers. Wooden crates, hollow logs, and old tool boxes offer something less cutesy and, it's easy to quickly take pots in and out of them for changing displays. Kitchenware; pans, cups, bowls, colanders and cans and jars are very much suited to herb and veggie gardens or outdoor dining areas. Get in on vertical gardening by attaching cups or soup ladles, as mini-pots, to an old oven rack then mount it on a wall or fence for growing herbs. To save bigger chunks of landfill space, turn a dead & gutted gas grill into a patio planter or use a worn bathroom sink in the shade garden to overflow with impatiens and vines – and on the tree behind it is where a fading mirror could get a second life.
Edging and Fencing
From the kitchen; pan lids, plates, and saucers (broken or not) can be set on edge into the soil for long-lasting borders. Wine or other long-necked bottles can be pushed in neck first for an easy, sparkling garden surround - place them at an angle to get more coverage than straight up. My beloved herb garden gets a head start each spring from the solar warmth collected by its hodgepodge of edging – a mix of used and broken bricks, blocks, and concrete and large stones – all popular for recycling into fences as well. Pruned branches work well for fencing and twigs of shrubby willows or dogwoods can be bent and woven for different looks. A row of bicycle wheels, sans tires, makes a fun and airy fence sure to draw attention.
Get out your permanent markers, paint pens, and outdoor sealant – labelling is one recycle project on which I highly recommend weatherproofing. The most basic label material can be had by cutting slats from tossed window blinds, or damaged wooden shutters, into stakes. For something more artsy to write the names of your plant friends on, use large shards of broken dishes or garden pots. Upturned bottles or clay pots make great nameplates next to larger plants or amongst a group of plants. Metal markers can be made from can or jar lids – punch a hole to hang from scrap wire or nail to wood. The bowl of a spoon or blade of a knife, placed handle end into the soil, work well in small spaces - especially those kitchenware containers!
Support structures can instantly enliven a garden with vertical and architectural interest. Stepladders, randomly-stacked wooden chairs, and curtain rod or tree branch teepees are perfect for plants to climb or just as focal points. Old doors, windows, shutters or headboards can be used solo or fastened together for more elaborate structures. For my kitchen garden I created an entrance, and vertical growing space, with a gated arbor assembled from two wooden doors and two wooden windows – all of which have multiple pane openings for plants to twine through.
Feathered Friend Fun
Totems of old glassware – cups, creamers, vases, plates, etc. - stacked and glued together, are a fun garden decor trend. They add beauty or funkiness, but can also serve as small feeding stations for birds or butterflies if a cup is used as the top layer of the assemblage. Fill it with bird seed or, for butterflies, with sugar water and a dish-scrub pad or florist marbles for the butterflies to perch on. A saucer just beneath the cup is perfect for plain water, which acts as a moat to keep ants out of the butterflies' nectar. A simple cup and saucer alone, mounted on a section of copper tubing for a soil stake, can be used in the same manner and gives more placement options than an elaborate totem might.
Personally, I often don't weatherproof my repurposed creations... I like to see nature slowly reclaim them and make way for the next bit of inspired recycling, but it is an option to always give careful consideration to.