9 Things You Can Upcycle for the Garden

I’m a big fan of upcycling random items to use in my garden. Sometimes it’s by accident, sometimes by design. Purpose-made items are increasingly expensive, and if we can save money & landfill at the same time, then it’s a win-win. All sorts of things can find a new purpose in the garden- you’re only limited by your needs and imagination!

Here are 9 random things that I’ve upcycled & am using in my backyard right now.

44 gallon drums used as garden beds

I’ve repurposed 12 of these steel 44 gallon drums as garden beds. Initially used to import fruit juice concentrate into Australia, once the contents have been decanted they’re left wanting. Found on Facebook for a bargain price, I was quickly able to turn them into garden beds. I love that they were easy to set up, but also that they’re versatile. I have the option of being able to create different soil types & pH levels as I need to.

Beetroot seedlings growing in my 44 gallon drum garden beds

I’m all about high-raised gardening, so the height of these drums suits me perfectly. All I had to do to start growing was drill a few holes in the bases then fill them up. The bottom 3/4 of each drum is full of organic matter like tree prunings, grass clippings, logs and branches. The top quarter is filled with growing medium. And if you’re wondering- yes, the front ones do get a bit hot, as the afternoon (western) sun hits them directly. But I use this to my advantage by growing heat-loving & out of season crops in them.

Wire wastepaper baskets protecting perpetual spinach & iceberg lettuce

These lightweight wire wastepaper baskets from K-Mart have proven to have multiple uses in my garden. At just $2 each, they’re cheap enough to buy in multiples and can be used in every season. In summer they keep white butterflies off my greens and protect young seedlings from the sun. In winter they help prevent wind damage.

An upcycled wheelbarrow used as a herb bed. L: at time of planting. R: six months later

A herb bed in an old wheelbarrow is an idea I can’t claim for my own, but it’s definitely a good one. Large ornaments add interest and height to a garden, which I always think is nice at the front of a house. I was lucky enough to find this vintage steel wheelbarrow on the side of the road, and it had a few holes in the base so no work was required. Currently it resides in the corner of my shade bed up against the house. Now that it’s been established for several months it’s less visible, but I can always trim back the annuals that surround it.

Upcycling free kerbside finds: these galvanised pieces are now planters for sage, mint & a bay tree

Old galvanised bins, buckets and watering cans make great little garden beds too- I use mine for herbs. Same as the 44 gallon drums, I fill them 3/4 with organic material then top them with growing medium. They sit along my patio edge where they get part sun, which is ideal for herbs in my subtropical climate. I also like that they get great drainage, that they’re big enough to need little attention yet can still be moved if I want.

This vegepod had been upcycled into a propagating station

This old vegepod is now a propagating station. It doesn’t look glamorous, I grant you, but it was cheap and it works well. Another of my secondhand facebook finds, I initially purchased & used it for growing veggies. But when its original stand broke beyond repair, I had to think again. The bed itself was still useable, but was ridiculously heavy when full of soil, and I didn’t have a good spot for it. So I replaced the soil with a perlite & coir mix, nabbed a plastic table off the side of the road, and turned it into a propagating bed.

Cuttings grow beautifully in my vegepod propagating bed

Now it’s sitting under the shade of a mango tree, with a plastic sheet clipped over the top to keep moisture in. I left a gap in the plastic on one side so I can water straight through the shadecloth cover without lifting the lid, and my are cuttings growing beautifully.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and the over-abundance of rain we’ve had in QLD so far in 2022 has driven me to improve my upcycling game even further.

This umbrella stopped my tomatoes from splitting during extended heavy rain

This vintage umbrella isn’t a permanent fixture, but in a pinch I made it work for me. Another roadside find, this brand new cloth umbrella found a home in my garden during Februarys intense rain. I used it to cover my tomato plants, and it stopped the skins from splitting. Perhaps I’ll repurpose it in summer as a shade cover elsewhere in the garden.

I have several of these plastic stools dotted around the pumpkin patch, all saving my crop from the soggy ground underneath

Multipurpose plastic stools are now supporting my pumpkins. The grass they rest on became soggy for over a week, and these little roadside finds are now ensuring my pumpkin harvest will be a good one.

These old braziers are now home to some pots of heirloom tomatoes

In my town, old braziers are easy to find on the side of the road. I don’t mind if they’re a bit rusty, as long they’re sturdy enough to hold a pot and I find their shape appealing. The pair in the above photo contain pots of indeterminate tomatoes, which I will tie to the post behind them as they grow.

Old bird cage stands used as trellising for vines- this one supports malabar spinach

I have no intention of keeping pet birds, but I can’t resist snaffling vintage bird cage stands! I use them to hold up vines and tomatoes which grow from pots sitting on the ground. My patio is large enough to use the outer edge for growing veggies in pots, so it’s nice to make the whole area a bit decorative too.

Are you a garden upcycler too? Tell us your ideas in the comment section- and happy gardening!

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