Casual Gardener: Get down with upcycling

Wellies reused as planters by schoolchildren in Ederney, Co Fermanagh. Picture by Ann McManus

Get in touch with your creative side by turning unwanted items into garden features...

I NEVER cease to be amazed by the tat some people put in their gardens, from gnomes and plastic flowers to pre-cast concrete picket fences and fountains – not all of it cheap, I might add. Each to their own, you might say, after all my own tastes in garden ornaments would be regarded as a little unconventional. Weathered pieces of rusted metal are a particular favourite, as are seal and porpoise skulls – any dead mammal really. Elsewhere, my coastal garden features lobster creels, buoys, fish boxes and bits of driftwood, all salvaged from the shore and given a second life. Long before there was a word for it I was 'upcycling', turning mundane objects – or what some people may refer to as 'pruck' – into garden features.

It would appear that such repurposing is now trendy, prompting one company to offer tips on how to utilise unwanted items outside with a bit of DIY. The only thing I'd caution against here is stretching the bounds of taste. For example, despite having a suitable shape, an old toilet does not an attractive planter make. Less vulgar but equally incongruous is an old tyre transformed into a circular raised bed – it has all the class of discarded chewing gum.

The self-styled penny-pinching pros at have listed the most common items homeowners and gardeners can upcycle to give their outside space a new look.

“With the current cost of living crisis, now is a great time to start looking at what you can upcycle and when it comes to the outdoors, the possibilities are endless," a spokesperson for the company said.

“Upcycling is basically giving another purpose or a second lease of life to something that you may have now outgrown or no longer need."

NetVoucherCodes’ easy garden upcycling projects:

Use old kitchen pots as plant pots – Teapots are especially good for this great for this – and quirky too. But remember, plant pots need to have holes for water drainage, however, to get around this, you can fill the pot with a layer of pebbles before placing your plants in there. This will still give the pot a section for drainage to prevent your plants from becoming overwatered.

Turn an old ladder into a plant display – If you’ve got an old wooden ladder, why not cut it so you have around two or three steps, lean it against a wall and place some plant pots on there. You could even paint it to give a nice pop of colour to your garden.

Turn a pallet into garden furniture – If you can get your hands on a wooden pallet, why not paint this and repurpose it as a nice little coffee table? If you feel like you need extra height you could always prop this up onto some bricks or another pallet.

Create lights with jam jars – Next time you finish off your favourite jar of jam, consider washing out the jar and setting it aside. In the summer evenings, light a candle and pop it into your jam jars to create an ambience.

Repurpose a mirror – Instead of throwing out an old mirror, find a suitable place in your garden to hang it. This will add another element to your outdoor space and the reflection will give the illusion that your garden is bigger.

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