Re-purposing, or planting outside the box

I believe in re-purposing, especially in the garden. When through my 200+ square feet of raised beds and containers, I love  that so much of what I grow in or on has been re-purposed or in some way rescued from a landfill somewhere.

Re-purposing from house to garden

For example, I have a pot rack where I grow herbs. It used to be one of those racks that go over the backs of toilets to hold towels and such. I was about to toss it a few years ago because it had started getting a bit rusty. At the eleventh hour, I pulled it back from the trash, hit it up with a can of spray paint, and stuck it on the patio.

Re-purposing a pallet, a teapot, a chest and a table frame.

We recently put together a vertical planter out of a re-purposed pallet (free) and some dollar store weed cloth. We’re looking forward to seeing strawberries cascade down the front.

Another example is an old teapot. I loved this silly pot with its frogs and lily ponds, and when I chipped the spout, I was crushed—for about five seconds. Then my imagination took over. Minutes later, it was filled with dirt and seeds shoved in.

Unleash your imagination

I’m not shy about re-purposing. Another dump salvage job in my garden is a rectangular raised bed that started life as a small bureau. When it no longer served as house furniture, we popped the back off, stuck it in the yard, and filled it with dirt. One of my housemates found the perfect trellis for it sitting by the side of the road.

I have old cooking pots, light fixture covers, and more. I even have a cast iron claw foot tub in my yard that started as a planter and is now a compost holder. If there’s a way to reuse something in the garden instead of tossing it, I will!

Things to be careful of when re-purposing

It’s fun to get really creative in the garden. But there are a few things you want to be wary of. This is particularly true if you’re growing food crops in or near reused materials:

  • Never use old tires. They can put toxins into the soil, and so into your food.
  • If you re-purpose a wooden pallet, make sure the pallet is safe for your planned use. There’s a great website called 1001Pallets that has a great article on safe pallet use.
  • If you use an old piece of furniture, a bureau, a bed frame, or old boards, make sure it was not treated with chemicals. Make sure it wasn’t painted with lead paint. If you can’t be sure, don’t use it.

Look for ways to re-purpose items into your garden, and in no time, you’ll find yourself planting outside of the box!


– Su Falcon, Editor in Chief
The Dirt on Organic Gardening Magazine