Upcycling 101: Look Around Your Home for Cheap Garden Ideas

Upcycle ideas for the garden
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While gardening can save you massive amounts of money on your grocery bill, it can seem expensive to get started. Don’t you need planters, pots, started plants and special gadgets?

When I started my garden a few years ago, I went bananas and bought everything: fancy planters, hundreds (yes, hundreds) of canning jars and all sorts of gardening paraphernalia. Before I knew it, I had spent over $200 on “stuff” — and that didn’t include any plants or seeds.

Don’t be tempted to follow in my footsteps. You don’t actually need anything fancy or expensive. With a little extra effort, anyone with a bit of outdoor space and a willingness to get their hands dirty can start a garden for little to no money. Here’s how to get your grow on for less.

Upcycle What You Already Have

What’s upcycling? It’s the trendier (and cheaper!) version of recycling. You use what you have available, transforming it for a new purpose and turning it into all kinds of Pinterest-worthiness.

Before you can upcycle, though, you need to know what you’re working with. Start by searching your house for potential garden containers and tools, especially in these places:

The Kitchen

The kitchen is the motherlode of upcycled gardening. All sorts of bowls, pots and other random things often wind up gathering dust in a cupboard — like that “black hole” cupboard that sits over the fridge or stove.

Look for any containerlike items, such as:

  • Teapots
  • Colanders
  • Bowls
  • Pots
  • Cups
  • Coffee cans and soda bottles from the recycling bin

Here’s a list of ways you could upcycle some of those items, but don’t let it limit you.

Also keep an eye out for old wooden spoons, which make cute garden markers, and long-tined meat forks, which are great for digging out stubborn weeds.

The Closets

Dig through your closet — and the kids’ as well. Look for anything that’s a bit too worn out to wear but can still hold soil. It’s not the most natural thought process when searching through a closet, but here’s what to look for:

And if you need more inspiration, here are 35 ways to use shoes as planters.

The Garage or Shed

If you’re like me, your garage and shed are bursting at the seams with goodies. Have an extra sink, toilet or tub lying around after a recent renovation? Turn ‘em into a sink planter, a toilet bowl herb garden or a bathtub vegetable garden. Just think of the interesting conversation piece you’ll create!

Scrap wood or pallets can become raised beds; if you don’t have enough in your shed, ask a local store if they’d be willing to part with one.

Pull out that rusty old shovel and hoe and finally put them to good use. If you happen to have an old bicycle or wheelbarrow lying around, you’ve just hit the jackpot for a kitschy backyard planter.

Share With Friends and Neighbors

Ok, so you have your containers ready — it’s time to add plants.

Seeds can be a costly expense: at $2 to $5 a packet, they’re pricey enough to make you reconsider how many different vegetables you really need. Seed packets typically contain many more seeds than the average gardener will use, and the seeds may be less likely to grow if you keep the same packet for years. Solve all of these problems at once by splitting each packet with a friend or two.

No need for a fancy seed-starting tray or kit; try this simple do-it-yourself technique to make your own seed starters from toilet-paper rolls.

If you’re looking for an established plant or cutting, ask around for friends, neighbors or local farmers who may be willing to give or sell you a few extra starts.

Thumbs Up for Upcycling

Behold: an affordable, even free, way to start your garden. With plenty of everyday household items available, you’re bound to find something to upcycle into a useful — and surprisingly trendy — garden essential.

Enjoy your new Pinterest-ready garden — and all the money you’re saving on groceries, thanks to your upcycled, garden-fresh produce.

Steph Weber is a mom and freelance writer hailing from the Midwest. She writes mostly about healthcare, finance, and small business — that is, when she’s not finding her happy place after chasing around a sticker-crazed toddler.