Celebrate America Recycles Day With These Upcycling Ideas for the Garden

Want to infuse your garden with a sense of sustainability? This America Recycles Day, consider turning some of your trash into treasure with these upcycling ideas for the garden!

Upcycling refers to taking things that you might otherwise throw away and turning them into something new. It’s not just recycling—it’s the “reuse” part of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra. Instead of tossing out your old junk, think of what else you can use it for. If you have a great idea but it won’t fit into your garden’s aesthetic, consider turning it into something you can sell on Etsy or through a local fleamarket.

Read on to learn more about how you can turn your old junk into something new!

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons


How to Upcycle Planters Out of Old Objects

Making planters is one of the easiest places to turn your old belongings into cute new items for your garden. If you’ve got a piece of junk deep enough to fit your hand, you’ve got something that can become a planter with a little elbow grease.

Boots and other old shoes are great for turning into kitschy planters to spice up your garden decor. No need to run out and buy one—simply take an old pair and drill a few drainage holes in the bottom. You can also place a layer of rocks in the bottom of the shoe to keep water from accumulating at the roots if you don’t have a drill handy.

It doesn’t hurt to double up on drainage holes and rocks if your shoe is canvas or another absorbent material, as this will help reduce the amount of time the plant’s roots will spend soaking. Fill your shoe or boot with dirt, plant your flowers, and you’re done!

Barrels are another great choice for turning into planters. Though you might not find an old oil drum particularly inspiring, a little paint can take care of that. Paint them in matte pastels or with a classy rose gold and you’ll have something fresh and unique to make your garden stand out. Simply fill the drum with dirt and plant your flowers in it!

If you have a collection of buckets hanging out in your garage, those, too, will make great planters.  You can drill holes in the bottom for draining or add a layer of rocks. Don’t be afraid to get creative with decor—you can wrap your buckets in burlap for a rustic, shabby chic look, or paint them in bright colors to really make them stand out. 

The same is even true of old soda cans, one of the most common items to wash up on beaches. Cut out the top, paint the can, drill holes in the bottom, add dirt, and presto—you’ve turned a common piece of garbage into something cute and unique for your garden. 


How to Make Upcycled Beds and Garden Features

If you need something a little larger to grow and support your flowers, fruits, and vegetables, have no fear. Bigger items, such as pallets and tires, can make great additions to the garden by turning old items into new ones.

Pallets are an upcycler’s best friend. Even better, they can often be found for free—small businesses often toss pallets into dumpsters, which can be reclaimed for your own projects. However, be sure that the pallet hasn’t been treated with chemicals, which can cause health issues.

Pallets are stamped with codes that indicate whether or not they’ve been treated, and if they’ve been treated, what with. If the pallet is stamped HT, you’re in the clear, as it’s only been treated with heat. If you see MB, leave it, as it’s been treated with methyl bromide, which can cause blisters and other problems if touched.

Once you know that it’s safe, you can repurpose pallets for a variety of purposes.

Stephanie Booth / Flickr


A pallet makes a great hanging garden, for example. Turn it on its side, add some landscaping fabric, and pour in soil. You can plant all kinds of things in it, though many people favor ferns and herbs for a beautiful, lush wall of greenery with minimal space. 

Tires are another great option for creating unique garden spaces. If you like the industrial look, they can simply be placed on the ground, filled with dirt, and planted in, or even hung up for a circular feature with flowers in the bottom. If you want to get a little more creative with tire planters, you can wrap them in burlap, paint them whatever color you like, or wrap them in rope for a classy, rustic look.

Got furniture you’re thinking of throwing out? A chest of drawers, a chair, or even a bathtub can make a neat garden feature with some flowers planted inside. As with any other kind of planter, be sure whatever you create has adequate drainage, and, if you’re using wood, protect it with roofing cement and landscape fabric so you don’t lose it to rot.

If you have an old window lying around, turn it into the lid for a little greenhouse! This upcycling craft requires a little elbow grease, but using some cedar boards and power tools, you can repurpose a vintage window to help start tender plants or to keep your more cold-sensitive plants in season a little longer. 

Miscellaneous Upcycling Crafts

Not every upcycling craft has to be a large project, nor does it have to be plant-oriented. There are a lot of things you can do with old items to turn them into unique garden decor rather than sending them to a landfill.

What are your favorite upcycling crafts? let us know in the comments below! And if you’re looking to totally transform your backyard into a sustainable paradise, contact the Transblue franchise nearest you!

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