Gardens are sometimes the best place to upcycle your junk. Sure, there is garden compost, which gives a ‘gift’ back to the earth, and pays you back with excellent soil. But you’d be surprised how nice an eclectic-looking outdoor space can look when it uses junk gardening ideas. This is especially when it costs so little to set up, because you’d be using items that would otherwise be thrown away!

Here are some ideas to use recycled materials in your outdoor space:

Old bicycles upcycled into plant holders (every junk gardening project needs this!)

Bike planters can be a charming addition to an outdoor space, or even just outside a corner shop. Sometimes, you can find versions of these in gardening stores. But why pay for one, when you can make one?

Got an old bike you’re not using? If you spray paint it all one colour (every part of it), it can look more intentional as a decor piece. Hang a basket around its bars, add some floral fauna, and voila! You have a bike planter, and you saved a bike from going to a landfill! Pinterest has plenty photos of these here.

If you don’t have a bike, check out Craigslist or other online classifieds for free or cheap ones.

Sheet mulching with used cardboard and free wood chips

Sheet mulching is a dream for those who want to kill off weeds and reduce their lawn maintenance (think: less of that cumbersome lawn mowing). You can technically mulch as large an area as you want. However, most gardeners use this method for stopping weeds in garden beds, as a ‘border’ around a structure, or as a walkway. But there are no rules! It’s your garden!

Also, we should mention that ‘mulch’ can refer to more than just wood chips. We mention wood chip mulch here because while they may be pricey at your garden centre (though they’ll look nice for their price), you can get them for free if you’ve got a old tree…

When it’s time to cut down a tree or remove a stump, your tree cutting service may offer to to cut, or mulch your giant log before they leave. Opt for mulch instead of firewood, and you’ll have plenty for gardening. In our opinion, the amount of firewood you’d get from a giant tree would take years to consume. But the mulch can be used much quicker, especially since it needs to go down 3 inches thick, and replenished year after year (or as needed).

To start though, you’ll need to cover your ground with your old cardboard, get it wet, then layer on those wood chips. So keep those boxes!

Here are instructions, and a story about its benefits. Here is a video on how to do it, along with an explanation of how it works.

Old stone countertops repurposed as foot paths in your garden

stone countertop floor mosaic outdoorsGot an old countertop made of stone, quartz, marble, granite, etc? Or, if you find some old stone countertops at a construction resell centre (such as Habitat for Humanity ReStore), or find a dumpster you’re legally allowed to take countertop material from…you’ve hit gold. Why pay for concrete or brick pavers when you can smash up the old countertops and make a mosaic pathway?

Here is a Pinterest pin that shows a photo of how one homeowner did a patio flooring project with granite countertops. And here is another! You get the idea. You may need to use concrete or mortar to bind the ‘stones’ in place. If you can find pre-opened bags people are trying to get rid of, you can save even more on this project.

Upcycle old tires in your junk gardening design

You could take old tires to a dedicated recycling centre. Orrrrr…those old tires can become a work of art in your garden. Think of them in new ways, not just as ugly circular rubber. If you add some paint and do some cuts, or stack and hang them a certain way, you can have a whole new look to your outdoor space!

Here is a photo of a painted tire turned into a planter, for the simplest of ideas. The planter ideas can get fancier, if you put a bit more work into cutting them, like this one.

Here is a photo of tires turned into swans and fish. Say goodbye to garden gnomes when you have these! Oh, and here is a rooster planter made of an old tire.

And let’s not forget tire swings and pools!

To conclude: there’s a lot more merit to junk gardening than mere ethics!

The great thing about using recycled materials in your outdoor space is that it’s ok if they falter, or don’t last very long: you’re not paying much for them. In fact, consider them a fun project to get your creative juices going. Sometimes, you can simply give an item a bit of an extended life, before it goes to a recycling depot or landfill. And in all cases, you’re getting something custom-made, just for you!

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