Just A Few Upcycling Projects Around My Yard And Garden

September 10th, 2013 - filed under: The Farm » Flora


I live in an itsy bitsy cottage, freestanding – a rare point of pride in this ridiculously overpriced paradise – and in many ways falling apart. I adore it. In our short 9 months together, these sagging walls have seen some of my darkest, some of my strangest, some of my very happiest and most transformative days.

And it’s taking me time to fully occupy this space. I’m not finished yet. Bare walls still stare at me starkly, begging for art. The bathroom is chipped and mildewed; it’s yet to get painted. The list goes on and on. It’s a process, I guess, this single-parenting / part-time-working / full-time-figuring-out-what-to-do-with-my-life . . . and trying to put together a house.

But it’s a fun process!

One of my favorite parts so far has been in the yard and garden. I don’t have vegetables like I did in Portland, because there’s lead in the soil I think, and also because I just don’t have time. But I do have plants. Because I can’t not have plants. I have herbs in pots, and succulents everywhere, and even some zinnias. Next year I’ll have more.

And I’ve made a great game of creatively repurposing random unwanted items into fantastic receptacles for all my precious plants. These are often born of form – because I do so love the look of a really good upcycling – but they’re also mostly born of function (because I still have a raging case of The Poors). Here are a few of my favorite recent projects:


My potting table (a salvaged dresser I found by the side of the road), overrun with wooden wine boxes.

I’ve recently come into a near-endless supply of truly fantastic wooden wine boxes. The result has been that my little beachy bungalow is beginning to have a real motif, which I’ve dubbed “wine box chic”. See?


They’re pretty cute around the house, no? But this is supposed to be about the outdoors, and yes I’ve been using them there as well. They make the very best planter boxes, for cacti:


And for herbs:

Cilantro, parsley, and dill. This was taken a while back and these have really filled out now.

Come to think of it, that flower to the right is in its own upcycled pot as well – a vintage soup mug! I have a whole collection of little plants in vintage mugs (I always drill a hole in the bottom for better drainage). I think they’re so dang cute!

So anyway, speaking of wine . . .

Back at the beginning of summer I posted a tutorial for making hanging tomato planters out of old gallon water bottles, which, in case you were wondering, has been working out splendidly. And in that post, Monika mentioned that she was planning on doing something similar with wine bottles. “Genius!” I thought, and immediately begin to save my bottles.


I haven’t been using this old decorative hanging wine rack because it no longer suits my style (I got it in college), but I just wasn’t ready to let go of it. And now I’m so glad I didn’t! Because with their bottoms cut off, wine bottles make the most lovely little succulent planters.


This one, again, will look even better once the plants fill out. I’ll keep you updated!

And finally, have you ever looked at a piece of *junk* and just been able to see right into it, to see its potential? To see the possibility of what it might be? I was driving Waits to preschool one morning a few months back, and there on the side of the road, I saw this:


What is that thing? Does anyone know? Like a wooden vent cover, or some sort of shutter type thing? I don’t know, but one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and for some reason, in that weird wooden thing my brain saw TREASURE. I tried to stop, couldn’t make it in time, swung around the block, pulled over, and threw it in the back of my Subaru. I carted it home, and there it sat for many many weeks while I was busy doing many other things.

I knew all along, of course, exactly what I wanted to do with it. And a few weekends back, I finally found the time.


I stapled old scrap chicken wire to the back, a couple of layers staggered to create a fine mesh that would prevent potting soil from slipping through. Then I filled each tier with soil, and Waits and I transplanted a bunch of pups from my godparent’s property. Now we have an awesome vertical succulent garden!


He helped me place each one. He has a good eye for composition, don’t you think?

I’ve had so much fun creating a little haven of upcycled and repurposed wonders in my yard this year, and I can’t wait to make new additions. It’s sooo super cliche for bloggers to ask a questions at the end of a post, but here’s a for-reals one – what are your favorite upcycled garden projects you’ve seen around the net? (or have done yourself!) Feel free to share links in the comments below!

  • http://coconutandberries.com/ coconutandberries

    You’re so creative Sayward. I especially love those wine boxes used as shelves and herb planters.

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com/ Monika {windycityvegan}

    I’m so excited you actually used the wine bottle planter idea!! I I need to take photos of mine – they’re on a part of our grounds that’s difficult to get to right now; when I hung them I sort of forgot that we were going to have the field between the arbor (where they’re hanging) and our house cover cropped. They’re right next to our passion flower vine, very pretty.

    My favorite upcycling project, not matter how it’s done, is when a bunch of old doors/windows/whoknowswhat are cobbled together to make a greenhouse or cold frame. (We did this – not pretty. But very functional!)

    *Seeing broken terra cotta pots turned into dioramas or still life sculptures
    *Beautiful glass or mesh items turned into cloches
    *mosaic art
    *anything that can be turned into a vertical planter (LOVE yours!)
    *old furniture repurposed as garden furniture or potting shelves/work areas
    *old timey clawfoot bathtubs used as giant planters for small scale microgardens – I WANT I WANT I WANT
    *non-gardeny items used as edging for beds
    *non-gardeny items used for raised beds and trellises

    Erm, I think that covers it.

  • veronika

    WOW! those planters are awesome!
    thanks for the inspiration!

  • Kylie – FotV

    I don’t have a garden, so no upcycled projects there :( I do love the wine box shelves though…amazing!

  • http://howtofeedawookie.blogspot.com/ WookieWifey

    That potting table is gorgeous, I’m super jealous of that one. Great use for the shutter-wooden-display-doohickey-thing, it looks amazing. Glad I’m not the only one that will pick up “trash” to turn into things. I get the weirdest looks for some of the things I bring home!

    Can’t wait until I can start gardening!!!! Here’s all my ideas for the garden when we get the new place move-in-ready that I’ve been hoarding on pinterest…I have this idea to work in almost ALL of this stuff and have this amazing, jungle-y, secret garden-y vibe going on.


  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    We can totally get you some of those!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Mmmmm Pinterest garden porn. THANK YOU!!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Veronika! Glad you found them inspiring. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I am obsessed with the wine boxes, I find them so lovely and alluring!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yes I want pictures! Please please please. I’ve been loving your MoFoing this month and getting to see more peeks into your life.

    And oh man, yes yes YES to everything on your list! I love all those things, especially repurposed glass cloches, the unexpected furniture-into-garden-art, and of course the claw foot bathtub! I loooove those.

    As usual, great minds thinking alike. =)

  • michellelfelt

    The trash to treasure succulent home is gorgeous! I love when an idea comes together like that. We’ve recently moved into a place that has a yard and a garage (my workshop) so I’ve loved getting to thrift, garden and do projects. Feel good at it’s best. :)

  • Kylie – FotV

    Ooooh awesome!! ;) It would be awesome wall storage for all my crafting supplies!!!

  • Sara Howe

    These are so awesome!!! Thanks for sharing. I just transplanted an aloe plant pup :) but it is nowhere near as cool as your succulent paradise aka heating vent. Can’t wait to see how these plants fill out!

  • Emma

    Hi Sayward, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but haven’t
    commented before. I love recycling interesting containers for plants,
    pen holders, shelves etc! Wine and beer boxes are especially cool, a
    cafe next to my work was clearing out their back rooms and I claimed all
    the old wooden beer crates haha. Spent the next few days driving them
    home on my scooter (that was fun :P) and now they are my laundry baskets

  • Caro

    I’m also a huge fan of those wine boxes; painting them white and creating a little herb garden is also a very pretty present for a house warming party!
    I’ve found this pininterest site with what to do with jars, cans and bottles and there are also some garden projects: http://pinterest.com/cunderwoodboyd/use-those-jars-and-cans-and-bottles/
    also, I really love those lanterns and they are SO easy to DIY: http://pinterest.com/pin/222928250276069932/
    Concerning putting the house together: Do you know younghouselove.com ? This blog has some very good, easy and cheap house fixing ideas – just to let you know.
    I really hope you keep blogging – I just love your posts.

    All the best from Germany!

  • lysette

    You can make a dish stand for Harley. Flip the wine box upside down, cut two holes in the bottom- this works if his water and food dishes have lips- and drop the bowls in the holes. Google image: DIY dog dish stand :)

  • Deirdre

    All of your repurposing is inspiring! Where does one get wooden wine boxes?

  • Gaylen

    Sayward, I stumbled upon you blog about a week ago when I was searching pinterest for a coconut oil conditioner how-to… it was thecoolgirl.com blog that led me to you. Anyway, it was your name that caught my attention. I had a good friend in 5th grade named Sayward, and I as I dug deeper and read more about you on your blog, I realized you must be that same friend. Seriously, how many Saywards grew up in Santa Barbara!?! So…if it is you, I just wanted to say hello and I am now loving your blog!

    P.S. I LOVE the wine boxes planters and have been scouring SB for a place to find them (cheap)!

    Gaylen (Gonzalez) Fair

  • Annie

    We have this place called the Lions Centre which is basically 3 massive sheds of furniture and bric a brac for heaps cheap and run by volunteers. It all goes toward the Lions club (a secular charity). Anyways, I picked up this cute cottagey kitchen dresser for like $15 or something ridiculous, to keep all the non-epic garden supplies (small tools, garden gloves, mosquito incense etc). Over the years I’ve been collecting all the cute little floral tea cups that don’t belong to a set and using them to house mini cacti and succulents, all of which sit pretty on the display bit of the dresser.
    Not really an adventure in DIY, but it looks so damn cute under the porch :)

  • jess sconé

    I love, love, love the wine bottle idea! Borrowing it! <3

  • Anne241

    Love the wine bottle planter-rack! I’ve been hanging wine bottles in crocheted nets as planters and as candle holders – the candle holder ones hang from wire rather than crocheted thread – and they look gorgeous! Make great gifts, too.

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