Use Repurposed Junk to Add Character to Your Gardens

3 Materials
30 Minutes

I love picking up junk, or old stuff from flea markets, estate sales, garage sales and thrift stores. In this case, I going to show you how to use an old wheelbarrow to add tons of character to your garden. This wheelbarrow planter could even be used anywhere in your yard to make add a creative statement piece to your landscape.

Here’s my old wheelbarrow that I picked up at an estate sale many years ago. The minute I eyed it, I knew it needed to be added to my menagerie of garden junk. It’s pretty rickety and wouldn’t work very well for the purpose it was intended, so a perfect opportunity to upcycle or repurpose.

I don’t have pictures of this, but I had my hubs drill some holes in the bottom of the wheelbarrow for drainage. If the wheelbarrow is old and rusty, you may not even need to drill holes in the bottom.

Next, I filled the wheelbarrow with potting mix. Just a side note here, I reuse my potting mix that’s in my containers. This may not be a good idea if you live in a climate where it doesn’t get really cold (like my zone 4 gardens) to kill off any bugs or diseases that the soil may harbor.

Decide where your upcycled work of art will go, so you know whether to select plants for sun, or plants for shade. My wheelbarrow has always ended up in the shade, so the plants I’m using are caladium, impatiens, sweet potato vine, coleus and creeping jenny. Don’t get to hung up on plant selection, because anything will look cute and creative. You can even do a little veggie garden or herb garden in an old wheelbarrow.

The next step is to arrange the plants on top of the soil where you think they will look good. Place the taller plants in the middle and work your way around with the plants that will drape on the outside edges. Step back, take a look and make any necessary adjustments.

Then the fun part comes – digging in the dirt. Well, it’s fun to me anyway. Simply dig a hole a little larger than the plant you’re planting. If you’re using old potting soil, add in some Osmocote, or another slow release fertilizer and mix it in with the soil. Place the plant in the hole and fill the soil back in around it. Gently tamp the soil in around the plant. You want to keep the plant secure, but the soil loose, so the roots take off and grow.

Once all your plants are arranged and planted, be sure to give them a good, slow soaking. Then sit back and watch it grow. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your wheelbarrow garden will fill in and start looking amazing.

From each year to the next, the wheelbarrow planter looks different.

Here's the same wheelbarrow planter from last year.

To see how I repurpose other junk items in my gardens, pop over and have a look here: Garden Vignettes Using Flea Market Finds and Upcycled Vintage Garden Decor.

What do you think? Are you ready to start looking for a junky, old wheelbarrow to repurpose?

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Joanna - Gingham Gardens

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

2 questions
  • Sunny
    on Jun 20, 2019

    Love this, but must know...what is that wonderful plant trailing over the side? That really makes it interesting! Thanks!

    • John Just
      on Jun 22, 2020

      even if they only get 4 hrs. of sun, the creeping jenny will do fine!!

  • Sandra Hancock-Albritton
    on Jul 23, 2019

    My husband and I just happened to come upon an old wheelbarrow on the side of the road. I planted Purple Heart Wandering Jew in mine. This is the second year that is has filled and overflown the old wheelbarrow. However, it is the first year that the wild dear has started feasting on my beautiful plant. Can you recommend something not so delicious to deer?

    • Joanna - Gingham Gardens
      on Jul 23, 2019

      Perhaps go with a variety of plants. Like a trailer- creeping Jenny is one that I think deer will leave alone. And maybe a few different annuals. You might have to do a little research on annuals deer don’t eat. As an alternative, spray your wandering Jew plant with Liquid Fence and see if that doesn’t stop them from chomping. Good luck

Join the conversation

4 of 42 comments
  • Shelly Moore
    on Jun 30, 2019

    I have an old wheelbarrow with one bad wheel I got at a junkyard, free. :-) I planted some plants in it last year, (annuals) but they didn't do well. I think it was too shady. I may need more holes in it too. :-/ :-( While reading this I was like.....Duh! Move the wheelbarrow!!! I am re-Doing the pond area where it is anyway, so I'm gonna put it by the garden shed, with fairies and little houses maybe?. Now what to plant........ Maybe sedums? Great ideas!!!! Love this!!! ❤

  • Sarge
    on Aug 6, 2019

    I have an old (big) plastic wheelbarrow in my backyard that I refused to throw away and I had been placing my hand garden tools in it... not any more!!! Thanks for the idea. I love it.

    • Meem Kaplan
      on Aug 10, 2019

      I have one too! I put a piece of plywood in the bottom and used it for moving new potted plants to where I wanted them....No more! I'm following your lead and planting it!

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