Trash to Treasure in the Garden

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The old windows from my brothers house I used on my arbors.

Trash to Treasure in the Garden

Every year our town has a spring clean-up week and what they don’t want anymore goes to the curb. I start ‘shopping’ early. Over the last few years, I have collected a few lengths of picket fence four feet tall I use for pole bean trellis, an old baby crib I use for peas to climb and old planters, even if they are broken. I use the broken ones for mosaic pieces to adorn the unbroken ones.

Spring is also the time that many people remodel. I collected as many windows of all shapes and sizes and as much useable lumber and built a small but quite sturdy greenhouse! Now I can get my plants started early.


I admit, that some of my favorite garden things are things I’ve found in dumpsters, on the side of the road and begged my brother not to dump during his remodel. Right now my big thing is how to use up all the windows from his house. They are from the 1920’s and just really cool old windows. I put up 6 on our new arbors for a trellis.


I have also saved old sinks, a bed frame (to make a “flower bed”) and of course old wheelbarrows, stoves etc. My poor hubby keeps asking, “What are you going to do with this?” “What did you drag home now?”



I don’t question what Tawra drags home anymore. I know she usually has a really good reason.You can tell how well trained I was when the  last time we were moving her brother and I found an old funny looking bucket with the bottom all rusted out. We were going to toss it but after years of good training (her dad was the same way too) we knew we should ask before we tossed it and, sure enough, it was a treasure.

I love the neighborhood clean-ups too. Last year I wasn’t even looking for anything but noticed my neighbor had set out two huge sections of metal fence in perfect condition. I have mostly metal fencing except for a 15 ft. section of wood that is so bad I have it tied with baling wire trying to keep it from falling. The neighbors pieces are exactly what I need and I even have two metal posts already in the ground. God must have been watching over me though because five minutes after I got them, the trucks came by to haul them off. I almost missed getting them!



photo by Susie


  1. Judy says

    Would like to see a picture of your greenhouse made of old windows. I have some old windows and an old door, most with leaded glass. Wondering what I can do with them outside. My garden currently has an old wood stove, a childs bed for my “flower bed”, an old wooden barrel and a clawfoot tub that I will be planting in this summer.

  2. Lisa says

    We have a Spring clean up day too…a good time for foraging. My husband and I re-use found things all the time and are always on the lookout for useful “trash”.

  3. Rachel says

    I’ve seen old wood windows used as part of decor in a restaurant. If you have an artistic flair you could paint the window panes to look like a view and display on a wall that needs a little something. I’ve been to certain arts & craft fairs to see old interior wide panel doors, cut in half, with a scene painted on the panel and the raised sides acting as the frame.

  4. Cindy says

    I love our city’s curbside clean up. I have gotten all my landscaping bricks, flower pots and numerous other things for my garden. I re did my laundry room with someone old kitchen cabinets. My favorite thing to look for our outdoor kids toys. I have found all kinds of playhouse, slides, little picnic tables, and teeter totters. Those things are insanely expensive new and children out grow them after only a few short years. My back yard looks like a day care center but my children spend hours outside on nice days in there very own playland and it was all free

  5. Rita says

    My dad takes old window frames and puts mirrors behind them. He add a little shelf at the bottom and they are georgeous. I took a big eight pain wooden window, painted the glass to resemble frames and put my children’s pictures in it. Everyone who see’s it love is and it didn’t cost a thing! One neighbor I had took the wooden windows and made a really adorable headboard out of them. Just some ideas…

  6. Wendy says

    Thanks for all the good ideas. I’m going to ‘shop’ around the city when all the big garbage gets put out. I hope that I can find some outdoor toys and some large flower pots/urns for container gardens.

  7. says

    My friend showed me something really cool to do with old windows. Especially the wooden ones. She decoupages pictures onto them and hangs them on the wall. I’m going to be doing a large one for my girls room. I’m blowing up a picture of Paris and Mod Podging it onto the glass so it looks like they can see Paris. That’s what their room decor is. She made one for me from a recycled flower calendar with pics of my family all over it for Christmas this year. They make great gifts and would probably make extra cash at an indie market. Just a thought.

  8. Curtis Morse says

    We started a CSA last year and needed large tubbs or sinks to wash our produce in we priced stainless commercial deep sinks but we’re starting this on a shoestring and needed to spend our money on seeds and other necessities so I got a 55gal plastic barrel and cut it along the sides vertically.then I put the two sides together end to end and built a frame around the entire two tub sink out of scrap 2×4’s I was given from a construction site and made the legs from more scrap 2×4’s. Our scrap made sink worked well all growing season and is ready for this year and it cost nothing but about 3 1/2 hrs of constuction time.

  9. Donna Friend says

    Remember to take a couple of large garbage bags, plastic or newspaper with you if you are not using a pick up truck.Sometimes things on the curb are dirty & have ants.Shake them off good & put them on your plastic.Also feel free to let your imagination run wild on that day, it is truly amazing what prople throw away. My son and I found a beautiful antique dresser on the curb, he was driving his van, went by it, we looked at each other, he reversed, & wall la, we got out & was putting it in his van. One drawer was in pieces, so we got all of those & he put it back together.Now he has a beautiful birds eye maple microwave stand in his apartment!For ch ching, free!& it has sentimental value because it was a good find we made together!

  10. KarenHoward says

    Lots of good ideas here.I also got a Window -Topped Door for free on the side of the road. The man at the house helped me put it into my van. I cut it under the window to make a picture frame for my living room,& I plan to make a table with the bottom half. It has raised & indented sections -but I thought I might Mosaic the indented parts.It came with the sides of the doorway frames-so i’ll use those for legs on the table.Don’t you love it when you find things for free or next to nothing? I sure do! Thanks to everyone for sharing their Great Ideas. : )

  11. katy says

    my daughter took my old french door and put the kids and grandkids pictures in it. She put lots of different colors of paper on the background and added some silk flower chain on the corners to match the paper. It is really beautiful and hangs full length of the sofa. Everyone that sees it loves it.

  12. says

    I need help. I have a claw foot tub minus the feet. It is outside, but I really dont know what to use it for. It would take a lot of dirt to fill it up for a flower or herb garden. Does anyone have any ideas? Please help!

    • says

      If you could fill it part way with gravel or rocks then add the dirt for a garden.
      I have seen this done and the end product looks great.
      I would put it on bricks where the legs should be that way if you eventually want to move it you will not have killed the grass under it. But that would make mowing around it not so easy. Maybe have it on the patio instead.

    • says

      Tawra has had me fill my large flower pots with old plastic bottles and plastic milk containers. This way they are lighter to move if I need move them plus it uses much least dirt. You could do the same with this.

      I have seen claw foot tubs that have had one side cut out and filled with cushions and things for the kids to use as a little reading spot but you would need someone who has a special saw to cut the side.

      You can bury it and make a pond or have a fountain in it.

      Last if your really don’t need it or know what to do with it you might try selling it. Even without the legs people love them. I paid $100 for one to put in my log cabin. It was cheaper then a regular tub and easier to put in for what I needed.

      • Jennie says

        You can also use empty aluminum soda (or beer) cans. I do this on all my big heavy pots. For smaller pots I use styrofoam peanuts in the bottom. Either one cuts back on the soil needed and provide excellent drainage.

  13. Stephanie says

    My mom painted an old window to match her house and hung it by the hedge and out door seating its so cool as though there is a wall of flowers (the hedge) in an outside “room” its a very cool feeling

  14. Lee says

    Afriend of mine gave me a plastic wicker love seat and chair that had been sitting out in the weather. It looked great till I went to pick it up, then all the plastic started to crumble . I took it home took all the plastic strips off it . Cut seat and back out of 3/4 plywood , and painted it made cousins and it looks like new

  15. Vicki Stump says

    When we need big pots for growing veggies, we seek out a appliance junk yard. They sell the big tubs from old washing machines and clothes dryers. Spray paint outside & fill with soil and they already have small holes through out them. $5.00-what a steal!! New big plasic pots are close to $20.00

  16. Judi says

    Many years ago I found a frame for a box springs, I carted it home on my wheelchair and used it as a trellis along the outside rail of my balcony. I enjoyed it for many years, till the weather ruined it. I forgot to paint it;’/

    love your website!!!!

  17. ann says

    Speaking of windows and by the roadside finds andGod watching over we repurposers
    I was “blessed” with a roadside find of a window for my hot box this year. I just couldnt find one no matter how hard I tried or who I asked. Lo and behold on my monthly grocery run last month there on the side of the road was a bunch of broken windows someone had dumped and the nicest and heaviest of them all was still intact. Lord!

  18. Joyce says

    We are now living in a retirement home, and no longer get involved, but up til then…
    We could haul home all kinds of stuff from our recycling center. One day took 2 “new” toilet bowls that had been shipped, wrong size for the tank. They did not want them back, said to break them up…We took them, and a fellow said he had a use for them. We found a 12 ladder, gave a donation and took it home..
    Recycling centers are a good source …to get rid of things, and find treasures,as well as the good old yard sale… and it cleans up the area

  19. Sheri says

    I love your ideas for flower pots! I haven’t started a garden because of the gophers! We have an empty lot next door. It’s like a gopher nursery! I need something with solid bottoms to keep the gophers away from my plants! Great ideas! Maybe someday I can get my garden together!

    Laundry tubs, claw foot tubs, 5-gallon buckets all good ways to keep the gophers from eating up our hard work. We also are on sand. That will also make the water retention better.

    Thank you!

  20. Janner says

    Any ideas for my huge 15X30 ft. “flower pot”? I bought an abandoned house and the in-ground swimming pool is filled with crummy fill dirt out of an old basement (large chunks of concrete and all)! Think I used up most of my creative brain power (and $$$)on so many other home projects…I am just stumped!…no pun intended.

    • says

      Just consider it a big raised bed. Add lots of compost or spend a year making your own putting grass clippings, food, dead flowers, hay etc. and the let it rot a year.

  21. em says

    Dear ‘Stumped’ look at ‘hugelkultur’ on the web, or ‘walipini’, two amazing ways to a great garden experience, you may want to use your old pool for either.

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