Where growing, making & good living come together

Adventures in frugal vertical gardening: salvaged planters

Posted by on Friday 3 June 2011 in growing, making, wood stuff | 7 comments

A few weeks ago, our next door neighbour with the gorgeous show house revamped his garden for summer. His deck is decorated like a room of the house (including an old vintage dresser, which looks fab with bedding plants draped out of the drawers and is currently topped with a birdcage and some matching framed photos) and he prefers to have just a few pots around the seating area rather than our overgrown scruffy (albeit veg-tastic) garden. As much as I like growing our own food, I do look at his garden wistfully sometimes – so lovely, so little upkeep! ;)

Anyway, so the guy with the great taste was tidying up his garden and at some point in his tidying mission, he decided he no longer wanted four wooden trough planters – he’d had them for a couple of years and they were looking past their best, so he dumped them on the (communal) bonfire heap at the bottom of our garden. I spotted the next time I was passing on the way into the woods with Lily-dog and mentally bagsied them – sure, they were a little past their prime but i) aren’t we all? and ii) they’re nothing a bit of TLC couldn’t fix.

I didn’t actually collect them until yesterday – but on closer inspection confirmed what I’d thought — a couple of bangs with a hammer (to reinsert some nails), a couple of supporting screws and a lick of paint and they’d be fine.

They’d got a bit damp in the recent rain so I let them dry in the sun for a while then wielding my hammer & screwdriver, did my minor fixes. The smaller trough was still in good condition so I just gave the wood a bit of a polish to freshen it up a bit. It’s not perfect but it’ll do as a small herb pot.

The three bigger ones, I cleaned up then slapped on a couple of coats of white acrylic primer. I didn’t want to paint all the way inside, just to roughly where I imagine the soil level will be.

I’d wanted some nice troughs for the balcony for a while – for salad and herbs right next to the kitchen door – and to maximise space, I decided to build another tiered planter stand thing. (The first one of those is proving very useful by the way – it’s currently filled with pots of different salad leaves.) I wanted it to be as simple as possible but the sides of the troughs were too angled to attach uprights to them – I could have attached them directly to the wall with brackets but prefer the flexibility of freestanding stuff where possible, so ended up building another shelved planter stand.

I did start with wider shelves, with room for extra pots on either side, but decided to make it narrower and neater so it would fit better on the balcony and be stronger. I have also added supports onto the bottom of each trough so they can be screwed onto the shelves to make them more stable/less likely to tip over – I just haven’t done that yet because I want to paint everything first. The narrower stand itself is stable but the individual troughs will be a bit top heavy.

The uprights are made from salvaged decking and the shelves from salvaged (due to being warped in parts) battens (both courtesy of John’s dad) – so structurally, it was completely free. I’m not sure where the primer came from (I suspect John’s dad brought that around too, it just appeared in our house) and it will need painting again — I have some leftover gloss paint in fun colours but I think I need exterior paint or an acrylic based paint for outside stuff (don’t I?) so I, gasp, might have to buy a little pot for that bit, unless I can scrounge some off someone else this weekend. Any colour suggestions by the way? (For context, the metalwork of the balcony it’ll stand on is painted black, the walls at that level are exposed Yorkshire stone and the window sills will be black when we get around to painting them.)

Still though, even if I have to buy a little paint, I’ll still be happy with the final cost and the finished item – it’ll more than pay for itself if it grows the herbs and salad I have planned. :)


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  1. Sooz

    They look great, you did a good job making them pretty again!

  2. Suzanne with Laughing Wallet

    Great job! Those look like new! It’s amazing what a little elbow grease can do. And don’t you just love finding free treasure?

  3. Karen M

    So I took a long walk today through the fancy/historic part of our neighbourhood to see what colour the wooden planters and containers are. Beige and “greige” seem to be the go to shades.
    So my advice – live dangerously and see what free or cheap paint you can find. Sometimes DIY stores have cheaper paint on sale where the shade has been mixed wrong.

    It still amazes me what people toss out instead of fix or clean-up. Some of our best furnishings inside or out have come from so called garbage piles. Congrats on the good score!

  4. damnthebroccoli

    They look fantastic, I have some plans for next year. I’m interested to see how these go for you.

  5. Karen M

    Continuing in the high end part of my neighbourhood – wooden planters seem to be painted seafoam as well. (yuck)

    New dog who I think was weaned on red-bull so I’m doing lots of walking. Any means to amuse myself while I’m walking….

  6. louisa

    Karen M: thanks for the research! My fun paint collection is made up largely from those sold-off-cheap not-quite-right shades – but it’s interior gloss paint and I’ve been advised not to use that outside by someone. I will keep an eye out for more suitable paint types in fun colours :) Our dog, despite being 9 when we got her, was super-charged but thankfully showed her true colours soon enough – we were permanently exhausted those first few weeks!

    Damn the Broccoli: thanks! hope your own making goes well :)

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