Homemade window pane greenhouse
Got some old windows laying around? Make a quick and easy cold frame!

By Renee Adam

In my house, we don’t throw away anything we can either recycle or reuse – and this has led to our repurposing many items for use in our vegetable garden.

Vegetable garden surrounded by cedar logs
What could be more natural than giving trees and rocks new life in the garden? Notice my stepping stone on the right side of the photo.

It all started with some trees. When we moved into our cottage home several years ago, we discovered a number of cedar trees that had fallen down around our new property. We had decided to build some raised beds to house herbs and veggies, and instead of buying new lumber, my husband went around collecting those beautiful cedar trunks. Not only did we save a lot of money, but the natural odd shape of the beds and the raw state of the trees were the perfect combination to complement the charm and character of our new home.

One of the beds we built turned out to be a bit larger than I’d expected, and I knew I would have difficulty reaching whatever we ended up planting in the middle of it. So we found a large stone in the woods and added it as a “hopping stone” to allow me to reach the center without having to step on any plants. As a bonus, it also added to the aesthetic appeal of the bed.

Toy frog in garden
Mr. Frog, a much loved but outgrown toy belonging to my daughters, now stands guard in the garden. Can you spot him in the back left corner?

Not all of the items we’ve repurposed have originated with Mother Nature. Over the years, trinkets that my daughters have loved have made their way down to the beds, too. There are cute little toy mushrooms, broken but still beloved teapots, play gardening tools the girls no longer use – all serve as delightful finishing touches to our garden.

On a grander scale, in the upcoming months we are planning to renovate our home. The changes will include replacing all of the beautifully weathered 12” pine boards on the exterior that have taken quite a beating over the years from the direct southern sun. We have great plans for those boards! Some will be used to build a new fence that will surround a larger family vegetable garden closer to the kitchen, while others will be used to create new raised beds, a kitchen island, and some bookshelves. The remaining will be bartered with our wonderful neighbor, who just happens to be an amazing carpenter.

Plastic owl in tomato garden
Left behind by our home’s previous owners, this plastic owl now spends his days keeping birds away from our tomatoes.

As you can guess, that’s our family project this summer. I’m looking forward to witnessing the creation of all of these items that will bring us joy while also serving as reminder that just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s not any good. So think about some of your favorite things. Are there any old benches that could hold a row of pots or serve as an outdoor seat so you can sip a cup of tea on your gardening break? Spare windows that could be joined to form a greenhouse for those nippy nights once the weather turns cool again? Perhaps a rusted wheelbarrow that could serve as a mobile lettuce planter? There are so many ways to bring new life to old treasures!