Recycled herb planters and an upcycled wooden ladder garden display

My father has always been an avid ‘dumpster diver’. Not quite literally, but as far back as I can remember, he’s always eyed other people’s end-of-driveway trash and scouted for reusable items. Call it resourceful, frugal or ‘green’, he’s made some surprisingly good finds in his time.

Naturally, he passed on a similar love of upcycling to my sisters and I, as this post is proof. On a recent morning I swerved and stopped the car in front of two garbage cans, hopped out,  and opened my hatchback. A distressed, paint-splotched wooden step ladder was tiredly leaning up against one of the bins, awaiting crunch time in the garbage truck.

Thinking of the obvious potential of this find, I quickly loaded the ladder into the car, and sped away. On the way home, I recalled a few projects I had seen on Pinterest. There was this bookshelf, which isn’t one bit safe for my house with small children, and this garden planter, minus the moldy boots. (It’s just my opinion, but workboots are one thing of which world needs less upcycling…)

herbs in recycled tin cans and an old ladder display

An upcycled wooden ladder garden display

When I got home, I ‘planted’ the ladder in one of my raised beds, and decided to use it as a climbing trellis of sorts for cucumbers. Or tomatoes, once it is warm enough to plant them in the garden.

At any rate, someone else’s junk has been given a new purpose in life.

For now, the old wooden ladder holds my potted herbs, safe out of the baby’s reach, and angled for maximum sunlight. What do you think? I kind of love it and it fits well into the rustic style of our urban homestead.

This could be a permanent display, with potted flowers instead of herbs, and would look cute in a corner of the yard. Perhaps when my children are a little older, and I don’t have to  worry about them pulling it down onto themselves.

Now lets talk about another green project: using cans from the kitchen to grow herbs or flowers.

recycled cans for potted kitchen herbs

How to make herb planters from recycled kitchen tin cans

You don’t have to purchase pots or planters for your kitchen herbs this spring, not as long as you have a few empty cans around to recycle.

Here’s how:

  1. Use a can opener to cut a few holes around the bottom of a tin can to allow for drainage.
  2. Add a few pebbles at the bottom, also for drainage.
  3. Fill cans half way up with rich soil or compost.
  4. Place small herbs in and fill around with soil. Don’t pack it too tight.
  5. Water and place in a sunny spot. If kept indoors, store them on a tray.

recycled tin cans for potted herbs

These varieties of basil will be going in the ground in just a few weeks, once the danger of frost has passed. But for now they are very happy to hang out in my old maple syrup cans.

Want to grow your own? Here’s a list of common culinary herbs and their uses, plus instructions on growing your own indoor herb garden.

Got loads of herbs? Read How to Use and Preserve Summer Herbs.

Have you upcycled anything recently?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Great diy project, Aimee!

  2. Hi Aimee,

    Forgive the (perhaps) terribly novice question! I am starting my first garden this year and have been growing my herbs indoors; soon to be taken outdoors. I love the tin planter idea and have several at home I can use. Would the tin not rust, however? And would this hurt the plant or soil at all?


  3. This is so cool! Don’t mind me while I go rooting around all the neighbor’s trash to find some tin cans!

  4. Oh, that is GENIUS using the ladder as a trellis! I never would have thought of that myself. We’re in the middle of selling our houses right now, but if it works and we’re in our new house next year I’m going to plant some pole beans in the garden. A junky old ladder would be awesome for growing beans. Thanks for the idea!

    And yes, we reuse the 5 gallon buckets my husband’s work throws away by the dozen. They’re perfect for food storage, or if we drill holes in their bottoms they’re great little planters. It’s funny, but the older I get the more it BUGS me to just wantonly throw things in the garbage.

  5. I love this idea! I have a small garden on the patio of our apartment and am sorely lacking in space.

  6. Aimee,
    Lovely post! My parents always rescue Christmas trees from the curb to “plant” in the garden for peas, beans, and squash, but it doesn’t look as cute as your ladder does.
    I’ve taken to picking up plants that my neighbors are tossing out with the yard waste. Last fall we rescued a couple of geraniums, sweet potato vines, and some tall spiky plant that lived on top of the microwave over the winter, and are outside now in a coir basket, all cascading and pretty.

  7. I love the ladder so much I’m looking for one now…of course I pitched my old one a couple of years ago…doggone it! Just starting to put some things out down here in Colorado…or should I say ‘up’ here- maybe, hoping…the snow has finally stopped!

  8. Such a cute DIY project!! Now I need a geen thumb!

  9. Wow, this post brought back a flood of memories of my grandma. She planted everything in coffee can and had them placed all over her big porch, lining garden paths and on the porch steps. If she’d had a ladder like you found I have no doubt she’d have done the same with it. Used to cart those cans around all over and rearrange them all for her when I was a little one. Thanks for the great memory! And great idea – I’m an avid upcycler 🙂

  10. It’s gorgeous. I love it and wish it could be part of our lives.. but sadly I can’t seem to keep even the most basic of herbs alive. Hopefully there will be some inspiring (and informational) articles on this topic in the future :).

  11. I’m always on the lookout for anything I could re-purpose, I’ve found many great backgrounds that way.

  12. I love the look of your old wooden ladder. I had the chance last year to pick up an old wooden ironing board at the Habitat for Humanity shop, and I’ve been chiding myself ever since for not doing so. It could have been the basis for a beautiful garden display. I’m going to keep my eyes open for other ‘finds’ and not let them slip by next time

  13. Oh, I love this 🙂 it’s so adorable!

  14. Yes this is a better idea than buying pots for your herbs. I really liked your suggestions about how one should go about potting these herbs in old syrup and soup cans. I shall put this into practice today itself by digging into the bag of cans I have kept for recycling in my front yard.

  15. Pick a spot near the kitchen if possible, so you can step right outside and snip off a sprig without having to hike across the yard.

  16. Aimee, love this post! The pictures are beautiful and the ideas are inspired. You’ve got us thinking about how we can improve our garden area!

  17. It’s a great project! I like upcycler

  18. Very interesting project. Loved it! 🙂

  19. I’ve never been so happy to see spring in my life!! This winter has seemed to drag on. Good gracious this looks incredible.

  20. I really love this idea! Thank you!

  21. Paulo Renato Santos says

    I found these ideas fantastic. Very practical and easy to implement.

  22. I love the look of your old wooden ladder!!!

  23. Amazing how beautiful they look on the stairs. I found it very interesting and I intend to do the same here at home. I love plants.

  24. Julia Amaral says

    Amazing how something so simple turns out to be something so beautiful. I really liked the idea of putting those flowers on a ladder.

  25. sabonete artesanal says

    I really love this idea! Thank you!

  26. Incredible how beautiful it looks. Even an idea of doing it at home too, I hope it looks as beautiful as the one in the photo.

  27. Lovely post! My parents always rescue Christmas trees from the curb to “plant” in the garden for peas, beans, and squash, but it doesn’t look as cute as your ladder does.

  28. Cuidar de orquídeas says

    It’s amazing! Lovely your post and photos!

  29. Vera Lucia says

    Cool or the post! My parents and I would always decorate trees, but it seems to me that it is a much nicer way of doing things.

  30. Como cuidar de orquideas says

    Really a great project! I like upcycler

  31. Projetos belíssimos

  32. Congratulations, great post! Thanks for sharing.

  33. Sergio Matos says

    beautiful work! I’m from Brazil!

  34. It’s amazing! Lovely your post .

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