12 Clever Ways To Repurpose An Old Wheelbarrow In Your Garden

Wheelbarrows have been around for thousands of years, with early iterations dating all the way back to the first century in China. It's no surprise why. These little carts are incredibly convenient for transporting heavy items from potting soil to paving stones, and they've found a permanent place in the toolkits of gardeners and landscapers to help reduce back strain and make larger jobs much more efficient. After years of hauling around materials or storage in a shed, however, it's not uncommon to find that your once-shiny wheelbarrow is looking a little worse for wear.

Even if it's starting to rust or you're working with a wobbly wheel, pause before you toss your wheelbarrow out with the rest of your garbage. It might not be fit for use for its initial purpose anymore, but that doesn't mean that it can't still live on in your garden in another way. Wheelbarrows are meant to be durable, are typically made of metal, and have a fairly simple design, so they can make the perfect base for plenty of different upcycling projects. Whether you're looking for a unique spot to display your plants or a low-cost way to DIY a portable grilling station, you're in luck.

1. Outdoor grill

A backyard barbeque is one of the best ways to take advantage of nice weather while also enjoying a delicious meal, but it does, of course, require you to have one essential component. If you don't have an outdoor grill station available, however, it's actually surprisingly easy to make your own using an old metal wheelbarrow. First, make sure there aren't any components on your wheelbarrow that could melt with heat, then place a grill gate or cooling rack on the top. Fill it with wood or charcoal, give it a light, and you're ready to start cooking.

2. Succulent garden

Wheelbarrows are commonly used to transport gardening supplies, but there's nothing stopping you from using one as a more permanent display piece. Drill some holes in the bottom of your wheelbarrow for drainage, then fill it up with soil and rocks to create a base for your succulents. Lay them out and plant them to create a gorgeous garden, then place your wheelbarrow somewhere it gets plenty of sun. If you're worried about your succulents getting too much rain, you can easily wheel them under some shelter until the storm passes without having to do any heavy lifting.

3. Fire pit

Fire pits can get shockingly expensive, but to make your own, all you really need is an old metal wheelbarrow. Of course, it's important to do a quick safety check to make sure there's nothing on your wheelbarrow that might catch fire or melt, but once you've confirmed that it's good, all you have to do is fill the wheelbarrow with wood and light a flame. The height of the wheelbarrow will keep your fire convenient for roasting marshmallows or warming your hands, and you can easily dump out ash and burnt wood hands-free.

4. Flower planter

Flowers planted just about anywhere can help to add some color to your garden, but creating a wheelbarrow flower planter can turn those small accents into a centerpiece worthy of display. Transitioning a wheelbarrow into a planter is an easy task — all you really need to do is fill it with soil and drill a couple drainage holes if desired — but if you want to take it up a notch and help prevent it from rusting, a couple of coats of spray paint can help. Go for your favorite color, or try out red to attract more hummingbirds.

5. Convenient storage

If your wheelbarrow is no longer fit for hauling, consider using it for storage instead. With a bit of a facelift, whether that includes a protective coat of paint or simply a good scrub to remove any dirt, your old wheelbarrow can become a more permanent fixture on your patio, in a greenhouse, or next to a potting table. After it's completely cleaned and prepped, you can use it to store your smaller gardening tools, outdoor toys, or even beach towels. It is, however, important to keep your wheelbarrow somewhere covered to prevent it from collecting rainwater.

6. Halloween decoration

If you're on the hunt for some cheap and easy Halloween decorations you can DIY, try your hand at making this jack-o-lantern display out of an old wheelbarrow. All you need to do is turn your wheelbarrow on its side and get to work carving a mouth, nose, and set of simple triangular eyes with a power saw. If the metal is rusty, even better — it's already the perfect color for a pumpkin, it's likely a bit flimsy, and the fact that it's a wheelbarrow makes it a thematically-appropriate add on to an existing harvest-themed display. 

7. Drinks cooler

Cold drinks are a must-have for just about any outdoor event, but if you don't have a cooler on hand, don't worry. Buy a couple bags of ice, toss them in your old wheelbarrow, and fill it up with your drinks of choice. While it offers less insulation than a traditional cooler, this should help keep them chilly for at least a couple of hours, even during the hotter months of the year. Once your event is over, remove any leftover drinks and simply tip over your wheelbarrow cooler to easily drain out the melting ice.

8. Outdoor table

Both outdoor furniture and outdoor tools need to be durable and well-made in order to withstand heavy wear and tear and exposure to the elements, so why not combine them into one functional piece? If you add a tabletop to your wheelbarrow, it can easily be transitioned into a unique table. If your wheelbarrow is smaller or you want a taller table, place the tabletop over the existing bed. If it's too large or you're looking for something to function more like a coffee table, however, remove the bed and secure the tabletop directly to the undercarriage.

9. Hanging shelf

Storage is important in just about every space, even outdoors, so if you're looking for some unique shelving that can stand the test of time, consider making a hanging shelf out of a wheelbarrow bed. Remove the undercarriage and wheel so you're just left with the bed, then cut some shelves that will fit into the space out of whatever material you have on hand. Mount the shelves into the bed, then hang it on the wall and store your outdoor essentials or display decorations that can handle exposure to the elements.

10. Garden bed decoration

If you like the idea of using a wheelbarrow as a lawn decoration but you're looking for something that's a bit more unique than a simple planter, consider partially burying it in your garden bed as a decoration. Place your wheelbarrow in your desired location, then tip it forward using the handles as if you were dumping something out. While it's in this position, fill the bed with soil, intentionally making it look like there's dirt spilling out of the wheelbarrow. Plant some flowers in this "spilled" soil, and you have a unique addition to your garden.

11. Fairy garden

Fairy gardens are a great way to add some whimsy and fun to your outdoor spaces, but it can be difficult to find a space that's both out of the way and large enough to play around with different ideas. An old wheelbarrow offers the perfect solution. Because they're larger than a typical planter, you can create a vignette that contains plenty of different tiny elements, and the fact that they sit off the ground means you won't have to worry about stepping on or knocking over the tiny pieces that you worked so hard to create.

12. Herb garden

If you want to branch into the world of growing edible plants but you're not sure where to begin, herbs are a great starting point. They're super easy to grow, have plenty of different uses in the kitchen, and can even be easily cultivated in a small, contained planter, like a wheelbarrow. Growing herbs in a wheelbarrow offers you the chance to repurpose an old item and add some home-grown flavor to your dishes, even if you have limited outdoor space or don't have the ability or desire to build an entirely new in-ground bed.