How to de-clutter your garden on a budget

April 26th, 2015
Posted In: Gardening on a budget

When a friend of mine decides to budget, she always starts by buying things. And it’s the same with having a tidy-up.

You find yourself buying greenhouses and garden sheds, and gorgeous storage thingies….so I have  been given £50 and a challenge by MKM Building Supplies to ‘transform a corner of the garden.’ Within that budget.

De-cluttering your garden

De-cluttering your garden without spending a fortune on…more clutter.

I’d describe myself as a car boot fair and junk shop rat, scurrying down rows of tat, my nose twitching for a bargain. I’ve written several books on the subject, with stylist Liz Bauwens, (Thrifty Chic, Fleamarket Chic and Upcycled

Much of what I own is second-hand – I still use my mother’s old watering can (above), so I thought ‘£50! Wey-hey! I can de-clutter the shed area. Easy.’ Er…well…

Transformation challenge 'before'

The most cluttered part of the garden is the area around the shed – a magnet for oldbits and pieces. I need to organise them.

Before shed area

Another ‘before’ picture of the shed area

Step 1: establish your goals…

As well as making the shed area look more attractive, I need more storage for – in succession – seeds and their associated equipment, seedlings, planted-on plantlings and then for some larger plants that stay potted.

But I don’t want permanent storage – such as greenhouse shelving – because I need different things at different times of year.

Sometimes I can store unused pots in the potting shed – but in spring it’s full of seedlings.

Then, by April or May, the seedlings have started to migrate outside, to be hardened off. So I need plenty of places for trays outside.

Chillies 2

I grew these chillies in pots in this shed area. It’s both sunny and sheltered. But as I don’t plant them in the ground I need plenty of space for larger pots later on in the season.

By August, the area in front of the shed is only used for growing in large pots – I had a dozen chilli plants there last year.

This is also the path that dear Mr Middlesize has to use when he mows the lawn, so the lawn-mower has to get past whatever is there. That’s the thing about a middlesized garden – you never have quite enough space, while usually having quite a lot of work.

Step 2: throw things away….

A large black plastic dustbin bag (cost: £0.05p) is the best de-cluttering friend you will ever have. (If the clutter in your shed is too much for a few large plastic dustbin bags, then you need my special 15-minutes-at-a-time de-cluttering strategy)

Which? Gardening has decided we don’t need to save broken terracotta pots to use as drainage,
there is no point keeping them. Or torn plastic pots, old labels and various dead twiggy things that are not suitable for composting.

There was an old dustbin lid hanging around, so I turned it upside down, and placed it on the concrete urn to turn it into a bird bath. The concrete urn itself is a nightmare as a planter as it simply doesn’t old water, so it might as well be a pedestal.

Dustbin lid bird bath

I put an upturned dustbin lid on top of an urn – it has never been a very good urn for planting

Step 3: The gardener’s guide to storage

Gardening storage needs to be waterproof, dirt-proof and hardy.

That means hardwood, glass (sometimes),
plastic or galvanised metal.

I did check greenhouse shelving online and I could have got what I needed for around £27. But it wouldn’t have been easy to put away, and some of it was too tall – I didn’t want anything in front of the potting shed glass. I also tried to find pretty ironwork shelves – but they start at around £147.

Then I checked IKEA for metal shelving and it does have some (softwood shelves are no good, because it would rot). But it was too tall and not right.

Symonds Salvage

I fell deeply in love with these old apple boxes (from Symonds Salvage, see below) at £18 a head, but they wouldn’t last long outside, and you’d only get two within the £50 budget. I might treat myself one day for storage inside the potting shed…

Step 4: How to make your own shelves without using a hammer or nails…

Mr Middlesize wouldn’t dream of letting me loose with tools. It would be like getting Paddington Bear to do a bit of DIY.

But we have lots of spare bricks piled up and I wondered if I could stack them up and put railway sleepers on them. Y

ou can get second hand railway sleepers (google for local suppliers) for between £11.99 and £25.99 for a 2+ metre length. But it would cost more to get them delivered and cut to size. Or you can get them new from a
builder’s merchants like MKM at around £26 each.

Used scaffolding boards are also resilient to wind and weather, and are half the price. Although they’re definitely not as beautiful.

Symonds Salvage Yard bench

A bench (from Symonds Salvage, see below) might create flexible storage – room underneath for empty pots and a surface for trays or sitting on top. But at £47 it nearly bust the budget….

Step 5: check out the reclamation yard….

I thought I might find some good wood for shelves at a reclamation yard, and also, perhaps, something a little more stable than a pile of bricks to stand it on.

My friend, Kylie and I set out to Symonds Salvage in Bethersden, Kent. It’s heaven for junk shop rats like me.

I’ve learned the fine art of scavenging, initially from my mother, who ran a stall at the scruffy end of the Portobello Road in the 1970s. And also from Liz Bauwens, who recommends going into a junk shop, car boot fair or salvage yard with a system: go methodically up and down all the rows quite quickly, noting anything of interest.

Then once you’ve checked everything out, go back to the few things that caught your eye and spend longer checking them out.

how to shop in a salvage yard

Be systematic when shopping in a salvage yard

Symonds salvage yard

We looked amongst old gates, benches, pillars, water tanks, timber, bird
baths…oh, heaven…

Symonds salvage

Most pieces of stone that could have supported a shelf were outside the budget, but these short lengths of unused sewage pipe and/or chimney stack were only £8 each. I bought two to make stands for my shelf.

Symonds wood barn

And now for the shelf itself – hardwood is essential because of the wet. But hardwood is expensive. I searched through Symonds’ reclaimed wood barn (above)and eventually found a piece of slightly burnt wood that had clearly come from an old building. It was the right length and just £10.

My lovely piece of burnt plank....

My lovely piece of burnt plank….

Step 6: and the junk shop

I am going to make a shelf for seedlings to harden off by setting the old oak plank on top of the two sewer pipes. Empty pots can be stored beneath, and pots with seedlings and small plants on top.

When mid-summer comes, all the seedlings will be planted in the ground, and I’ll need the space in front of the potting shed for big pots of chillies and tomatoes.

So I can simply stack the oak plank and the two sewage pipes away, ready for next year. But I still needed small trays or stands for the seedlings, so I set off to scour Faversham’s second-hand and vintage shops.

Faversham is just over an hour from Victoria and St Pancras, and it’s a wonderful place to rummage in. The main streets and market place has charity and vintage shops. And down by the ancient harbour, Standard Quay, there is an Old English Tools shop.

Vintage tool shop

This building on Faversham’s Standard Quay used to be the oldest working warehouse in Britain. it now has some great vintage and second-hand shops.


Poldark scythe

I got distracted by a ‘Poldark’ scythe. Apparently the scything world is seething
about Poldark as he is not scything properly. But we digress…

Second hand ladder

At another of the Standard Quay shops, I spotted this old wooden step-ladder for £25. It would make flexible shelving (see Lotty’s flowers below), but would stick out too far into the path to allow Mr M’s mower past.

Lotty's flowers

Lotty’s Flowers in Faversham showing us how to use a ladder for storing plant pots….

Step 8: bathroom storage is useful in the garden

I’ve often found that storage or furniture made for bathrooms works in the garden and vice-versa.

We’ve got a ‘wicker’ garden chair made for the garden in our bathroom, for
example, because it won’t suffer from wet towels or splashes the way a real
wicker chair would.

So I thought that the local pound store, Multi Save, would be a useful place to look for small trays for seedlings and potted-on plants. I had been using tin trays, but they have rusted with the wet.

I found two vivid plastic trays at £1.99 each, in purple and lime green. I also got a chrome bathroom tidy for £5.99. And then, at Waitrose, I spotted two plastic ‘wicker’ basket bathroom tidies, one in brown and one in cream. It’s useful to have different sizes of tray and basket.


The purple tray (£1.99) with the two ‘wicker’ bathroom ‘tidies’ from Waitrose and (right) the chrome bathroom ‘tidy’ from the pound store. Plus a mini watering can for watering the seedlings, also from the pound store.

The result:

With £16 for the two sewage pipes, £10 for the length of oak, £5.99,
£1.99 x 2 and £3 x 2 for the bathroom storage, the bill came to


The upturned dustin lid on top of the urn makes a bird bath, and pots are safely stacked away.

The same area: A combination of 'wicker' bathroom baskets, a 'bathroom tidy' and trays from the pound store mean I can take plants in and out of the potting shed to harden off.

The same area: A combination of ‘wicker’ bathroom baskets, a ‘bathroom tidy’ and trays from the pound store mean I can take plants in and out of the potting shed to harden off.

It's all coming together, although the little green watering can has been a wash-out - looks pretty, but doesn't pour.

A grotty area of the garden now transformed, and it all works really well, expect for the little green watering can, which has been a wash-out – looks pretty, but doesn’t pour.

I was surprised by the discipline of having a budget. I usually shop around and try not to buy things on impulse, but having to keep within £50 really made me think about what I was doing and why.

Do let me know your storage and budget tricks…..and if you share this post using the buttonsbelow, thank you!

2 comments on "How to de-clutter your garden on a budget"

  1. Garden storage can be fairly costly, I do like the idea of salvaging from reclamation yards as some of the things to be found are far more interesting than can be bought specifically for the purpose. Thanks for taking the time to post

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