How to upcycle garden furniture: Six top tips to refresh your garden for less

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With the spiralling cost of living crisis providing a dark backdrop to the brighter days we’re heading into, splashing out on expensive new garden furniture isn’t an option for many. However, if you’re looking for cheaper alternatives to bring your garden back to life, buying second-hand or upcycling items you already have can often be just as effective, and there are myriads of ways to get creative without breaking the bank.

Re-commerce platform Gumtree saw searches for garden furniture increase on its site by 103 percent in the last month, with searches for tables and chairs up 81 percent.

In the last week alone, over 125,000 searches have been run on the site for ‘garden’, clearly indicating Britons are already getting stuck into a summer garden refresh.

Hannah Rouch, Gumtree UK chief marketing officer said: “With summer fast approaching but the cost of living increasing rapidly, we’re seeing more and more Brits on the hunt for second-hand treasures to kit out their gardens without breaking the bank.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen searches for garden furniture double, with tools and accessories also on the rise.

“Some of my personal favourite Gumtree good finds include an old tin bath and Victorian chimney, which could be upcycled and turned into planters – as well as aged terracotta pots that look more authentic than anything you could ever buy new.

“If you’ve never shopped second-hand for your garden, now’s the time to give it a try.”

To satisfy the nation’s green fingers without breaking the bank, spoke to Hannah to find out her top tips to find the best sustainable and second-hand purchases to help bring your garden to life, without it costing the earth.

Get your paintbrush out and weatherproof your garden

Just like you would indoors, think about how colour can add to your garden space.

Hannah said: “Opting for black and neutrals can create a relaxed and modern look, while a pop of colour on furniture can create a fun and playful feel.”

Paint can transform tired garden furniture from faded to fantastic.

Hannah said: “For longevity, make sure you use weatherproof spray paint on metal or an outdoor fence paint on wood.

“Add a glaze of varnish where needed, so it can stay looking fresh year after year.”

Optimise your space

Mirrors are particularly effective in small courtyard gardens, roof terraces, or limited balconies to add an extra dimension.

The reflective effect increases the sense of space and can help project light into the more shady areas.

Hannah said: “Look for old mirrors – either metal-framed or glass that you can mount on walls, or simply rest on outdoor furniture.

Nestle mirrors amongst foliage to create the illusion of a ‘secret garden’ or open out a courtyard by placing an arched mirror opposite a table.

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The bigger the pot, the better

Plant pots are an easy item to upcycle, and you’ve likely got a lot of the equipment already.

Kitchen pots and pans work well when you remove the handles or use a large metal fish kettle to create a more industrial look.

If you can’t part with any pans, second-hand pots are also a great, cheap option.

Hannah said: “Savings can be made by buying plant pots second-hand – you can get beautifully aged terracotta at a bargain.

“In small spaces, planting a handful of the biggest pots you can find will create a more cohesive and relaxing feel than lots of little ones – your plants will be happier, too.

“Bigger pots can also act as a blank canvas for you to put your own mark on and make them truly unique to you.”

Wooden palettes and decking

If you’re on a tight budget, turn a wooden palette into an edgy, rustic coffee table.

Adding castor wheels to the bottom and adding a splash of vibrant colour will give the old piece of wood a new lease of life.

Use old decking cut-offs to create a corner sofa or a garden path. If you trim the decking cut-offs to size, you can neatly curve them amongst gravel to create a fun, bendy pathway.

Get creative with landscaping

Hannah said: “Hard landscaping can cost a small fortune – but you can pick up paving slabs and sleepers for a snip second-hand from local sellers on Gumtree.

“Often people doing a bit of a renovation job themselves will have discards they don’t need, plus you’ll be able to give them another lease of life instead of going to landfill.”

Sweep your space

Sometimes, all a garden needs is a swift tidy up to rejuvenate it.

Hannah said: “You can save a fortune by buying tools second hand, and they often come beautifully pre-loved.

“In small, paved spaces, you can get by with a good hand-trowel, broom and dustpan and brush – though these are crucial whatever size garden you have. I love finishing off a good gardening session with a sweep!”

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