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Repurposed Ladders In The Garden

Not only do ladders add height and interest, but provides open storage like a set of funky shelves. See our best Flea Market Gardening ideas and some fun projects you can do!

When ladders are too fragile to hold people, they can still hold plants! Besides going vertical in the garden, we love them for how rustic they are and ladders are the basis of some of our favorite garden vignettes.

Audra DeGulis's old ladder with rosesAudra DeGulis’s old ladder with roses

Project #1 Rose Trellis

Like Audra DeGulis did, sandwich some white trellis between the house and a folded up vintage ladder for a lacy look that will compliment white flowers. Screw it together with some “L” brackets from the hardware store. Make sure the legs don’t quite touch the ground. Plant a climbing rose in front. The white roses pop against the taupe house color.

Hint: If you have a white house, choose natural wood trellis and plant any color rose!

Annie Downs's rustic garden ladder

Annie Downs’s rustic garden ladder

Think of garden ladders as rustic trellises or shelves to be decorated. The steps can be widened or made into long shelves for planters and vines. We’ll show you how! How about planting a clematis vine underneath? The vine gets the shady roots it needs and can climb up the ladder!

With bright paint or decorated with a collection of birdhouses, galvanized pails or watering cans they become garden art. To paint or not to paint is a delicious decision!

Kirk Willis's tool time ladder trellis

Kirk Willis’s ‘tool time’ ladder trellis

Kirk Willis “This is a favorite project… My wife found this old wooden extension ladder on a curb with a “free” sign. She stood guard over it until I arrived with my pickup! I cut it apart and made it into a trellis. I planted a climbing rose in front of it. I’ll have to take a photo when the rose is in bloom.

Project #2 Build a Flower box Ladder

Shelley Work's planter boxes anchored with brackets

Shelley Work’s planter boxes anchored with brackets

Shelley Work installed small planter boxes on each step of her ladders with long “L” brackets, In fact, you can easily Build this ladder from 1 x 3 lengths of wood. The planter boxes can be purchased or built from 1 x 6 boards and 1 x 2 trim wood around the top edges. She says, “I love my version of a ladder planter and I plan to put a shelf at the top with some decorative bird houses but I need more brackets!”

Melody Manahan's ladder brightens a shady corner

Melody Manahan’s ladder brightens a shady corner

As Jackie Muller, one of our Flea Folk, says, “we tap tap tap them back together each and every year, but when no amount of tapping will work, we salvage what we can for other projects and go on the look out for more abandoned ladders!” Many of us have gone through a multitude of ladders over the years for the gardens!

Jackie says, “We are always so amazed what people throw away. And usually you can find them for $5 at yard sales and I like both the tall ones and the short ones in the garden.”

Nikki Byer's sturdy ladder planter

Nikki Byer’s sturdy ladder planter

Nikki Byer “This ladder was a yard sale buy for $3. I anchored it in my garden and added flowers. Each pot has been secured with screws to the steps.” Birdhouses and terracotta pots are a popular choice to display.

Annie Downs's rustic garden ladder

Annie Downs’s rustic garden ladder

Ideas for tall garden ladders:

  • Display bird houses
  • Attach planter boxes to steps
  • Use as a trellis against a wall
  • Sweet pea or bean trellis
  • Paint a bright color and display pots
  • Lean it against a tree
  • Spray paint a metal or wood ladder, lay it on the ground and plant in the openings
  • Hang watering cans or hanging plants on it

Use short ladders for:

  • Plant stands
  • Side tables
  • Storage on a potting shed
  • Paired with taller ladders
Heather Randall's roadside treasure

Heather Randall’s roadside treasure

Heather Randall “My kids helped me set this up. Roadside treasure, Sue, I’ve taught my son well! He picked it up for me and my daughter helped make it so pretty that people wouldn’t ask ‘Ummm, hey? Why is there a ladder sitting in your yard?’”

Project #3 Make a ‘strawberry pot’ ladder

Make Dorothy Francke's 'strawberry pot' ladder

Make Dorothy Francke’s ‘strawberry pot’ ladder


  • Red paint
  • Black paint
  • Pencil with an eraser
  • 3 1/2 inch thin Bolts and two nuts for each pot
  • Electric drill

Paint pots with red paint and let them dry. While you wait, drill holes in the ladder steps where you’d like to stagger your pots as shown. Attach bolts so they stick up about two inches and thread the nuts above and below and cinch down tightly. The pots will fit over the bolts through the holes in the bottoms. Dip the eraser end of the pencil into the black paint and make dots like a strawberry has. Fun!

Laura Goines found a cute way to hang her watering cans

Laura Goines found a cute way to hang her watering cans

Laura Goines, from The Little Shop Antiques and Gardens, uses a ladder to hang up the watering cans she uses. “Here’s a great way to display sprinkling cans. I have collected around 50 of them (no judging)”

LouJean Bailey's Flea Market display place

LouJean Bailey’s Flea Market display place

LouJean Bailey “I found this old wooden ladder at a local flea market while out “junking” with my daughter. Every item on the ladder came from various junk stores or yard sales with the exception of the old boot on the bottom. It was my husbands. Also, the old rusty shovel hanging in front was one that I “played” with while gardening with my grandmother as a child. I truly enjoy your page!”

Project #4 Easy bird house ladder

Barb Pawlik's hubs attaches the birdhouses

Barb Pawlik’s hubs attaches the birdhouses

Barb Pawlik “Here’s our Bird House Ladder, leaning against the fence. So far, no birds have taken up residence…but we’re hoping! My husband screwed on birdhouses to each step.” This can be done with a wooden or old metal ladder,…painted or not.

“Hubby pounded two pieces of rebar into the ground, then put the ladder legs (which are hollow), onto the rebar so it’s solidly placed.”

Make Barb Pawlik's birdhouse ladder

Make Barb Pawlik’s birdhouse ladder

Cheryl Van Horn's Flea Market birdhouse ladder

Cheryl Van Horn’s Flea Market birdhouse ladder

Cheryl Van Horn “Some rusty items, garage sale birdhouses, a Flea Market old wood ladder, and a wood chicken all hanging out in the herb garden. These are a few of my favorite things. . . like Jeanne Sammons said the other day it’s nice to have the yard and Flea Market art to focus on when the plants aren’t pretty anymore in summer.”

Sue Langley's Fall pumpkin display

Sue Langley’s Fall pumpkin display. Easy!

Project #5 Create painted and planted pails on a ladder

Ann Elias's ladder planter, before and after

Ann Elias’s ladder planter, before and after

Ann Elias masked off stripes on her galvanized pails to add a pop of color to her ladder. She says, “I added some stripes and numbers to my pails on this ladder. Also added a watering can with some crystals attached to it.” Ann installed a shepherd’s hook behind and hung the watering can with strings of crystals hanging from the spout. “I should have added a stripe to the watering can ….and added “H20″ to the side of it….oh well…maybe next year!”

Go with one fun color!

Barb's ladders from 'Our Fairfield Home & Garden'

Barb’s ladders from ‘Our Fairfield Home & Garden’

Have you found more than a few ladders? Barb Rosen, from ‘Our Fairfield Home & Garden‘ showed us her display of three ladders in red. Paint three of your ladders in one color and add birdhouses in the same color for unity and rhythm in a bed of low plants in your garden. Spectacular!

Project #6 Easy Ladder Plant Stand

Make Debbi Oeltjen's ladder plant stand

Make Debbi Oeltjen’s ladder plant stand

Paint a cottage garden step ladder like Debbi Oeltjen’s!

In the color of your choice, prime and paint a ladder and two 1 x 12 boards cut to the lengths you like. Nail or screw small wood blocks to the back ‘legs’ opposite each of the bottom two steps. These will help level the shelves. Set in the shelves and have fun arranging your flower pots and treasures. Add a garden sign like Debbi did. Adorable!

For more fun gardening ideas, visit http://www.fleamarketgardening.org

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