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Thrift Shop Shopping…For The Garden

Your guide to the best picks for the garden from thrift stores.

Flea Market Gardeners are savvy thrift shoppers, but we sometimes hear people say that they’re not good at thrift shopping—they have an aversion to dirt, no patience, or just bad luck. The truth is that anyone can be a good ‘thrifter’ if they keep an open imaginative mind. It’s as simple as recognizing when an object needs a good cleaning, a coat of paint, or even just a ‘re-purpose.’ Here are a few common items to keep an eye out for the next time you’re at the thrift store.Make a date of it

Tip #1: For the most fun, take a fellow shopper with you! I always find more loot when shopping with a friend.

Tip #2: Figure out your regular ‘route’ of local thrift and second-hand shops and follow it often. Now, my car just automatically turns in to thrift stores,…I have no choice!

What to look for:

  • Outdoor or indoor furniture– Give these a good scrub and a fresh coat of paint, OR look for furniture that has great chippy condition and polish up with furniture wax or marine varnish.
  • Windows– Look for windows that people are replacing with new. Check that the caulking is firm and the panes will stay put. If windows are worth saving, you can repair them.

Scrape old putty away with a putty knife.
Replace the metal glazier’s points and re-putty.

Mary Mirabal's exquisite plate forms a flower with a copper stem

Mary Mirabal’s exquisite plate forms a flower with a copper stem

  • Ceramic and terracotta pots I limit myself to certain favorite colors in ceramic pots, but why pay for terracotta in retail stores when you can find them used. We like them even better that way!
  • Old bowling balls– Yep, get ‘em! We can use these in so many ways…
Jeanne Sammons' original door arbor started it all on Flea Market Gardening

Jeanne Sammons’ original door arbor

  • Doors and screen doors- Old doors can be used as backgrounds for our garden vignettes. Also they’re great for screens and as gates in the garden. If you have a place to store them and a way to get them home, do! I once made my morning walking partner carry home an old gingerbread style screen door that I now use in my veg garden.
  • Plates and teapots– I have a weakness for plates and ceramics, I confess! Again, I choose certain favorite colors to prevent myself from going hog wild. Dish flowers and totems can be made from these.
Finches visit the bird bath

Finches visit my bird bath

  • Glass insulators– If you get a good deal by all means grab these up. Thrift stores are raising prices on these so yard sales may be the best bet here. Use them to attract birds to your birdbath or line them up on fences and shelves.
  • Wind chimes or materials to make them– Wind chimes can fill your trees with soothing, relaxing sounds, so snag them or the things to make them like old silverware.
Sitting Pretty - Chairs in the Garden

Sitting Pretty – Marie Niemann’s lovely old chair

  • Chairs and Rocking Chairs- We can’t tell you how many unique chairs and rocking chairs we’ve found at thrift shops around the $20 mark, usually in excellent condition. Chairs and rockers are great for a porch, or flower bed to set a container of lacy flowers on. If your chair is a little dull, try painting it. Wax a nice chippy ‘patina’ with wax to repel water. These won’t last forever in a garden setting, and we’ll always be on the lookout for more.
  • Heavy woven baskets– I stress the word heavy,..the ones made from huge woven material that were in style two decades ago last the longest when you plant them. Line them with plastic to preserve them even longer.
  • Trays– Pick these up for use as seed sorters or serving trays for outdoor parties. Set them on an old stump to hold a potted plant.
Christine Cross's ladder against the tree

Christine Cross’s charming ladder against the tree

  • Ladders– Heavens, if you can carry these home and get a good price, don’t pass them up. Use as a trellis to to hold garden pots and planters. Yard sales still may be the best bargain.
  • Old garden tools– look for old sprinklers, faucets, trowels and long handle tools. Some can still be used and may be better quality than you can buy now. Display them in groups by type or hang on fences and gates. Use as handles on a door.
Debbie McMurry's old gate and blue gazing ball

Debbie’s old gate and blue gazing ball…and, a nice view of her ‘park.’

  • Old chain link garden gates– It’s amazing that people let these go. Some are quite decorative and they make wonderful ‘background’ for a garden scene or to use as an actual gate in the garden.
  • Watering cans– If you find any of these please send them directly to me. ~~ Sue
Watering cans wait for new owners

Watering cans wait for new owners

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