March is when Spring Fever starts to spike, especially among house-bound Southerners. By now, winter has overstayed her welcome and we're all itching to get outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun on our backs and feel fresh dirt between our toes and fingers as we start filling containers and getting garden patches ready for tender new plants. But Mother Nature can be fickle, so if it's not quite time to get out in the garden, look around your garden shed or some antique stores for a few old garden tools and make them into decorative items while you wait for warm temperatures to arrive.
I love gardening. We are re-building my greenhouse in our backyard and I'm excited to get some seeds and bulbs potted up so I have an excuse to spend a little time each day nurturing plants and inhaling the intoxicating fragrance that you get when you mix sunshine, rich soil and young plants.
I think it smells like spring.
Before opening Re-Invintage, I was the managing editor for a very large gardening website. In my 15-plus years of managing the website, I learned a lot about horticulture .... and I discovered that gardening is a universally beloved endeavor shared by people of all ages, political persuasions, professional vocations, and languages throughout the world. For some of us, gardening is farm-to-fork - it puts food on our tables. For some of us, tending plants is therapeutic, lowering anxiety and banishing the tentacles of depression.
No matter why you garden, if you love it, you're probably fond of garden tools as well. And vintage tools lend themselves to all sorts of up cycling, including these ideas for repurposing old hoses, nozzles and hand tools.
Where to find old garden tools?
If you don't have some rusty old tools in your basement, garage, shed or barn, ask around - maybe friends or family have some (or they know somebody who does.) Tools don't have to be ancient to look good as garden decor.
If none of those sources pan out, try yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and antique stores. As you can see from these Pinterest pictures, it's fine to mix and match styles, colors and eras.
How to prep your rusty tools for upcycling?
Rust = patina. Patina is good. Dirt, grease and unidentified sticky substances are not patina. A good sudsy bath can wash away most of the grime. Let them fully air-dry, and then spray with flat or matte clear acrylic sealer (available whoever spray paints are sold.) That will help slow the natural corrosion and rusting, but preserve the patina the piece has already achieved. Wood handles can be washed and allowed to dry back to their current finish, or you can darken them with hemp oil or another wood refinisher like Restor-A-Finish.
And if you aren't a fan of rust, you can sand it down and spray paint it to add a pop of color. to your garden. Hey, it's your tools and your rules!
How to protect your decor?
Rain and UV rays will take their toll on outdoor items, but with some care and maintenance, your works of art can live long and prosper. Make sure wood and metal are not in direct contact with the ground to avoid rusting, rot and termite damage. If possible, protect your items by placing them on a covered porch or patio. Over-winter your items in a shed or garage and re-coat them with a light coat of sealer each spring.
How to incorporate them indoors?
As a few of these photos suggest, those old items can be useful decorations indoors as well. An old leaf rake becomes an interesting seasonal photo or memo holder. Brass nozzles can be wrapped with wire and hold place cards at a garden dinner party, or display photos. A garden rake can hold wine glasses as well as tools.
I hope these ideas inspire you to brave the chilly weather in search of some vintage garden tools, whether you're bringing the garden vibe indoors, or planning for the warmer days ahead!
Note: All photos are courtesy of Pinterest. This article was originally shared with our friends at the Busy Bee Trader in their March 2021 issue. We are proud to create articles and advertise in this long-running guide to antiques and boutique stores in the mid-south.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!