21 Garden Supplies You Should Always Buy At The Thrift Store

I am cheap and I like the environment. I also like to garden and make discoveries, therefore it's totally natural for me to find nearly all of my garden equipment at the local thrift store. I love the idea of getting stuff on the cheap and keeping old stuff out of landfills. I have a few suggestions on where to start, if you're interested:

  1. Ball or Mason Jars--Whether you're a canner or a hipster, you probably recognize the value of a good Ball jar. Stockpile them for pickles and jams or use them to keep smaller quantities of fertilizers and amendments sorted and dry. I love the diamond-cut look of old jelly jars and yeah, they look cute dropped over the top of a practically free, but lacking in charm, $2 solar light from Target.
    I obviously work very hard at setting up these photo shoots
    They also make good cloches in spring or for indoors. You can use them as flame-proof holders for citronella candles (with lids for storage). I like them best for super rustic, hand-tied bouquets and I don't care if that particular look has been done to heck. I think it's the LBD of cut flowers. 
  2. Baskets--Gardeners never have enough STUFF to hold the harvest of late summer (think zucchini). Baskets are so cheap at the the thrift store; you can hit them with a bleach spray, hose them off and let them air dry in the sun. Hoard baskets all winter so you have something worthy to give your harvest to friends all summer instead of an old grocery store bag (which I guess is ironic). 
  3. Blender--You can use an old blender to do a few gross tasks, like chopping up your compost until it's superfine so it composts faster (this also works with vermicomposting). OR you can collect those pesky Japanese beetles in a cup of soapy water and blend them up. Strain it and use that liquid in a spray bottle. It's gross but I've had great success with it. PS it'll stain your hands and gloves black 😬
  4. Bowling Balls-- Maybe it's not everyone's taste but hey, people complain their mulch doesn't last long enough. I say, when your mulch is bowling balls, longevity is NOT an issue. Also, there are a handful of bowling ball/garden crafts you can participate in. 
    I didn't even waste time removing the price tags
  5. Buckets--Never enough buckets! Use them for watering, harvesting, soaking dried out containers, water gardens, storing transplants (temporarily) and making compost tea

  6. Cargo Pants-- What? You won't wear someone else's old pants? Getta grip. It's just gardening! Plus, stuff made 15 years ago is infinitely better made and long-lasting than anything made today. I like to cut the pocket flaps off my cargo pants with scissors on all but one pocket, for easy access. The one pocket WITH the flap is for keys, wallet, bandaids and next of kin info. In case I keel over in the garden. The flaps that were cut off can be shoved into the bottom of the insides of the pockets, as extra lining for pruners or scissors. 
  7. Colanders--Colanders are great for harvesting and washing. You can make an outdoor wash station with 2 buckets and a colander. Fill one bucket with cool water, one drop of dish soap or Dr. Bronners and a few drops of white vinegar. The second bucket just gets cool water. Dunk your freshly harvested goodies (in the colander) in the first bucket, let it sit, maybe agitate it a little. Then shake it off and lower the colander into the second bucket. That PROBABLY got most of the soil and errant critters off your bounty! You can also use colanders as sweet hanging baskets, just line with a square of burlap or an old tea towel, thread some heavy-duty string or yarn through the holes in 3 spots to it hangs level, and load it up with soil and plants. Colanders are an Earth-friendly way to store transplants until you get to planting them, too. 
  8. Gloves--I frequently find vintage garden gloves in thrift stores, all floral and adorable, but other gloves are helpful to have around, too. Old ladylike gloves are great for gardening, too, especially the ones made out of polyester. They are thin enough that you can really weed like crazy but you still feel a little like Holly Golightly. You can throw them in the wash and they come out all...ladylike 
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  10. Old Garden Tools--Seems simple but if you're like me, you can't find everyday tools when you need them, so it's nice to have a little stash here and there. I find rusty hand tools quite frequently in the winter and I often find hoes in a barrel with the golf clubs, too. There is no joke wrapped up in that sentence. I must be getting rusty. (See what I did there?😅)
  11. Old Rugs--If a rug is cheap enough and easy enough to transport, nothing keeps an area weed free like an old rug with a thick layer of mulch over it. Great for areas under patios, under pools and sandboxes and around playhouses. Basically places you REALLY, REALLY don't want to use herbicides. (Note: Herbicides are icky)
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  13. Pantyhose--You're thinking "OH GROSS LADY, I'M NOT USING OLD PANTYHOSE!" but chill, there are ALWAYS new ones in packages at the thrift. Use them to hold up tomatoes and melons (like a hammock for heavy fruit), cut them in strips and use them to tie up branches and vines (especially great with tomato plants) and use them to make a boss outdoor hand washing station you can use all summer. 
  14. Pebbles-- I always find little bags of pebbles and aquarium gravel. This can be used as garnish in containers, water gardens and terrariums. It can provide a little drainage when you don't have any. 
  15. Pipe Cleaners-- Pipe cleaners are THE BEST for tying up tomato plants, fastening bird houses to branches, supporting flower heads in cut arrangements, cleaning water feature pumps and holding milkweed pods together until you're ready to harvest them/spread those seeds around the world, babay. 
  16. Punch bowls--Old punch bowls are a dime a dozen these days and make terrific cloches for plants in spring. You can also place pebbles and stones in them and a little water and create a place for butterflies to drink.
    It might be a cake dome, but you get the idea
  17. Sea Shells-- I never don't see sea shells at the thrift store. My friend, Jean Ann, swears they are THE ANSWER when it comes to keeping super aggressive, city squirrels out of her containers and gardens. She said they don't like how the shells feel on their paws and in that, they are not alone. 
  18. Sheets--Old sheets serve a few purposes in the garden. They are great protection from frost in early spring, late fall. Just throw them over your plants in the evening and off again in the AM. You can use them as a shade cloth if you have late-summer transplants, wet a sheet and spread it over the top of your pile of new plants until you're ready to plant them. Or, spread out a clean sheet and throw plants that you need to collect seeds from on them to dry them and shake out the seeds, for me that's fennel, bachelor's button or hollyhocks. I love using old bed sheets under mulch to keep areas weed-free, too. I find that polyester sheets work best, even though my common sense said cotton was best. It breaks down too fast. 
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  20. Old Silk Shirts--Throw one on and get protection from the sun and the soil
  21. Sun Hats--I go through sun hats like they are going out of style, which is odd because often they are vintage hats and therefore, technically totally out of style (depending on who you ask). I like to keep on by the back door, one by the front door, one in the garage and one in my car. Also, one in the basement, one in my purse and one in my bestie's car. 
  22. Vases--Giving fresh cuts from your garden is THE BEST. Make sure you have plenty of vases so that when you give them, there's no reason to ask for it back. Sometimes I can even get them 4 for a buck. Check out Ball jars (back at #1), old pop bottles, vintage drinking glasses and beer steins. 
  23. Wooden Spoons--Hey, a little grease pencil and they make excellent plant markers
  24. Yarn--Old bits of yarn are great for tying up plants, staking, holding together bits of harvested herbs, trellising beans or other vines, tying together bouquets and as the base for a flower crown.