Garden planters don't have to be boring. Rather than consign your old bikes to landfill, recycle them into snazzy garden art! If you don’t have a matching pair of bikes, you can pick them up from recycling centres for next to nix. Then all you need is a calm day and repurposed timber or treated pine decking for your box planters. Priceless!
Gather your supplies
Preloved 26-inch bicycles with wheels,tyres, pedals and handlebars (2)
Ends (8) 90 x 22 x 180mm treated pine decking
Cleats (12) 70 x 35 x 160mm treated pine
Long sides/base boards (12) 90 x 22 x 1500mm treated pine decking
In total, you’ll need 7 x 3m lengths of 90 x 22mm decking, and 2.1m of 70 x 35mm treated pine
- Step 1: Cut off cables and chains from each bike and discard. The chains must be removed so you can wheel the bikes backwards when you need to. Scrub bikes thoroughly to remove oil, dirt and grime. Use whichever method works best: scrubbing brush, dishwashing brush or rags, and add sugar soap to water to help remove grease.
- Step 2: Sand bikes with fine wet-and-dry sandpaper to remove excess rust and loose paint, smooth out bumps and provide a keyed surface to which paint can adhere. Chrome is not an ideal surface to paint, so make sure you key it well with abrasive paper. You do not want a perfect surface, as a little bucolic charm adds to the look.
- Step 3: Check each bike to see if there are any other bits and pieces you don’t need. It’s best to remove all but the basics to make it easier to paint and to emphasise the shape of each bike. You can easily remove the brake handles, gear shifters, brake calipers and hand grips using allen keys, a shifting spanner or screwdriver. Remove seats, then lower handlebar stems to lowest position.
- Step 4: Mix about 5% water with acrylic paint. The paint won’t last forever because the surfaces to be painted are challenging. Rust may bleed through, and paint on rubber may crack, but if you use leftover paint you already have, it doesn’t really matter. If you need a long-lasting finish, use metal primers and finishes.
- Step 5: Spray-paint bikes outdoors, ideally on a calm day with no wind. As there is a lot of space between bike parts, follow frame and wheels to reduce paint wastage.
- Step 6: While paint dries, make planter boxes. Cut components, then predrill, glue and screw ends to pairs of cleats. The bottom end piece is flush with bottom of cleats and top piece is proud at top, so cleats will be hidden when planter is filled with flowers. Use a 5mm spacer between end pieces. Repeat for other end.
- Step 7: Join 2 ends with sides, aligning them with end pieces and keeping 5mm gap between boards. Glue and screw in place. Flip over and fix other sides.
- Step 8: Add base boards, which are indented about 15mm back from face of sides, leaving an approximate 15mm gap between boards.
- Step 9: To hold sides in alignment and to prevent base from sagging, add a couple of cleats halfway between ends, glued and screwed to sides and base. Repeat to make a second box. Paint boxes inside and out with an exterior acrylic (we used Strap). Allow to dry.
- Step 10: Stand bikes up using stands or stakes driven into the ground at the back wheels. Loosen screws and rotate curved handlebars so they point forward, with outer ends in front of any screws or bolts in stem holding bars in place. With a person to help you, hold front planter against each handlebar, decide on a height, then fix handlebars to planter with pipe saddle clips. The outer saddle clips need to be near planter ends so you can use long screws driven into cleats inside it. After fixing left saddle clip, make sure planter is level, then fix outer right-hand saddle clip to other handlebar.
- Step 11: With 2 ends of planter fixed in place, check bikes are upright. Screw on 2 saddle clips to inner handlebars to secure to planter. This braces the whole assembly. Let planter sag, at this stage, if it wants to.
- Step 12: Place back planter across top tube of bike so it is parallel with front planter. If the two bike frames are different shapes, you may need to cut blocks for 1 side to level the planter. You may also need to cut wedges so the planter is level front to back if top tubes slope down. We raised 1 side by 30mm and the other by 60mm, to take up the discrepancy, and to bring front and back planters to a similar height. Use offcuts of 70 x 35mm pine, and, as 1 top tube slopes down more than the other, cut 1 block as a wedge. Secure with roofing screws by predrilling blocks and top tube of bike and counterboring blocks to take hexagonal screw heads.
- Step 13: Align planter with front planter, ensuring spacing between them is same at each end, then screw planter to blocks.
- Step 14: The front planter box will probably have sagged by this stage. With your trusty helper, hold box level, then measure for a spacer block you can screw to bottom of the planter, to rest against the head tube of the bike. This may be different for each side. Screw to bottom of planter. Touch up paint, as needed. Allow to dry. Wheel planter bike into position, then add potted colour or herbs, as desired.
You’ll also need
Sugar soap; scrubbing brush; fine wet-and-dry sandpaper; Dulux Weathershield Low Sheen Acrylic paint (Light Lavender and Strap), or leftover paint; airless spray gun; construction adhesive; assorted screws, pipe saddle clips to suit handlebars (15-18mm); timber offcuts