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Weekend DIY: Busted Bike to Perfect Garden Planter

Jonathan shows you how to turn a two-wheel rust bucket into a green (or blue, or red …) outdoor project.

Spring is here, and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for outdoor projects! We’re kicking off a series of Weekend DIY projects—inspired by the very same projects we did on Property Brothers: Forever Home—you can do to spruce up your yard and get ready for a summer of fun.

This week, we’re revisiting our reno with Leah and Jason, which included a new outdoor seating and garden area. When I found an old bike down the street just waiting to be picked up by a garbage truck, I figured I could save it from a landfill and beautify Leah and Jason’s yard at the same time: by turning that beat-up bike into a beautiful new outdoor planter. And now, you can, too!

You can find beat-up bikes just about anywhere; if you’re somewhere that has a trash drop-off site, you’re almost certain to find one sitting out. You could also look for people selling them for cheap or giving them away on online forums like Facebook Marketplace.

One key here is you’ll want to find somewhere you can lean the bike—don’t rely on a kickstand, or else you’re going to find the rest of your plants crushed any time there’s a summer thunderstorm! This is a great project to do for landscaping close to a house, porch or deck.

bike brakes

Step 1: Parts Removal

To start, we’re cutting brake lines, removing streamers— anything we don’t need for the final product, or that just gets in the way. You can cut brake lines pretty easily with a pair of pliers or wire cutters; on fixed-gear bikes, you likely won’t even have to worry about it.

It’s up to you whether you leave the chain on; I took it off, cleaned it and painted it before reinstalling. It makes for a cleaner look, if you can salvage it.

Step 2: Frame Prep

This is where you want to make sure you picked a bike with as few cosmetic issues as possible, because you can spend a lot of time on rust removal if you don’t. You can use either sandpaper or steel wool; I recommend getting a medium grit sandpaper. All you’re trying to do is smooth out the surface so that the paint adheres better, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you use a spray-on paint designed to go right over rust, then you’re in even better shape.

You also want to make sure there’s no grease on the frame—it needs to be clean. You can use anything from dishwashing soap to a stronger degreaser, depending on how tough it’s stuck on.

Step 3: Paint Away

Spray paint is the fastest and best choice. Some people may like a matte finish, but I would go with something that’s got a little bit of a sheen to it— and, of course, make sure that it’s meant for outdoor use. Some modeling spray paints are not good outside. 

I recommend removing any parts that you don’t want to get spray paint on, like the wheels. You might want to look for a bike that has wheels with quick-release levers—way easier than wrenching and fighting decades of old grease and rust! Plus, if they have a lot of rust on them, you might need to go over the wheels and spokes with steel wool. (And if you really want them to shine, add some Simichrome Polish—a little goes a long way.)

Then you can go to town on the frame. Make sure you have an old tarp or plastic sheets to lay down where you’re painting. If you don’t have a tarp, I like to save those big dry-cleaning plastic bags for just this purpose.

Step 4: Attach the Basket

Once you’ve reinstalled the wheels and your newly-painted chain (if you kept it), here’s the one place you’re probably going to want something new. A new bike basket will be weather-resistant, and you can choose the look you want to match your outdoor space. I recommend something woven or with slats, so you can easily run some zipties through the back to attach it to the bike. Also, you can paint the basket, if it works better with your theme. (I kept mine natural.)

Step 5: Green It Up!

Now you’re ready to plant! Put in some basic potting soil, and then add whatever flowers or plants you like. Depending on what color you painted your bike, you could think about coordinating your flowers based on your decor and season. We have a lot of greenery in here now, but could easily switch it out for holidays and more seasonal plants.

And that’s it! You can check out more DIY and design ideas at @PropertyBrothers on Instagram and at @JonathanScott and @MrDrewScott. Happy DIY-ing!

Catch up on more Property Brothers: Forever Home on HGTV, HGTV GO and discovery+.

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