Recycle an Old Ladder into an Herbs Planter
You know how there is always that awkward place along your driveway or against a wall that you don’t know how to use. Perhaps you want to jazz up the little walkway that leads to your front door. It can be time-consuming to build a raised bed out of bricks or concrete or railroad ties. Besides, you may not want to build something too permanent.
But here at the Ornate Bird Garden is a simple landscaping project that you can do in about an hour on your weekend: the Ladder Raised Planter. You can always take it apart later and relocate your herbs to different locations. This project is striking and neat, and puts to good use that old ladder you have hanging around that (1) you don’t dare climb on anymore, (2) you know you’re not going to sell at the next yard sale.
You will need the following supplies:
- An old ladder, preferably wooden
- All-purpose potting soil
- Decorative gravel (optional)
- Creeping herbs (starter plants from the garden center or that you’ve raised from seed)
You’re going to lay the ladder flat on the ground as a raised border, and plant herbs in the rectangular spaces between each rung. Creeping herbs and decorative gravel look striking in this type of planter because they compliment, but do not overwhelm, the ladder’s structure. You can plant tall, bushy herbs if you like, but they will probably grow over the ladder and obscure it so that you’ll stop getting compliments such as, “What a clever planter!”
The amount of potting soil and gravel you’ll need depends on the length of your ladder. The herbs you get depend on how much sun your desired location receives. For a real eye-catching look, get two different herbs with greatly contrasting foliage and flowers. Plant the first space between rungs with one type of herb, then alternate with the other type in the next space. Or you can plant only one type of herb, filling in the alternate spaces between the rungs with decorative gravel.
If you’ve got a northern exposure or a tree that casts deep shade, you’ll want herbs that enjoy shady conditions. Try corsican mint (mentha requienni), and pennyroyal (mentha satureioides) . Plan on watering them every day.
If you have full sun, try herbs that like sun: Roman chamomile (chamaemelum nobile) and creeping thyme (thymus polytrichus) . Do your project at sunset so that the little leafy guys get the entire night to get used to being outdoors before they feel direct sun beating down on them in the morning.
The project: Lay your ladder flat in the desired location and fill the spaces between the rungs about four-fifths full with potting soil. For quick coverage, plant five starter plants in each space: one in the center and one in each corner. Place the herbs about two inches away from each other and the edges. You can then cover the remaining potting soil with gravel that the spreading herbs will eventually push through and cover. Or you can alternate squares of herb plantings with squares filled with gravel.
Keep the sun-loving starter herbs well-watered for the first two weeks until they adapt to their new location. Then you can taper off and water every few days when their soil is dry to the touch. The mint, on the other hand, will demand daily watering.
-  The Herb Society of America New Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses by Deni Brown, copyright Dorling Kindersley Limited 1995, 2001. Pages 277-8.
-  ibid. Pages 164, 389