garden gates, in trash-to-treasure style

salvaged garden gate 3IDIDN’T KNOW A PINTLE FROM A GUDGEON, but I knew I had dragged home some rusty, clunky iron tag-sale finds over the years that I’d grown tired of moving around the garage ever since. And so were born my trash-to-treasure style garden gates, thanks to a crafty friend who knows his hinge parts and a thing or two more.

old headboard as gate
This is not my first such adventure. Some 25 years earlier, when I first bought this place, I explored the woods around it and found two foundations of homes long gone—and in one an iron bed, with its decorative headboard and footboard rusting among the collapsing stones. The headboard (above) became a gate by the house and seasonal home to a clematis; the footboard used to support a rose that I have since lost or cast out.

small gate on pipe
After that, I kept bringing things home, but never doing anything with them (sound familiar?). Two small panels with an open basket-weave, like a fancy pie crust, were probably once the grating or protective shutters over a low, arched window. Now they hang on pieces of plumbing pipe, marking two narrow pathways bisecting one big border.

pipe to hold gate 2
My handy friend knew to ask: Did I want the pipe to rust like the “gates” that would be suspended from it? Yes, I said, and so he chose black pipe (capped, above), used for heating and gas lines and such, rather than galvanized; the black is already less new-and-shiny looking. It will wear rather than remain gleaming silvery outdoors. The gudgeons are improvised with a pair of giant eye bolts that pierce the pipe, with a locking nut on the opposite side.

vegetable garden gate
The other new gate (top photo and just above) was actually also a gate in its former life, and now hangs between two 8-by-8 posts I’d had lying behind the barn the last who knows how many years, since the spot where they once stood got dug up and changed when a piece of terrace went in. The posts will look better once vines do their camouflage thing, but we’re off to a good start, anyhow, and it now “announces” the entry to a series of raised vegetable beds. Fun.

pintle and gudgeon
See the pintle, or pin, above, and gudgeon that it slides into, like the pins that hold a rudder on a sailboat? Voila. The hinge of choice for things that swing.

Only problem: I am eyeing roadside tag sales with a new hunger again, now that I’ve managed to clear some space in the garage.

    1. Margaret says:

      Thanks, Jan, and welcome. I swear I don’t know why I was so late on this. Things I don’t understand how to fix myself sometimes end up sitting here forever, languishing. And then to see how easy it was to create “hinges” for them — I felt like a dodo to have had them piled up for so long, unused. I do love my tag-sale stuff. :)

  1. Cheryl says:

    Our garage is home too, to an abundant accumulation of yard sale stuff. All brought home with good intentions but nonetheless sitting there gathering dust. Thanks for the inspiration…since the ground is too wet to garden, I think I’ll go dig in the garage.

  2. Kathy Engel says:

    Love those gates! rusty things, mossy things all find a home in my garden. They may hang from the fence, a post or a tomato trellis. Teapots and bowling balls, free piles at garage sales are gone when I’m done!

  3. Patricia Tryon says:

    I’m not sure we’d get those pretty things past the Home Owners’ Association, but it might be worth the effort (if only to see the looks on their faces!).

  4. shirley taylor says:

    Margaret,I too have a couple of lovely gates sitting around,or should I say,(leaning around).Now Happy gardening!I can see them looking pretty in my garden,given your inspiration! I know,I always feel kinda stupid when I finally use something and it turns out so nice and so easyI think with me it’s the,get down to it factor! Once I make the decision to do it,and get a one track mind about it,I do it! Weird I know,that’s just me. We are having rain with more rain to come here in Oklahoma and my tomatoes are not loving it! Hard to believe,but my part of Oklahoma has had good rains of late.Southwest Oklahoma is another story,parched and dry! Happy Gardening!

  5. Sue D'Onofrio says:

    I just finished your book…loved it and identify somewhat as my husband and I moved to the country from the crowded Jersey shore. Like you, I very much enjoy surrounded by nature….no pesticides allowed and I DO count for Feeder Watch. I’ll be visiting your blog regularly…I .like the old gate photo, which reminds me of the very old fence that is nearly hidden under our very old boxwoods.

  6. Wendy says:

    Hi Margaret,
    You just inspire me more and more! Too much rain here ( near Boston) also to do much outside, but the sun will come out ( right? starting to wonder now!) and I have so many ideas from you! You share such great photos,so many things to see there!! Your garden looks so beautiful! As I told you on Twitter, home recuperating from neck surgery, with only a neck brace I think I can still get into a lot of trouble,going to enjoy these next couple of months playing in the garden with your guidence! ( Redsoxgal5)

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Sue. Glad you enjoyed the book, thank you. Lots of pruning back of overgrown shrubs going on here to this year…maybe I’ll find more gates and feces! :)

      Welcome, Wendy. Hope you are healing fast. Don’t overdo — we don’t want your doctor to yell at us, as I mentioned.

      See you both soon.

  7. Terryk says:

    Love them! They even look pretty without the clematis climbing on them. Imagine how nice they will look dusted with snow…

  8. TomW says:

    yeah, I have several old tool parts that I just cannot toss. I have seen some crafters solder them together into animal or other odd looking shapes. Suppose I will get around to either donating or putting them together somehow. Love the gates.

  9. Johanna says:

    Great inspiration! I had to have a front privacy fence rebuilt this spring, and we’re making it dog-safe with solid gates. But I do want to grow some things on the sunny south side of it, and lovely gates like yours make wonderful trellises… Wonder if there are any barn sales this weekend??!!

  10. Brian G. says:

    Oh, Margaret. Re-read your response to Sue. Some typos are so funny and strangely appropriate. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of that stuff when hacking through the shrubs. I can’t stop laughing, you made my day!

  11. Deborah says:

    Very inspiring, and boy do I have the yard sale ‘treasures’ stashed away, in both barns, in the garage, in the basement, … I need to take inventory and see what I can come up with!

  12. Joanna says:

    You have just given me an idea on how to sort out our electric fence as we need a gate in it. A metal gate would be the perfect answer – don’t worry we will switch off the electric before opening it and for any random trespasser we may even put up a notice in Latvian warning of the danger.

  13. Sharon says:

    Nice inspriration. I have some old broken steel & wood tools in the shed that the previous owners left. I can’t think of anything I can do with them except to make them into garden art.

  14. bavaria says:

    Handy friends are wonderful! So glad yours came to the rescue and helped you make such beauty in the garden, and also inspire all the rest of us. It’s always a pleasure to visit you. Cheers!

  15. Dianna L Kerr says:

    I just love how you gave us all the details on how to mount this stuff!! Kudos to ya Margaret!! I always see a lot of shows and blogs that show great ideas but they just say to put this here or put that there…but never show the mechanics of HOW to put it there… Thanks so much!!

  16. They’re wonderful! And extra special because they were made from treasures you already had. It feels so good to make space by making something beautiful and useful, doesn’t it? I LOVE that arched gate.

    I’ve been cleaning out and decluttering my messy greenhouse and am at the point where I’ve been wandering around the shack and various farmyard sheds, looking for the forgotten treasures I know can be put to good – and pretty – use in there.

    And now I think it’s time to finally hang the vintage iron gate I have kicking around somewhere. ;) Thanks for all the inspiration. Have a great weekend!

    P.S. I love seeing your newsletter in my inbox.

    1. Margaret says:

      Nice to “meet” you, Farmgirl Susan, and thanks for the kind words. Funny how I finally got tired of kicking stuff around (I have had some of these 15+ years, mind you) and asked someone “how could I hang these” thinking it was such a big deal and no, it wasn’t. Hope you unearth your treasure and get it on hinges soon, too.

  17. Mary Moore says:

    Thanks for this post, Margaret, and the super photos in it. Congratulations on your successful projects with those old, previously overlooked things. What an inspiration for us gardening and yard sale addicts! I also loved the comment of the person who said since it’s too wet to dig in the garden, she’ll go out and dig in the garage — what a concept.

  18. Suzanne McAuliffe says:

    Your gates have such whimsy – but how do you treat the base of the veggie gate to keep out rabbits? We’re exactly at that point in a gate design challenge for our own vegetable garden and we could use some tips on whether to add chicken wire – ugly, but which we buried /attached to the deer fence – or if there’s some other suggestion.
    Advice, please!

  19. Dee says:

    pintles and gudgeons, huh? It’s always nice to have words for the things you need, as in ”’honey, when you’re at the salvage yard tomorrow, keep an eye out for pintles and gudgeons.”

    I’m enjoying your book!


  20. mindy arbo says:

    margaret, you are one HOT TICKET with those headboard gates!! Such a clever AHTIST! I also wanted to offer an additional technique. We have a large street gate here that we wanted to be opaque- to block the view of traffic. We bought a large decorative iron gate/trellis at a local nursery and our carpenter built a solid wooden surround for it- somewhat like yours. He then affixed a large trimmed ‘highway sign’ panel (very thin, made to last forever)to one side of the gate, and we painted it to show off the ironwork design. So one side of the gate is a solid panel; the other side is a panel with the decorative ironwork showing.You can see a photo of it on the welcome page of our website:


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