(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 7, 2008.)

Install an old mailbox in your yard

and use it for tool storage.

You may have heard of this idea. I had, and it sure sounded good to me. Call me lazy or disorganized. I never seem to have all the little things handy when I need them, (NOW!) and haven't gotten used to wearing a gardening apron stocked with pruners, twisties and tags. Sometimes I yearn to become a creature of habit, but it doesn't really seem to be in my genetic makeup. I had it in the back of my mind that I needed a garden mailbox. If you have a real rural mailbox that's due for an upgrade, the used box could easily be put to use this way. But that's not how my project came about...

Community dumpster time!

Every year or so, our community borrows a dumpster from the County, and homeowners can handily dispose of bulky junk. Of course, an open, mostly unwatched dumpster lends itself quite well to "diving" for treasure. I don't remember what I tossed in the dumpster two years ago, but I hope it was bigger than, and surely it was less useful than, what I pulled out. I scored two whole bags of red-dyed mulch. I snatched a large plastic tub. And I resurrected someone's old black, standard-issue design United States Postal Service, rural style mailbox.

Trash to treasure? Let's just say trash to useful.taking the mailbox apart

My found mailbox was not made of metal, as I first thought, but a rubbery plastic. I think that made it even easier to work on. I was able to pull the top, arched part away from the flat bottom. Here you see the tabs that hold the two pieces together. Separating the parts gave me access to the inside of the box, so I slapped a quick few strokes of white latex primer and some odd leftover peach latex paint on the interior surfaces of the box. This helps me see what's inside the box after it's all put back together. Just as reassuring, it helps me see what is inside of boxNOT in the box, in the way of earwigs, spiders or other assorted creepy things. I painted the outside of the box with more leftover exterior latex, remnants of our last shed-painting project.

Now I needed to mount the box somehow. The base plate was made with an assortment of holes for mounting, and the material was also easy to drill through with a cordless drill. I found a rustic post-sized branch in the woodpile and attached it by screwing through the base and into the wood. Then, as the assembly felt a little wobbly, I scrounged up two pieces of scrap pine that, miracle of miracles, fit perfectly and gave the whole works rigidity. In lieu of miracles, it would have been easy, in hindsight, to screw or nail a pine board onto the post, and then screw the mailbox base onto that. I used a post-hole digger to dig a narrow hole in my vegetable garden and "plant" my mailbox tool holder.bottom of box

High and dry

I've used this mailbox toolbox for a couple of years now. I'm tickled to report that what ever I store in it stays high and dry, and bug free. I'm almost amazed, but I've never had so much as a docile jumping spider appear at me from the recesses of my tool mailbox. And what do I store in my box? Take a look. Here's what I found in it when I opened it up to write this article. The list tells you what was in my box, and what else you might like to store in your box. Of course, only you know what you like to have close at hand but which is usually left back in the shed.

  • Prunersitems from the mailbox
  • Trowel
  • Gloves-they stay bug-free and dry
  • Pencils, permanet marker- labeling plants or seed bags
  • Extra blank plant markers
  • Small plastic bags with a piece of scrap paper- quick seed gathering
  • Paper lunch bag or two- larger seedheads or bulbs.
  • Wire ties or string for plant tying
  • Soap, to make soapy-water death buckets for bad bugs.
  • Ruler, measuring tape- for scale in photos or recording growth
  • Produce bag, for unexpected harvests
  • Plant label, not to be lost before entering the info into one's Journal

Utilitarian or whimsical?

Lazy and disorganized as I am, I really wouldn't have gone through with this idea if I didn't like the touch of whimsy it brought to my garden. I just get a little private kick out of having this slightly odd accent in my landscape. I envisioned the pole wrapped in sweet pea vines that last year but that just didn't work out. Bushel gourds took over! Certainly a flowering vine trained up the post would be a classic accent. The box is in a planted space anyway.This year, a sweet-scented flowering tobacco is cuddled up close. Being a non-decorator type person, I haven't taken the whimsy any farther on my plain vanilla paint job. Of course, the sky's the limit on your mailbox. I'm happy with mine the way it is. Well, I suppose I could tuck a few sunflower seedheads behind its "ear" now and then and let the finches finish nibbling. Maybe I'll swap those out with a bunch of holly berries this fall. But for the most part, I just use my mailbox as quick handy storage for odds and ends, or a dry place to stash seeds or tools just in case that possible rainstorm comes down.

How lazy am I?

Pretty lazy I guess. My garden mailbox is within twenty feet of my shed! But the shed door is all the way on the other side from the garden, and you never know if it'll be locked. It was, for awhile, in 1998. You gardeners with larger properties might find this concept even more handy. I hope you do. All I can say in my defense is that if I were REALLY lazy, I'd find a giant size mailbox for my garden, big enough for a laptop computer and instant access to Dave's Garden. And I couldn't be that lazy, could I? (Could I?)

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For real trash to treasure creativity, subscribers may visit the Trash to Treasure Discussion Forum of Dave's Garden.

References- None. I took an idea I had heard once and ran with it. If you search the Internet for "maibox in the garden", with the quotes, you'll get other ideas on this topic.

All photos taken by the author.