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In The Secret Garden, the main character, Mary, spends a great deal of time looking for the door into the garden. Once she passes through the entrance, the garden gives her solace, goals, and a place to dream. I have always thought that we put a bit of our hearts in our gardens, and that the entrance into them should be an extension of the creativity we put into planting. Just like Mary’s door, our gates should be intriguing. Here are some ideas that may help you get started thinking of alternatives to chain link.

Salvaged pieces are great for making one-of-a-kind gates. Some gates will require a trellis or reinforced posts to keep them from sagging, and you will need to determine if the gate is largely ornamental or serviceable. Solid salvage will keep wild critters or pets in or out of the space, while decorative metal pieces may not.

Doors made into arbors or set into fences make lovely entrances. You can use one door or double doors depending on how wide you want the gate to be. A solid door works well, but you may consider a door with glass panes to extend the view of the garden. Screen doors will also serve as gates, but they may not stop a dog as effectively. Be selective with the door you choose—the more vintage and decorated the door, the prettier the gate will be. You can go with a shabby chic or natural look, or paint the door a bright color using exterior paint. Barn doors on rollers or half stall doors create a rustic farm look. If your gate doesn’t need to be very tall, consider using one or two salvaged windows. Just be careful during mowing to avoid “throwing” rocks into the glass.

One of my favorite upcycled gates is an iron or wood headboard. Headboards can be quite ornate and are often just the right size for a gate. Another frequent cast off from old beds is the springs. Vintage springs can be round and in two layers or flat in one, but either make great entrances that can stand alone or be used to hang decorations on (such as metal flowers, butterflies, or stars). I’ve even seen a gate constructed from a futon frame turned on its end. The sturdy hinges already in place between the two futon pieces make it a natural for a gate.

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Unusual gates can reflect the personality of the gardener. You can make a custom gate out of vintage garden tools, a tailgate from an old pickup, driftwood, or metal rings. The options are as unlimited as your imagination.

If you plan to build a more traditional gate, don’t overlook salvaged pieces of wrought iron or picket fencing. Large grates or pallets can be used for base material and are most likely a less expensive alternative. If you construct a wood gate, you can dress it up by inserting a stained glass window, piece of decorative metal, or an old house window. Handles can be fun too—use a vintage spade, trowel, or a water spigot knob.

A new gate could be a fun family project this summer that will give your garden an inviting, whimsical touch, and you will enjoy the hunt for just the right salvage parts to make your vision a reality.

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