Turn an old Little Tikes turtle sand box into a planting ring.
Recently I bought a house and the previous owners left behind a Little Tikes turtle sand box. I don’t have children so my uses for a green plastic turtle are limited. I kept looking at this turtle every time I had to mow around it and knew I could find a use for it. Finally inspiration struck when coming up with some landscaping ideas and I converted it into a planting ring.
- 1 Old turtle sandbox - The new designs are hideous, this was a classic one.
- 1 Can white plastic compatible spray paint primer - I used Rust-oelum Plastic Primer
- 1 Can black spray paint – I used Krylon Fusion
- 2 Cans Rust-oleum American Accents stone textured spray paint
- 100 grit Sandpaper
- Dirt/Topsoil- I used two bags of topsoil
- Plants to add to the planter
- Mulch – I used tree bark mulch for the outer ring and cocoa bean hulls for inside the ring
- Electric Drill with 1 inch spade bit
- Jig saw with fine tooth blade
- Garden Rake
Step 1: Prep the Sandbox for Painting
The first thing I had to do was wash off the sand box. The
dirt and mud was really ground in on the sandbox where the plastic touched the ground. I used a hose to spray off the mud and a scrub brush to loosen and clean. You only need to focus on the outside head/feet and the top of the ring as those are the areas to be painted.
Once clean allow to air dry.
Use 100 grit or coarser sandpaper over the entire outside of
the sandbox. The plastic used for Little Tikes outside toys really doesn’t like to be painted so we want to make as many adherence points as possible by roughing up the plastic.
Wipe down the plastic to remove any dust.
Spray the primer on the sandbox till it is uniformly covered. You only need to spray the areas that won’t be covered by the dirt. So the entire top upside and the top couple inches of the ring.
Allow the primer to dry for the recommended time listed on the paint can.
Step 2: Paint the Sandbox
Using the black spray paint, paint some random lines around
the outside. The goal is to create some shading to make the ring not look as solid. Spray a line where the plastic surface planes intersect.
There is no reason to allow the black paint to dry.
Use the textured stone paint to fill in the areas around and inside the black lines. Be careful not to completely cover the black. The stone texture covers better in multiple coats so go lightly the first couple and fill in as each coat dries. I used 2 coats of the stone.
Allow to fully dry.
Step 3: Prep the Ground
While the paint dries prepare the area you will be planting
in. I used the planter around my light pole.
Dig up an area slightly bigger than the turtle. If you are planting in an outer ring as well dig to the size you plan to put the mulch. My area was all lawn so I had to lift out clumps of grass. Break up the dirt and grass clumps as you will use this for fill.
Step 4: Cut Holes in the Turtle
Use the drill and spade bit to drill a hole in the top of each
of the turtle feet. These will become small planting holes to fill. The plastic drills and cuts very easily.
Use the jig saw to cut random shaped round holes in the top of the feet using the holes just drilled to start the jigsaw in.
My sand box already had two small holes where the lid holding pegs were. Use those holes to start the jigsaw and cut off the lid pegs following the triangle shaped moldings.
Turn the sand box over and cut out most of the bottom of the sandbox. Mine already had a drain hole to start the saw in. If yours doesn’t a quick drill with the spade bit will give a nice starting hole.
Step 5: Fill Ring With Dirt and Add Plants
Place ring is prepared location. Using the removed dirt back
fill in the openings including the holes cut in the turtle feet. Mix in a topsoil/garden soil with the native dirt to fill the rest of the openings. Make sure the inside of the sandbox ring has some soil in it for two reasons. One so that you can grow plants in the openings and two, to make sure the ring doesn’t blow away.
Add your plants to the ring. I used some random yellow flowered “weeds” I found growing along some country road ditches along my parent’s property. I’m sure most people consider them weeds but I think they have very nice yellow flowers. I also tried transplanting some native milkweeds* I found growing near as well. The milkweeds didn’t survive the transplanting so I will order some seeds for next year. Don’t worry I left many plants behind in the wild. I also added some bee balm, and lupines. In the leg holes I added a yellow ground spreading ground cover that I don't know what it is. I plan to plant the outer ring with red annual salvias and yellow spike cockscombs. I'll try to update this later next year once it has grown in better.
I think this would also look really good filled with succulents, especially hen and chicks. Different coleus would also look great.
Now add mulch to help keep out weeds and retain moisture. I used cacao bean hulls for the inside of the ring. I really like the fact that they smell so good (like chocolate). Because they are much more expensive and break down faster I used tree bark mulch for the ring around the planter.
*A note on the milkweeds. They have just fantastic flowers that smell incredible. I was trying to plant them to help out the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch’s population has had sever drops the last several years and need all the help they can get. The milkweeds are their primary forage for the caterpillars and the flowers provide nectar for many, many species. If you have some space consider planting some milkweeds to help out.