Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gardening on a Budget: Containers

This topic could turn into a huge post, but I'll try and keep it simple. The most basic commandment of container gardening on a budget is: Try and view everything you come across as a potential container.


I've seen old boots, blue jeans, and broken down cars turned into containers. Practically anything could work if you get creative enough!

Funkiness aside, there are some pretty good standbys that thrifty container gardeners fall back on often...

  • Food grade buckets. Sometimes you can get these for free from food establishments, and they're a good size for plants that need a little more room to spread their roots.
  • Big plastic tubs. Again, these can come in good sizes for plants that need legroom. Some people have also converted them into DIY Earthboxes.
  • Trashcans as huge planters. Some of the larger tomato plants could even flourish in a big enough trashcan.
  • Two-liter bottles. Check out this older post wherein I illustrate how to turn one into a pot with drainage.
  • Plastic butter/spreadable cheese/yogurt containers, for smaller plants. Reserve the lids to use as water trays, but be sure to water slowly to avoid overflow.
  • Soda bottle, upside-down, as a DIY Topsy Turvy. Is there nothing these plastic beauties can't do?!
  • Really ugly pots that you already have or find free/cheap.... just turn them upside down and spray paint the pots to spiff them up. (Avoid getting paint inside the pots.)
There are so many other options, but these tend to be fairly accessible and easy. Just remember to avoid anything that held chemicals, clean everything out before planting, and drill holes in the bottoms for drainage when necessary.

If you want to find "real" pots at good prices, there are usually plenty of cheap options at discount stores like Big Lots and Wal-Mart. The dollar tree often has really cute little pots, but they usually need to have drainage holes drilled in them. End-of-season sales are a great way to find deals at local businesses, which we should all support whenever we can.

Plastic is usually the cheapeast option... But if you'd like to avoid plastic, terra cotta is probably the cheapest way to go.

And take care of your pots so you don't have to spend money replacing them. Put them away when not in use (especially over winter) and treat even the plastic ones as breakable.

I know there are a million and one other tips out there, so please share yours!


The Spiritual Farmer said...

I live in an apartment with a generous balcony, and investigated in using a 50 gallon stock tank as a garden bed... not cheap, so I ended up getting a set of reasonably-priced / variously-sized plastic planters from the local grocery store, but if you had one sitting around a barn or felt like investing, it would be almost like having a raised bed on your balcony... as long as it wasn't so heavy that it would break through down to your neighbor's!

Also recommend "The Bountiful Container" by McGee & Stuckey. They have great advice & some great budget suggestions.

MaryContrary said...

You are a person after my own heart. The only suggestion I haven't followed is the one for the upside down planters made of the two liter plastic drink bottles. We have no place to hang them. However, I think they would make good transplant pots and will keep them in mind for that. I have used some of our smaller plastic bottles (like well rinsed dish detergent) to create my own version of the Earthbox. I also use styrofoam egg cartons (with hole in the bottom of each segment) as seed starter trays. Cut off the tops and use them as watering trays.

Veriance said...

Kiddie pools and kiddie sandboxes make wonderful "gardens" too.

I keep reading about DIY topsy turvys, need to try that one myself. Wishing for warmer weather!

Charlotte (music and veganism) said...

Thanks for these! This was really helpful.

Sarah Eliza @ devastateboredom said...

This is a great post! I love the DIY topsy turvy's... I need to try that asap on my tomato plant.