Upcycled Container Gardening

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Gardening in containers is the perfect option if you have limited space. A container will fit anywhere! They are portable and easy to maintain, and by using different plants, your yard can look different every year.

Basics of container gardening

All containers need drainage. Drill holes in the bottom so your plants don’t get waterlogged. That is a sure way to kill them. If the inside of a recycled container looks iffy, line it with a plastic garbage bag. Put holes in the bottom for drainage. Use potting soil that is light and drains well. Add vermiculite for better drainage. Use a variety of shapes, heights, textures and colors of plants for visual interest.

Grow food in your containers, too! Some vegetables have been developed to grow in containers. Look for them.

Potted plants can be placed in decorative containers. If there is no drainage hole in the bottom, add about an inch of gravel or small rocks to keep the pot out of the water that will collect in the bottom.

Containers should not be placed in full sun. They don’t have a lot of water to draw from, like a plant in the ground. They will dry out and burn. Check for water twice a day. For the same reason, you need to fertilize container plants more often and more carefully, since they do not have access to a lot of nutrients in the ground. Always grow organically!

Choose your garden container by upcycling

The container you choose can express your creativity and be fun, weird, or conservative. It can be a single pot or an entire planter! Here are some ideas for upcycling someone’s trash into creative planters.

I’ve always thought an old toilet was the perfect planter. The bowl and the tank give you two places to plant, and there is drainage in each of them. Be sure to scrub it out good before you plant!


There is more than one way to use a dresser! This one gives you three layers, and your plant choices can accentuate them.

Source: addicted2decorating.com via nan on Pinterest

Old boots, singles or pairs, are wonderful small planters. Find them at yard sales or second hand stores.

Source: kidsgardening.org via nan on Pinterest

Five vintage washing tubs for an old-timey feel. Just like with plants, the sizes, shapes and heights give this arrangement visual interest.

Source: flickr.com via nan on Pinterest

Mason jars strapped onto boards, which are attached to the wall. You’d have to be careful watering these, since there is no drainage. Less is more. Shallow rooted plants would do well here, or herbs that you harvest frequently.


Three statues have plants for hair. So creative!

Source: apartmenttherapy.com via nan on Pinterest


An old metal toolbox (didn’t everyone’s dad have one of these?!) gets a fresh coat of paint before being upcycled into a portable planter. This is one instance where you might want to line it with plastic. If the metal is rusty, it can kill your plants.

Source: diynetwork.com via nan on Pinterest


Check my container gardens Pinterest board for more inspiration. And happy organic, creative, fun gardening!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.