Upcycled Container Gardening Tips and Inspiration

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, patio or balcony can look different every year. Have some fun with container gardening by using repurposed and upcycled containers.

Upcycled Container Garden

The Basics of Container Gardening

Proper Drainage

All planting containers need drainage. Drill holes in the bottom so your plants don’t get waterlogged. Root rot is a sure way to kill them. Put holes in the bottom for drainage.  If there is no drainage hole in the bottom, or you can’t create one, add about an inch of gravel or small rocks before adding soil. Use potting soil that is light and drains well. You can also add vermiculite for improved aeration, and it helps to reduce watering frequency.

Adequate Light

Planters should not typically 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 much faster those in a garden bed. Be sure to check the water level once a day if your container garden is in a full sun area.


You need to fertilize container plants more often than you would plants in the earth. Because they do not have access to nutrients in the ground, they will use up nutrients in potting soil fairly quickly. Fertilizing container gardens will improve plant health and improve pest resistance. You can use organic liquid fertilizer, compost and slow-release granular organic nutrients.

Choose the Right Plants

When container gardening, use a variety of shapes, heights, textures and colors of plants for visual interest. You can combine plants that have similar water, light and fertilizer requirements in a single container.

You can grow food in your containers, too! Some vegetables that work well in containers are lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, broccoli and onions.

Using Upcycled Planters in Container Gardening

The container you choose can express your creativity and be fun, weird, or conservative. It can be a single small pot or a larger 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.

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

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

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!

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.

Check out the BuildDirect Outdoor Living Pinterest board for more inspiration. And happy organic, creative, fun container gardening!

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