Container Culture: DIY And Found Containers

This garbage pail now grows beans
This garbage pail now grows beans

The local nursery is filled with things you want to need: decorative pots, all-in-one-seed starting kits -- one time I binged on a bunch of seed packets that exceeded $30, and believe me, I don't have $30 to spend on Tiger Melon seeds. I sat down in my car, looking at the expiration date on all the packets, slowly realizing half the seeds I bought were acts of wishful thinking. "My God," I said to myself, "What have I done?" I've done this several times now, with trellises, organic fertilizers and of course, pots. Wasn't the point of this whole thing to save money?

If you're like me, the money you spent on failed attempts at becoming Martha Stewart can be subsidized by found containers. Case in point: we had an aluminum pail we used, from what I can gather, to store a sopping wet plastic bag under a layer of white garbage scum. We stayed away from it mainly because the scent activated our gag reflexes so acutely that we could smell the contents of the pail without actually breathing.

But one day, tired of incurring the cost of buying yet another container, I sucked it up and cleaned out the garbage pail. And planted beans. And now I eat those beans. The end.

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Since that time, I've looked for creative ways to grow flowers and veggies that don't cost a ton. Essentially, anything you can drill drainage holes into the bottom of will make a good container. Here are a few inspiring designs:

An herb garden from a tea kettle
A planter from an old tire
A lettuce harvest from a collander
And my favorite, the vertical pallet garden

Of course, there are planters that go full circle and become expensive all over again, such as the oh so coveted wine barrel planter, which would look perfect next to any number of articles of spool furniture.

But then there's found containers, free containers that you can pick up, discarded, from some nurseries or work sites, especially municipal projects that love to abandon those ubiquitous black plastic pots. My only word of caution is that black plastic absorbs heat, so it might be helpful to paint them white, especially in the summer months. Also, as is the issue with all plastic, if you're wary of toxins leaching into your soil from which food you eat grows, it might be better to stick with materials such as terra cotta or metal.

Of course there is always wood, wood crates, spare wood you can fashion into a container, etc. If you are going to use a wood container, whether purchased or otherwise, make sure it is raised a few inches off the ground to prevent the bottom from rotting out.

Hopefully one or all of these ideas will release you from the guilt of buying that $15 trellis that's collecting dust in the corner.

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