Tag Archives: container planting

Finding the Best Recycled Plant Containers

Recycled plant containers are easy to find, but which ones do you want for your garden?
By Cassandra Radcliff

It’s easy to find an old piece of junk that you can re-purpose into a plant container for your balcony garden. While doing research for my website, BalconyContainerGardening.com, I’ve seen a lot of recycled plant containers – anywhere from yogurt containers and Starbucks cups to toasters, shoes and even an old grill! So how can you choose a plant container for your garden? It’s easy! Just look for the following four characteristics in a potential recycled plant container:

1. Size. A recycled plant container needs to be large enough to fit your full-grown plant in it. If you’re just looking to grow seedlings in these recycled containers, that’s fine. You can use an old egg carton, for example, as a seed-starting tray. But if you want this to be a permanent container for your garden, make sure it can hold a full-grown plant. It’s also best to keep fewer larger containers in a small garden rather than many tiny plant pots. Can you imagine how cluttered your garden would look with 100 old Starbucks cups as your planters?
2. Shape. The shape of your potential plant container is very important. At first you’d think you could use an old water bottle with the top cut off, right? Nope! I learned the hard way that ridges in the sides of a container make it difficult to remove a plant for re-potting. Also, water bottles are tall and are more prone to falling over (getting knocked over by a gardener, a gust of wind, etc.) and don’t allow for wide root growth. It’s best to choose a short, squat container than a tall, skinny one.

3. Durability. The durability of your potential container is very important. You shouldn’t use an old raisin or oat container because these are made out of cardboard. Anything that will rot away is not suitable. Thick plastics, too, can also become brittle when exposed to water and bright sunlight, so choose your plastics well. Opaque Rubbermaid bins make great containers, but clear storage bins will break apart at the slightest touch in the middle of the growing season. Old 2-liter bottles work well for one growing season. See ‘A Recycled Herb Garden’ on BalconyContainerGardening.com to learn more about how you can create a recycled garden while growing great herbs for the kitchen.

4. Looks. Finally, think about what this container will look like in your garden. Do you really want an old boot in your garden or a plastic storage bin? Think about what you can do with the item, too. Can you fix it up so it’s upcycled? (Upcycling is making someone else’s garbage into your own treasure by being crafty.) A tin food can might look boring on its own on the floor of your balcony garden, but imagine a collection of five to ten tin cans nailed to a piece of latticework leaning against a wall with plants spilling over the sides. Collections of similar-looking items always look better than a hodge-podge of cool containers.

When choosing plant containers for your recycled garden, it’s really all up to you. You can use any type of container you want and experiment! Get crafty! See what items are the best size, shape and durability for the plants you want to grow. As long as you’re happy and the plants are healthy, you can save the planet one plant container at a time!

I have a few candidates for upcycled flower pots…my favorite is of course my old toilet.  What should I plant in there for next season?  -tyler

Why Compost Is Essential to Container Gardens (article)

Recently I was trying to learn more about how to turn my balcony into a healthy, useful garden…and that’s when I found balconycontainergardening.com .  Since I’m a complete newbie when it comes to gardening, I ended up spending hours reading articles on the site, which prompted me to write a letter of kudos to the owner, Cassandra Radcliff.  I also asked her if she’d like to host some articles for my readers. 🙂

I was extremely pleased when she wrote back with a yes, and now she will be periodically contributing guest articles.  I often receive questions from readers pertaining to gardening, so now I hope to address some of those questions while at the same time learning from her in the process.  Below is her first contribution to the site entitled, “Why Compost Is Essential to Container Gardens”.  I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Why Compost Is Essential to Container Gardens
by Cassandra Radcliff

The best thing that ever happened to my container garden was my worm bin. The red worms that reside on my balcony help me cut down on my kitchen waste (they absolutely love spinach and coffee grounds just like me!). Every week I toss in a bit of food, some water and torn up newspaper, and the red worms reward me with black gold, which contains the castings that they create after breaking down the kitchen waste.

Worm bins aren’t the most attractive things to keep in small-space, but they can help make your container plants healthier and look better. Potting soil is very rich when it comes straight out of the bag, but plants deplete the nutrients quickly in small containers. If you keep finicky plants like roses or certain rare species, you may want to buy special fertilizers, but most plants just need a good dose of worm castings, and they will flourish. With worm castings, plant foliage will be more lush, and flower blooms will be more abundant and showy.

Worms don’t just help plants get more nutrients, they also can help aid in soil health. Consider adding a couple of your red worms to your plant containers. Actually, if you’ve ever added worm castings to your container plants, you probably already have some worms in your plant pots. When you separate the worms from the castings and give their black gold to your container plants, there were probably some eggs in the castings. This is actually a good thing. The worms will burrow in the soil, helping combat soil compaction, aid in aeration (great for plant root health) and they will make the soil slightly more acidic, which is beneficial for most plants.

So if you keep a container garden, cut down on your waste and aid your garden by setting up a worm bin (see “Steps to Vermicomposting” on BalconyContainerGardening.com for more information). It’s cheap, easy and rewarding. And if worms give you the willies, just remember that you’re doing your part to help the environment. And just imagine how much more beautiful your plants will be at their peak during the next growing season!