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