Monday, April 6, 2009

Container Gardening on the Cheap

As I may have mentioned previously the sunniest part of our property is unfortunately the driveway. This has led to an ever expanding container garden that lives there. Like everything else we tried to do this as frugally as possible which means we don't go out and buy lovely glazed ceramic pots for all our plants (although I'll admit I've bought a couple).

The cheapest way to get containers for a garden is obviously to see what you can get your hands on for free. We've had some luck with this, even getting one from a neighbor who knew we used them. But eventually we realized we actually had to buy some. I began noticing that all the large pots, even the plastic ones at the big stores, were still expensive, usually $10-20 each. Now this isn't terrible but for crappy plastic containers it seems like there would be cheaper alternatives. Why would I pay $20 for a plastic pot when I can get a plastic storage tote for $4?

Even better yet I realized we had at least one old tote that was cracked lying around. So I grabbed that plus a couple new ones and transformed them into containers for the garden. The only real modification they needed was drainage holes. I used an electric drill to make 6 holes in the bottom of each container. (These holes will later be covered with whatever we have around, seashells or pot shards, to keep the dirt from falling out or clogging them.)

I put a piece of wood under the spot where I was drilling. Why? Maybe to protect our immaculate lawn? Whatever my logic at the time was it seemed to help. And yes that is me actually drilling the holes, I swear it wasn't staged.

This is my crappy old container after drilling. How did it get so cracked you ask? (I'm aware you probably wouldn't ask that but let's pretend.) It was my recycling bin for awhile. I know it's not standard but my landlord didn't seem to think I recycled so I had to get my own and this had a green lid so I figured it was close enough. And apparently it was because the recycling guys always grabbed our stuff. But perhaps the bin wasn't quite close enough because it got some pretty rough treatment in their hands and that it how it came to be cracked and mangled. And now you know.

And this is the nice new one I defaced. Perhaps purple isn't the best choice but for $4 I can't really complain.

That was basically all that was needed to transform the totes. I even kept the lids to shelter the containers until the seedlings emerge to protect them from cats. Although if you do this you have to remember to take off the lids so the containers can get water when it rains. But then again you might want to leave the lid on if you are worried about a really torrential spring rain washing away your seeds. It is a delicate balance of lid use, but I don't have a job so what else do I have to do?

And if you are aesthetically offended by the look of these (which I wouldn't blame you) you could always surround them with your nicer containers.

I wish I had some nice pictures of these filled with plants but it's a little early for that. Since this is the first year we've tried to use these types of containers I guess this is still all theoretical but I don't see what could go wrong unless the plastic leaches chemicals into our vegetables and they all mutate. I hope that won't happen, but I promise to let you know if it does!


  1. Hi

    It's good to see other people are thinking about the same things as me!! I'm trying a similar thing with cement mixing tubs (they are cheaper in Germany than storage boxes). They are black and cost 6€ for a 90L tub.
    Just got to drill holes, put stones in the bottom, cover them with a membrane of some kind, throw in some earth and plant....

  2. if it's worth it to you to drive to Rehoboth with a truck (or containers), I can hook you up with some really nice, composted, free ..."soil" that's just bursting with fertile richness and all that good stuff. Most people say that cow poo is better for gardening, but horse poo is WAY easier on the olfactory.

    frugal tip from the horse industry: you never, EVER need to pay for fertilizer again. in your life. some people charge, but most can't give it away fast enough.