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Repurposing — A Recipe for Charming Containers

All it takes to repurpose something into a plant container is a little imagination, good drainage, a bit of soil and plants. Season with a dash of charm, a pinch of humor or an element of surprise — it’s a recipe for a charming display in the garden.

You can see a bit of humor in jeans stuffed with soil and overflowing with plants. Charm comes packaged in a rusty toolbox occupied by tender succulents. An amused surprise comes when someone pedals by on a tricycle overflowing with flowers.

Blue jeans and rope covered containers
Old blue jeans planter and repurposed rope wound around a plastic pot.
Rusty, old tool box
Rusty, old tool box is charming when planted with succulents.

Repurposing objects to make a container for plants is not a new idea. Gardeners have done it for so long with some items, we think about them as planters, not repurposed ones. For instance, when the brewing industries finish using whiskey and wine barrels, they are cut in half either crossways or lengthwise and made into planters. The barrels live out the rest of their lives holding precious plants — a repurposing idea that came decades before we knew about recycling.

What could be more fun than filling a baby’s first shoes with baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)? Plenty, so let’s not stop here!

Galvanized bucket and a chair.
Galvanized bucket turned into planter. Chair, chicken wire, and moss planter.

Who doesn’t remember a country garden scene with half-rusted, canned food tins turned into containers filled with herbs, geraniums, or cute little flowering annuals? Gardeners repurposed old galvanized buckets and watering cans into beautiful containers; gardeners took the old and made it something new.

Galvanized buckets and watering cans
Galvanized flower buckets and watering cans are choice objects for planting.

It sometimes takes a little courage to buck the norm and see what happens when you unite a repurposed item with some flora. Imagination helps. Even then, some will not understand your creation. However, don’t let what others think prevent you from experimenting with unusual material. Keep looking in your attic, local flea market, or garage sales for something else you can use creatively. You can hide it in your whimsical, secret garden corner — a place for your amusement.

Wooden produce box
Wooden produce boxes produces boxes full of plants.

Wood boxes are fantastic containers for a variety of plant materials. Fill them with hardy succulents for the long term, or make a temporary, seasonal container every year with exuberant, brightly-hued annuals. This wood box by Bainbridge Island resident Sue Lukins looks excellent, with or without the product logo.

Tins are a natural for repurposing as planters.

You may have tucked something in a back closet or placed it in the attic until you could find a use for it or sell it at a garage sale. For instance, an old wicker laundry hamper would make an excellent planter for potatoes. All that’s necessary is to remove the top of the hamper and spray-paint the body any color — or leave the color the same. Pour a little soil into the bottom, plant the potatoes, and as they grow, add potting soil up to the bottom of the leaves until you reach the top of the hamper. Enjoy the plants until the end of the season.

You won’t have a hamper full of dirty clothes — you’ll have a top-to-bottom container full of potatoes. Turn the container over and pour the harvest out. Made from natural wicker or rattan, the hamper may last a few years. A potato hamper could last many years and look great in the vegetable garden if made from synthetic materials.

The best part about repurposing items for planting is having fun with it. Just ensure your containers can drain water away by drilling a hole in the bottom when necessary.

Shells and succulents
Shells and succulents
Baby shoes
Baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) planted in baby shoes.
Fairies and boots
Fairies hang out in repurposed baskets. These boots are made for planting.
Volkswagon lawn
How do you mow this lawn?

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