cheap containers for frugal container gardening

atarango(5)February 28, 2007

My dad shared this tip with me last year and I thought I would share it with ya'll.

If you have a cat, and use cat litter, buy the litter in those large 30-35 lb buckets- the kind that Tidy Cat and Scoop Away sell their litter in. When the bucket is empty, wash out any leftover litter, rip the lid off (some of them have attached lids, some don't), drill holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage, and lo and behold, you have a great container for growing stuff. My dad mainly grows small veggies in his cat-litter containers, stuff like green onions, kale, hot peppers, and herbs, but I am sure they would work well for plants and flowers too. He has even grown small tomato plants in the largest buckets (40lb buckets).

We must have about 5-6 of these "cat litter bucket planters" in my mom and dad's back yard.(They live in So. Cal) They work pretty good.

The only drawback is that most of the litter buckets have labeling that is hard to remove (like right on the plastic) so you have to be okay with people realizing that you are using a former cat litter bucket to grow your flowers or veggies in.

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I bet someone here could figure out how to disguse that.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 11:45AM
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I've painted buckets with spray paint made for plastics. Just lightly sand the surface with some fine sandpaper. Clean off the sanding dust and spray.

I like the look of the hunter green color, as it normally covers in one coat.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 12:34PM
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Drilling holes about 2 inches up from the bottom helps too for water absorbence. I place my "pot" in larger pots so they can self water. If you live in a very hot climate, using some type of reflective paint on them helps too.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 2:47PM
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pianojuggler(z8b WA)

I found a source for small containers suitable for propagation: The blood bank! The blood collection kits come in pink tubs that are about 6 inches by 12 inches and about 5 inches deep.

They are surprisingly sturdy plastic and seem to be more flexible than the typical 4" starting pots. The strangest thing is that they are not marked for recycling -- they don't have the little number in the triange to indicate what kind of plastic they are. So the blood bank folks just throw them away *gasp*.

I poke a couple holes in the bottom of each, and they are great for groundcovers... they have enough room for wooly thyme, sedum, phlox, and things like that to spread out a bit and get established before they go in the ground.

I'll take some pictures as soon as I am able.

But each time the bloodmobile comes to my office building, I can usually score about eight containers. (I thought this was a very small number until they told me that there are four kits in each tub.)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 6:57PM
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gardenfaerie(z5b Michigan)

I use the large kitty litter buckets as tool caddies, soil containers, and for storage. I buy the store-brand and those labels tend to come off easily.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 9:54AM
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I've been using the plastic containers that Folgers coffee comes in. They have a built in handle so they can be used to scoop potting soil as well as for planting if you poke some holes in the bottom.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 6:58PM
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Someone mentioned painting those litter buckets. If I were an artist, which I am sadly not, I would paint them a solid color and then hand paint or stensil a garden theme etc. I have seen some very nice looking milk can containers done like that.

Now a hint on paint. you can buy spray paint as cheap as a buck a can from the big box retailers when they have their spring sales. Not a lasting paint but it works.

Fusion paint. Supposed to make plastic lawn furniture look new again. I'll bet it does. I had my son take all the knobs and handles from the kitchen cupboards a year ago and paint with green fusion paint. They came out like shiny baked on enamel (dark green). As much use as they get not one of them has chipped or lost it's shiny finish and grease sticks to the cupboards but not to the handles.

Next to be fusioned will be my refrigerator handles.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 1:38AM
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Hmmmmm. that got me thinking, how about the back door where I've washed off the paint trying to keep up with the dirty finger prints around the door handle. But I guess I will have to take down the door to do that--too bad I can't just spot treat the door while it is still on the hinges- & just remove the door knob.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 9:43AM
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Depending on which has drainage holes and which don't, I stack strawberry, mushroom, and similar containers together. Those with covers are great for retaining moisture while starting seeds. Also, some plastic containers, from candy, bulk items, etc. have lids that serve as great saucers for the containers themselves -- just poke a few holes, and maybe place a few rocks to elevate the container a bit.

I'm experimenting with cutting liter bottles in half, then sticking the top part upside-down in the bottom. Water drains out and stays there... it has to be emptied, or it needs a few air holes, but my zucchini look great so far. ;)

My Folgers containers are all taken up with flours and other baking supplies -- it took one weevel infestation to require that EVERYTHING be sealed in the pantry. They also are airtight enough to keep kitchen scraps for composting.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 10:45PM
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roseyp8255(z8 - SC AL)

Great idea airedalemom! I use the Folgers cans EVERYWHERE for saving compostables, even @ work we save the coffee grounds for my flowers - i had not even thought of using hte Folgers cans in my potting mixes though! DUH!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 11:21PM
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I've got Tidy Cat buckets everywhere (4 big cats) and I love them for patio tomatoes and peppers. They're also great to use in the fall for overwintering stuff you want to bring in (like big hunks of mint, chives, or other herbs that you'll use a lot of). This year I'm going to try cutting the bottoms out of a few, sinking them halfway in the ground, and planting cukes in'em a couple of weeks early. I use the Folger's canisters for all of the above-mentioned things, too, as well as seed-storage containers. The big clear-plastic/yellow-lidded Planter's Peanuts canisters make fantastic seed storers, as well.

I've got one of those huge, blue Rubbermaid storage things that mysteriously got a giant crack in the bottom. I'm thinking of cutting it in half horizontally and using the resulting "frames" to make two small raised beds. Felt like I had a "lightbulb moment" when I thought of this!

Plus, every year or two I get my dog one of those bright blue, hard-plastic wading pools (4' diameter). I'm ashamed to admit I've always pitched them when they've cracked in the past, but this year I'm thinking...raised bed frame. I've always wanted a perfectly-round little herb garden right outside the kitchen door (and of course I've already promised DD [Dear Dog] a new one).

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 5:03PM
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where do you get those hard plastic pools around your area, I can't find them here in Indiana? I also have been wanting a raised garden bed and tho't it would be cheap to do that way, but haven't found any here.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 7:24AM
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Yoder, I buy them at Wal*Mart, and around here they're in the stores right now. Late last spring my dog's pool sprang a leak and when I went to buy a new one, they were already out. Fortunately, the department manager ordered a new batch. In recent years they've added all sorts of colors besides blue - orange, purple, lime green.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 12:48PM
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pianojuggler(z8b WA)

So, I finally got around to taking a picture of the tubs that I get from the bloodmobile.

Here's a tub o' thyme:

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 10:27AM
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Hi all. Kind of new to the forum but I've been enjoying and using the tips. Thanks!
My cheap containers: scrap plywood [free from a friend] screwed together into a 4'* 2' box to use for a raised bed;
flea market galvanized tin containers, various shapes and sizes, drilled holes for drainage, most expensive one was $5 for a good size one;
old bureau, recycled into a potting bench, used the leftover drawers to make a flat for bunching onions, added an unused window screen on the bottom so I could use it on the deck;
tires from my mechanic [free, he was happy to get rid of them since they charge him to dispose], used to make a composter and planters;
freecycled white plastic barrel, cut into 8" slices for raised bed, planted peas in them;
flea market wire fencing [$5 for 50'] made a cage for planting potatoes out of 10'[about 3' diameter].
My neighbor never recycles anything so I've managed to get all kinds of pots from her, she finally got sick of me taking stuff out of her trash and now saves them for me!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 10:49AM
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I've used most of the above - worked in a hospital and there are many nice containers thrown away everyday,like the blood kits. BUT, my favorite find has been some brake drums from our mechanic. They are solid, heavy, and have holes in them. I lay something in the bottom to slow the drainage, varies depending on what I'm planting. I often use these on a raised cedar post, step or railing, they are so heavy they do not get blown over. I planted a few for him to use outside his garage, and they made quite a stir!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 4:57PM
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I use 5 gallon buckets which I get for free by going in to the local Walmart bakery and asking them if they have any "frosting buckets" available. They just throw them away and are glad to give them away. They will even rinse them most of the time, but sometimes if there is not time I get a good lot of frosting still inside. :) I have also had good luck with Albertson's bakery.

By the way, I got this great tip myself originally on Freecycle, when I was asking for 5 gallon buckets people were going to toss out. Hope I can pass it along to others and save everyone some money and keep a lot of plastic out of the landfill. (Plus you know it is food grade.)

Cheers, J.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 5:43AM
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Icing bukets!! In years past I paid for them. This year the store gave me arm-loads for free. You get them at your local bakery. Also, when they have lids, they are air-tight so that you can store food in them, and they keep ants out. Also, they are food-grade so no worries about harmful plastic.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 5:39PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

I'd like to get a hold of clear plastic containers like one would probably get soup or stuff from a deli in. Anybody know of a place where those type of containers can be ordered. Our UMW makes homemade soup once a year as a fundraiser and I've noticed some are sold in those type containers.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 10:20PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

I bet those deli or soup containers can be found at Costco, Same's or BJ' just hit me!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 9:49PM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

Go to a restaurant supply store for those containers. I've got some in various sizes and use them for a lot of things

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 9:13AM
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Egg cartons until they get their first leaves. Yogurt containers, Cottage cheese tubs. Large food cans, mud (plaster) buckets, pool chemical buckets. The last two might sound gross, but if you rinse and let them sit outside for awhile, it seems to denature. Even if you're worried about food crops, ornamentals do fine in these. Old picnic chests, all sorts of things put out to the curb for trash.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 4:44AM
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Wow, some great ideas here -- THANKS to all! I have been looking at yard sales for old kiddie pools that my daughter can use for raised bed gardening. Loved the ideas for using coffee containers and especially the tip on getting free buckets from Walmart or local bakeries -- genius! My daughter just paid $3 each for some 5-gallon buckets at Kmart to plant tomatoes in, but we won't make that mistake again! We had both thought of using kittie litter bins, and we have relatives who aren't into gardening saving them for us. We have cats, too, so we have plenty of those. If anyone is interested in reading about virtually "work-free" gardening, look for Ruth Stout's No-Work Gardening book. I bought it probably 30 years ago, and she has some fantastic tips for using traditional garden plots to create spaces that basically take care of themselves -- she was 86 when she wrote the book! She uses hay and other mulching material. I also have the Lasagna Gardening book, which also has some wonderful tips.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 7:35PM
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