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Posts Tagged ‘flower pots’

-Dirt Cheap Planters for a Small Kitchen Garden

Each week I take about seven gallon milk jugs to the recycling center. This year, a dozen or so will become planters instead. A few have been on my ping pong table for two weeks, and young pepper plants have just started to emerge. The planters won’t win a Garden Beautiful award, but the peppers will be sweeter for the money I’ve saved.

I hate to spend money on my small kitchen garden. Fundamentally, growing food involves burying seeds in soil and beating weeds, insects, and other pests out of the way until produce is ready to harvest. Any expense beyond the cost of seeds seems excessive.

Those who lack space for a traditional garden may feel doomed to spend money on containers, potting soil, and soil additives, and these can inflate the costs of growing produce. My last post, Containers for Your Small Kitchen Garden, explored types of containers available commercially to hold a garden on your patio, deck, porch, windowsill, or small yard. Those ranged in price from under a dollar up to $1,500. This post is about squeezing the most planter you can out of your gardening budget.

Don’t Shop the Garden Department

I did a survey of a local department store’s garden department. They have a wonderful selection of reasonably-priced planters. The price tag on a window box I liked asked for $9. Prices on deck boxes—square 5-gallon planters suitable for large vegetable plants such as tomatoes and squash—started at about $15.

I expect to set peppers in several milk jugs dressed up like this one. They hang perfectly between balusters so I can run them the length of the handrail. Because they hang below the rail, on a horizontal handrail, I can also install rail planters.

In other departments of the store, I found some lower-cost alternatives to planters. For example, plastic shoe boxes with covers cost about $1.75 per box. Two of these provide a bit less planting space than that $9 window box—but $9 of shoe boxes will grow way more vegetables than $9 of window box.

In other departments, I found buckets: wash buckets, paint buckets, and utility buckets. These all were less expensive than planters of corresponding sizes.

The point is, you can find dozens of containers whose prices are lower than those of flower pots and planters. But if you go this route, consider:

1. A storage container probably doesn’t have drainage holes in the bottom. Adding drainage holes is important especially if the containers will sit where they can catch rain. (During a particularly heavy rainstorm one year, soil was flowing over the tops of my deck planters which had filled with water. I braved the downpour to stab the planters with a hole punch so water would drain out the bottoms.)

In early May, this three-liter soda bottle will become an upside-down planter. I’ll cut off the bottle’s bottom, hang the bottle top-down, and insert a plant through the bottle’s neck. The resulting planter will be so small that it will require nearly daily watering and quite a bit of plant food to keep a tomato plant happy.

2. A storage container won’t come with—nor offer the option of buying—a fitted catch-saucer or tray. If your containers will sit outdoors where water spills don’t matter, you don’t need saucers under them. However, if you start plants in containers indoors and then move them out, you might wish you had saucers for them.

3. A plastic planter expects to spend much time in sunlight; a storage container or bucket doesn’t. The plastic of a storage container may be brittle to begin with, and could become more brittle with long-term exposure to sunlight. A $9 window box may significantly outlast a $1.75 plastic shoe box.

Spend Even Less

You probably throw out or recycle dozens of planters every year. Some obvious containers come to mind: yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream containers all will handle small plants; you can grow many types of herbs in them as long as you harvest often to keep the plants under control.

Finding free containers for larger loads requires a smidge of creativity. This year, I’m experimenting with 2- and 3-liter soft drink bottles, and one-gallon plastic milk jugs. I’m not the first to do this; links at the end of this post lead to other web sites with information about using milk jugs and soft drink bottles as planters.

To use these effectively, you need to alter them. Most simply, cut the tapered neck off a two-liter or three-liter soda bottle, poke holes in the bottom, and you have a deep planter that can handle many types of vegetables and herbs. I’ve done the same with gallon milk jugs, leaving the handles mostly intact.

Inspired by the Topsy Turvy upside down tomato planter, I’ve thought about hanging some plants this year. Sadly, a gallon milk jug is too small for most tomato varieties. Still, I’ve found I can hang milk jug planters easily from the handrail on my deck and leave the rail clear to hold a window-box-style planter. I’m going to grow peppers in these milk jugs.

I’m very excited about reusable grocery bags as planters. For 99 cents, you get a durable, semi-rigid bag with handles. I’ll put a hole in the bottom of the bag, plant a tomato pointing down, and hang the bag on the kids’ play set. With a 5-gallon capacity, the bag is big enough to handle beefsteak varieties of tomato plants.

I also found several schemes for converting a two- or three-liter soda bottle into an upside-down hanging planter, and I’m going to set some plants out this way in early May. The last link at the end of this post is to a web site that describes the scheme I plan to use (once at that site, find the topic IPlanter Modified in the left margin, and click to view the instructions). I believe it was a comment on that web site where I stumbled across a great suggestion for holding down costs on planters: Get a green (reusable) grocery bag.

Where I shop, a reusable bag costs 99 cents. This bag is durable and flexible—and will hold nearly five gallons of stuff. Filled with soil, a reusable shopping bag will hold its shape and handle even the largest annual vegetable plants. But these should also make great upside-down planters: Cut a hole in the bottom of the bag, push the root ball of a young tomato plant through, add soil and water, and hang the bag by its handles. I’ll be trying this in early May, and will document it in Your Small Kitchen Garden blog. If you’re short on space and strapped for cash, pick up some reusable shopping bags and hang them where the sun shines.

Please enjoy these other articles about low-cost planters:

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Containers for Your Small Kitchen Garden

You can find gorgeous porcelain, stone, concrete, and other planters to dress up your small kitchen garden. These will range in price from tens of dollars to more than $1,000. This porcelain five-gallon planter is available from Amazon.com in Your Small Kitchen Garden store.

When a small kitchen garden must live in containers, people typically start with flower pots and other planters bought at garden stores and department stores. These are usually good choices because most manufacturers make planters that are durable and that provide adequate drainage. What’s more, many designs have garden themes and some fit well into typical settings (for example, you can find deck and rail planters shaped to saddle handrails—the design provides stability so you’re not likely to knock such a planter off the rail).

An Expensive Small Kitchen Garden

The down side of commercially-available planters is their expense. A planter that holds two or three gallons of soil can cost from $15 up to $1,400, depending on how fancy it is. If you’re matching planters to your décor, or trying to make a garden design statement, you can find a large selection of gorgeous containers.

The Topsy Turvy planter grows tomatos upside down. Hang the planter, insert the root ball of a young plant through the bottom of the bag, add soil and water, and you’ll reduce the hassles of growing tomatoes. This is one of the hanging planters available from Amazon.com in Your Small Kitchen Garden store.

More modestly, you can find rugged, attractive plastic or fiberglass planters at department stores and on line. The lowest prices I’ve found on durable five gallon planters were at Odd Lots—some cost less than a dollar per gallon. Other department stores feature similar planters for two to three dollars a gallon. While such inexpensive planters don’t come in a huge variety of designs, they should satisfy most container gardening enthusiasts.

Dirt Cheap Containers

If your small kitchen garden’s entire purpose is to help you economize, consider an unadorned, nursery pot. A gallon-sized nursery pot might cost a dollar and change. A five-gallon nursery pot (considered by many to be the appropriate size for a single tomato plant) could cost close to two dollars. Those are great prices for planters of such sizes, but understand that plants you buy from garden stores often come in nursery pots which most people discard after planting.

I don’t mean to denigrate the nursery pot; you can grow produce in a nursery pot for years if you don’t bang it around or poke holes in it with garden tools. And, if you’re planning to grow six tomato plants on your patio, your savings over grocery store prices will be much greater if you plant in two dollar nursery pots rather than $150 designer ceramic bowls.

Super Gardening Economy

Recently, the nursery pot has faced a contender for least-expensive commercial planter: the plant bag. A plant bag costs about half what you’d pay for a nursery pot of the same capacity.

A plant bag is, in fact, a durable plastic bag. Filled with soil, the bag stays open and upright, and you can plant in it as you would any flower pot. The bags are strong enough that you can lug them around your yard, patio, deck, or whatever… they are supposed to be viable replacements for nursery pots.

Novelty Small Kitchen Garden Planters

It’s probably big enough to grow no more than herbs, but it’s awesome cute. This planter would fit almost anywhere. It’s one of a collection of animal-themed planters available from Amazon.com in Your Small Kitchen Garden store.

Hanging planters, stacking planters, and strawberry pots have been very popular space-savers for the space-challenged gardener. The Topsy Turvy tomato planter became the rage some years ago. You insert the root ball of a growing tomato plant through the bottom of this hanging planter and the plant grows down. The planter is actually a fabric bag or pouch. It’s a terrific space-saver, though it’s very heavy when filled with soil and watered.

Other planting pouches are also available. Typically, these are cylindrical and have slits in the sides through which you insert the roots of growing plants.

Stacking planters and strawberry pots provide ways to plant many plants in a small footprint. Suppose you have room for a single large flower pot? A traditional pot might hold one large plant or two or three small plants. A stack of pots or a strawberry pot might hold six, twelve, or even more plants. Combine such a floor-standing planter high-rise with an overhead hanging planting bag, and you’ll get the greatest advantage from a very modest space.

Please enjoy these other articles about gardening in containers:

  • Vegetables in Container Gardening – by Sydney J. Calderon. We’re all used to seeing rising prices, but the cost of food seems to have skyrocketed in the last few years. One way to protect yourself against high food prices is to grow your own vegetables. …
  • Container Gardening » Blog Archive » Tinkering Through the Tulips … – Whether you choose to grow flowers, herbs or vegetables, you can be successful at container gardening. If you follow these tips, you’ll be enjoying all the benefits of a garden in no time, no matter where you live. …
  • Container Gardening » Blog Archive » Herb Container Gardening in … – container gardening. Mary Hanna asked: Think of how marvelous your home smells when there are wonderful kitchen aromas wafting around while you are cooking with fresh herbs. It could be your Aunt Helens recipe for marinara sauce or a …

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