All it takes to repurpose something into a plant container is a little imagination, good drainage, a bit of soil and wonderful 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.
A bit of humor is seen in a pair of jeans stuffed with soil and overflowing with plants. Charm comes packaged in a rusty toolbox occupied by tender succulents. Amused surprise comes when someone pedals by on a tricycle overflowing with flowers.
Repurposing objects to make a container for plants is not a new idea. Gardeners have done it for so long with some items, we just think about them as planters, not repurposed ones. For instance, whiskey and wine barrels — when the brewing industries are done using them, the barrels 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 many decades before we knew about recycling.
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? Old galvanized buckets and watering cans were often repurposed into beautiful containers; gardeners took the old and made it something new.
It sometimes takes a bit of courage to buck the norm and see what happens when you unite a repurposed item with some flora. Imagination helps. Even then, sometimes no one else will understand your creation. However, don’t let what others think prevent you from experimenting with unusual material. Keep looking in your attic, at the local flea market or garage sales for something else that can be used creatively. You can always hide it in a whimsical, secret corner of the garden — a place for your amusement.
You may have tucked something in a back closet or placed in the attic until you could find a use or sell 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, keep adding soil just 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. Simply turn the container over and pour the harvest out. Made from real wicker or rattan, the hamper may last a few years. If it’s made from synthetic materials, a potato hamper could last many years and look great in the vegetable garden.
The best part about repurposing items for planting is having fun with it. Just make sure your containers can drain water away by drilling a hole in the bottom when necessary.
A garden writer, author, garden speaker, and award-winning photographer, Debbie Teashon's career spans many decades. Her speaking engagements include the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, Tacoma Home & Garden Show, and at garden clubs across the Northwest. She's been a guest on Garden Time television show in Oregon, and radio programs such as Gardening with... (see more by Debbie Teashon)