5 Creative Container Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

by Fern on April 14, 2010

in Frugal Container Gardening

Post image for 5 Creative Container Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

This being tax season in the midst of a recession, I know that finding extra money for containers can be a bit like trying to squeeze blood out of a rock. I feel ya, believe me. But there are some pretty fun containers just waiting for your plants, and the good news is that they aren’t prohibitively expensive.

  1. Red Wagons – Look for used wagons at the second hand shop or at yard sales. Or maybe your kids have one they haven’t used in years. Use a hammer and nail or awl to punch a hole every six inches for drainage and pot that bad boy up. I also recently saw a rusty old wheelbarrow planted with edibles. Same idea, and it looked great!
  2. Soda Cans – I saw this at Maureen Gilmore’s talk on frugal gardening at the San Francisco Garden Show. In Mexico, she found a street vendor who was selling a succulent called String of Pearls growing in soda and beer cans. Trust me, it looked really cool and retro-ish. The trick is to find interesting cans. Coffee tins could also look pretty neat, and would provide a bigger “pot.” Or you could always paint them a bright color.
  3. Short Lengths of Sewer Pipe – Don’t knock this idea until you check out this post at Sunset’s Fresh Dirt blog. See? Now all you need to do is stalk road construction sites.
  4. Trash Cans – When I was in the hardware store the other day, I saw really cool looking metal trash cans that were half the size of the kind you put out on the curb.
  5. Bird Baths – These people are selling a bird bath for $10 on Craigslist. They look really awesome planted with succulents. All the cool kids are doing it.

Bonus Idea: What about a colander? There are some really cool looking retro ones in interesting colors. Or you could always spray paint one to suit your color scheme.

What’s your best frugal container gardening idea?

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary C. April 14, 2010 at 10:09 am

love the wagon and tin cans ideas! my kinda re-purposing :) I am actually tempted to try the cans on the fence….too bad I couldn’t grow food in them but perhaps just the bee fluffers….hmmm


Matti April 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Great idea with the coffee cans. I have a ton (well about 25) Cafe du Monde coffee cans. The cans themselves are pretty cool (google the name). We get this coffee cheap at one of the Chinatown markets by our house…and I thought they too cool to recycle. Matti


bad alley April 14, 2010 at 5:19 pm

How about brightly-coloured children’s sandpails?


bad alley April 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm

… ooh, like these ones I found with a Google Images search!


Fern April 14, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Bad Alley–I could see those being used in a really cool way!

Fern April 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm
Fern April 14, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Mary–There’s no reason why you can’t use a larger can (like coffee can size) and grow some herbs in them!


gardenmentor April 15, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I love to recycle old containers as planters. Willi snapped a shot of my wine-box turned zinnia planter last summer & shared it here: http://www.digginfood.com/2009/09/cute-idea-recycled-crate-planter-boxes/


Sara K. April 16, 2010 at 5:22 am

I love posts like this (thriftiness posts in general & alternative planters specifically). I could probably read one every day& not get bored. Keep ‘em coming!


bad alley April 16, 2010 at 7:05 am

gardenmentor: I am coveting your wine crate container so bad!

I just stumbled upon this photo of a straw hat used as a container. Very cute! http://www.torontobalconiesbloom.ca/images/6–Funky—Zora-hats.jpg

(Photo from here: http://www.torontobalconiesbloom.ca/insp-proj.html#edible. Sad I missed this festival!)


Todd Randall April 28, 2010 at 9:35 am

I have discovered a way to combine my workouts with my gardening. I use protein powders to fuel my energy in the gym. When the protein powder container is empty, I remove the label and use it for planting!!!!! The containers come in different colours (white, blue, black …), and are deep! So if you were looking for a reason to get back to the gym … need I say more. Happy planting and pumping up my friends! :)


Jordan June 6, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I just bought a new dresser, so I repurposed my old one (it’s a wire frame) into shelving to start my first container garden. It’s not the most attractive thing around, but I’m a college kid and it works on my small balcony (or patio, since I’m on the ground floor?). I would love to see a wooden dresser with drawers pulled out in stairstep-fashion spilling plants.


Todd March 25, 2011 at 12:47 am


Jennifer in MamaLand June 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm

You’re right on the money with the colander idea – Gayla Trail has been there, done that on her You Grow Girl blog!
Gardenmentor: a friend of mine uses those wine crates – they are JUST the right size for a small veggie crop, too.


LaDonna April 7, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I have the same colander and was just wondering what to do with it! So glad I saw this post. Thank you!

Heidi@HerbsandWonders September 6, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Hi Fern,
I followed your tweet the other day to this post and, I mentioned you on my blog too regarding my Labor Day project! :) Have a nice finish to the rest of the holiday!


Chels March 22, 2011 at 6:47 am

We use olive oil like it is going out of business, so we buy the big cans, and we plant our basil in them! It is great and fun looking.


Candy Suter March 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Great ideas! I was at the store the other day and they had brightly colored plastic bowls for $1.00. I got a few and will drill holes in them and plant succulents! They will be nice a bright.


Fern March 24, 2011 at 11:57 am

Sounds like a neat idea Candy!

Jen April 9, 2011 at 7:42 am

I’ve been picking up large buckets from the deli. Great big empty buckets that once held olives or pickles, and they just throw them away. Large tins of olive oil look really cool too.


Karen April 12, 2011 at 4:35 am

plastic waste paper bins that have patterns cut in the side make nice small containers/large plant pots. Line them first to stop the soil coming out but the colours you can get make the kids interested.


Lisa July 8, 2011 at 6:32 am

What I like about using a wagon for plants is you can move it to catch the best sun exposure! I used a wheel barrow like that once, it worked great. I have used cans for my succulents, I use one of the can openers that cut from the side so you don’t leave any burrs or sharp spots. If the label is pretty I leave it, or take it off and the shiny silver looks great with burro’s tail or any succulent or cactus. Just punch a couple holes in the bottom. Sand pails make a really cute container, too.


e June 25, 2012 at 12:28 pm

we found a Fisher Price toy chest being set out for garbage. We drilled holes in the bottom, and filled with dirt in a sunny spot of our yard. The tomatoes we put in are growing wonderfully. The sides are plastic, and the bottom is wood drilled with holes. The wood with holes provide drainage, and the plastic sides hold in moisture which is also needed.


rebecca May 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm

i have done the beer can/soda can thing. its more white trash looking than cute honestly. at first thought its cute, but then when i see it next to my ceramic planters (all cheap and bought from yard sales or sneaked for free from the mom or grammas) the cans look trashy. coffee cans look much cuter. its weird.


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