Garden: Using Up-cycled Containers


Cary, NC — Up-cycling container gardening, one of the neatest gardening trends, is part of a movement to not only recycle but to re-purpose old objects and to give them new life.

What to Up-Cycle?

Almost any object that can hold some soil can make an interesting pot for a plant.

Old tires make excellent planters, as do worn-out boots. We have seen cans of varying sizes, wooden boxes and crates, and even bathtubs used as replacements to ordinary pots.

Depending on what items you decide to use, these up-cycled planters can lend an air of shabby-chic or urban industrial to a room or yard.

Find a Planter

The first thing you need to do to make an up-cycled container is to find an object you no longer need (or one you see at a garage sale or flea market). The size depends on whether you are planning for the pot to hold one plant or several and how large the plants will grow.

A boot will hold one average potted plant, while an old tire could hold many.

Image by John Carrol

Image by John Carrol

Prepare Your Container

After you have picked a plant for your container, be sure to allow room for the plant to grow. If the container does not have holes for drainage (and most will not), either drill holes if the item is wood or punch holes using a hammer and nail in leather, tin or plastic.

This is very important, because plants need drainage – when you water your potted plants, the excess water must be able to drain out the bottom of the pot. If the water does not drain properly, your plants’ roots will sit in a puddle of water at the bottom of your container. This will lead to root rot and all kinds of other problems that will eventually kill your plant.

Next, make sure the inside of your container is clean. A quick scrub with soapy water and a rinse is sufficient. Once you have prepped your container, add some gravel or small clay pot shards to the bottom to slow down the drainage and to make sure that soil does not leak out of the bottom of the pot each time it is watered.

Fill Your Container

When you’re ready to plant, fill your container about halfway with a good quality potting soil. Remove your plant from its original plastic container and place it in the pot (make sure there is enough soil in the bottom of the pot that your plant will sit just below the lip of the container).

Place the plant (or plants) on top of the soil and begin to fill in with soil around the root ball until you have the potting soil even with the top of the plant’s root ball.

Now water lightly, and voilà! You have up-cycled a container!

You can group up-cycled containers together or use them as an accent in your home or garden. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to up-cycle everyday objects. Once you start looking, you’ll find all kinds of suitable items. Happy hunting.


Story by Lindsey Chester. Lead photo by upcycled-wonders.com.


The garden column is sponsored in part by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.

2 replies
  1. Theresa Peaden
    Theresa Peaden says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this edition! I work in Cary, but my husband and I live in a log cabin in Wilson. History, antiques and gardening are favorite ways to add pleasure to the weekend! Mrs. Upchurch done an excellent job upfitting the cabin! I enjoyed all of the pictures! Now I am off to pull a tire out of the shed to clean and paint for home to a bunch of summer flowers.

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