Monday, May 3, 2010

Grow Plants in ANY Container

I admit, my green thumb needs some serious adjustment since we moved to Minnesota in 2008 but BEFORE I could grow the heck out plants. It's quite possible I'm overwatering my plants since Tennessee is significantly hotter than Northwestern Minnesota. The other possibility is the difference in the soil. I plant to consult with my local Agriculture Extension office later today to see what if they can help with soil testing.

The one thing I have learned over the years is how to use all sort of containers to start seeds and cultivate plants in.

You need three things when constructing your own planter:

  1. Drainage - Proper drainage is key to preventing root rot and good plant health.

    • The most obvious method to create proper drainage is to drill a few holes in the bottom of your container. If you can't drill a hole then use either packing peanuts or wadded up newspaper to create a space in the bottom of the container for excess water to drain. You can use rocks but they add to the weight of the container. I've used all three methods successfully but prefer using the newspaper and packing peanuts for a lighter planter.

  2. Soil - Make sure you have soil full of nutrients.

    • I've used Miracle Gro in the past with satisfactory results. This year, I'm trying a new soil additive, KoKo Pro. It's an organic peat comprised of coconut shells. It claims to be super absorbant so I hope this will help with my compulsion to overwater the plants. It was a lot cheaper than Miracle Gro ringing in under $12 for 10 pounds. We'll see how well it performs.

    • I also prefer to use newspaper formed pots or egg shells to grow my seeds in it naturally decomposes in the ground. It makes planting easier and adds to the soil when it's fully decomp'd. To make newspaper pots, simply grab a cup the size you need for the plant, place several layers of newspaper inside the cup with the excess rubber banded to the outside of the cup. Add your soil, your plant, and water well. You know when to rewater the plant when the newspaper is dry.  Once the plant is ready to be transplanted, wait for the paper to be dry (it will make things easier), remove the rubber bands from the cup, use the excess newspaper like handles to lift from the cup and replant where you like.

    • I also like to toss our used coffee and tea grounds, filter and all, in the plants. Crushed eggs shells and bits of banana peelings are often placed in my potting mix to help enrich the soil.

  3. Sun - Your plants will need adequate sunlight. Either grow them in a sunny window or under a flourescent grow light. This will improve your plant's health and speed up growing.
If you want your homemade container to look pretty, then you have several options. You can paint the container, Modge Podge some fabric or pretty paper to it, or simply use double sided sticky tape to wrap the fabric or paper around the container to make it easier to decorate. Obviously you do this before you plant anything in them but you can also leave them au naturale', letting the container's personality shine! I've got big plans for my old rubber boots and my new strawberry plants - just as soon as this overcast rainy weather passes!!!!

Here's some of the planters I've made from everyday household items. 
Egg Shell Planters (Don't know where the mushrooms came from!)

Oatmeal Containers, Juice Containers, Plastic Cups, Newspaper Cups

Sometimes you just need some water in a cup - like with these onions!
You can use a number of items from around the house.


  • baskets
  • cups
  • laundry baskets
  • light fixture globes
  • shoes
  • bowls
  • hampers
  • suitcases
  • hats
  • pots
  • old desk drawers
  • handbags

Basically if it can hold dirt, you can make it hold a plan. In the case of baskets, or something with holes in the sides of the container, you can use a garbage bag to line the container with then poke a few holes in the bottom or add packing peanuts for drainage.
What the most unusual planting container you've ever used or seen?
frugal front porch 

Jenn also blogs about family, food, & crafts, on a budget with product reviews and giveaways on her blog Frugal Front Porch. Be sure to enter the Wonder Hanger Giveaway and link up to Strut Your Stuff blog meme.


  1. I love the mushrooms in the carrot jug! Thanks for an informative post. I'm trying to grow herbs in pots and my thumb is definitely not green so any help I can get is great!

  2. Most unusual container I have grown plants in is a plastic applicator from tampon. This is great for starting seedlings and they are kept upright by floral foam or old sponges with slits in them. This way only one seedling to plastic tampon applicator and easier to replant in garden when they are strong enough.

  3. Julie-My greenhouse guru told me herbs are easily killed by overwatering so let them droop a bit before rewatering. So far mine are doing well with this method.

    Rightmerca-Too funny! I never would have thought to grow plants in tampon tube. Now, I'm wondering if a cardboard applicator would make it easier. You could plant the applicator and all in the ground since it would dissintegrate over time.

  4. I had mushrooms like that growing in my compost pile, I just stirred them in.

  5. I like that idea for the quick oats container! We eat the same every morning and I always have those containers handy...will be trying this. Thanks!


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