Is springtime finally here? It seems to be—the first, tiny lime-green leaves are appearing on the trees and the tulips and daffodils have started to spring forth in all their glory. Gardeners everywhere are just itching to get their hands in some dirt.
The first step is to take stock of what’s at hand—paw through the seed stash, uncover the compost pile and assess how many containers are available for the menagerie of plants that will very shortly need homes.
If, like me, your garden plans are always more ambitious than the existing infrastructure, you’re probably scrambling for some more pots and planters right about now. But no reason to despair—you can certainly fill in your kit without a lot of effort, or breaking the bank.
Metal food cans are probably one of my favorite DIY garden containers. I like the slightly larger, 29 ounce size. The ones I usually have on hand are from pureed pumpkin—we eat a lot of pumpkin at our house! If you have them sitting on a saucer of some kind, use a screw driver or an awl to punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage. If they won’t sit on a saucer, you’ll want to put in a layer of pea gravel or other drainage material so your plants don’t get wet feet. You can leave the metal plain if you like the look, or you can easily dress it up by spray painting it a bright color. You can also very easily turn metal cans into hanging planters by punching a hole near the top rim on either side and threading a piece of twine or wire through it—very versatile!
No, you don’t need to be a seamstress to pull these off. You can make a simple flat grow bag by making a trough of out some landscape fabric or burlap. Even a heavy canvas would work for these. Simply take a length of fabric and lay it flat in the space where you’d like your planter to stay (as they’re a bit awkward to move after being filled with soil). Fill the length of the fabric with potting soil right down the center—leaving a few inches at the short ends, and only so much that the fabric can be pulled up to meet on the top in the center, essentially making a tube of dirt. Using twine, loosely lace the fabric together in a zig-zag pattern, from side to side. Use an awl or screwdriver to poke holes in the fabric if needed. Don’t pull the lacing tightly—you want to see gaps of dirt, as these are where the plants will go. Once the lacing is complete, tuck the short ends under the bag, and plant your seedlings in the gaps.
A lot of people have more reusable shopping bags than they know what to do with, and they are a great stand-in for off-the-shelf grow bags. Just fill a bag with potting soil and that’s it! These are particularly good for growing potatoes as you can just reach into the soil to harvest without having to dig up the entire plant.
At our house, we buy flour and sugar in bulk—25 pounds bags—because we bake all the time, and it’s more affordable. The paper bags that flour and sugar come in are a very heavy-weight paper, and are perfect for a single-season grow bag. Even the smaller 5 pound bags can be used in the same way. At the end of the growing season, the entire set up can be tossed into the compost bin without too much trouble. It’s a great solution for something that would otherwise be thrown away.
And it’s just not just bags, take a walk around the house too. Most of us have a lot of glassware and kitchen stuff just sitting around—why not plant something in it? I collect milk glass, so that’s my glassware of choice—African violets in compote dishes are lovely. But it can be anything you love and have on hand—tea cups, vintage baking pans (long-length loaf pans make great windowsill planters), jadeite, your collection of Pyrex measuring cups, wooden tea boxes—the sky is the limit. If it will hold some soil, it’s fair game in my house. And why not give new life to our collectibles and family heirlooms by giving them a utilitarian, yet beautiful job to do?
So, take a quick walk around the house and gather supplies. In an afternoon you’ll have an entirely new set of DIY garden containers for anything you’d like to grow. They'll reflect your personal style and tastes, and you won’t break the bank doing it!
Amanda is passionate about cooking, gardening and crafting. To read more, please check out Apartment Farm.