From Garbage to Garden

From rusty coffee cans to cast-off Legos: the best, most creative ideas in eco-friendly container gardening.
  1. Teapots, Cups, and Saucers

    What: Pre-loved items, like a chipped cup and saucer or a cracked teapot, get a whole new lease on life when reused as planters.

    How To: To allow for drainage, drill a hole in the bottom (you'll need a glass or ceramic drill bit, which will run about $10 at a hardware store). Fill with an inch or two of potting soil, and insert a small plant or flower. Want to skip the drilling? Drainage isn't necessary if you're planting a succulent like a sedum or cactus; just be careful not to over-water.

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  2. Vintage Metal Cans

    What: Any metal can makes a charmingly rustic planter. Coffee cans work especially well due to their size.

    How To: Clean the can thoroughly, keeping an eye out for rough edges. Drill or a punch a hole in the bottom with a sharp object, and line it with filter fabric (available at most garden centers) to avoid metals seeping into the soil. For outdoor planters, apply a polymer sealant (available in any hardware store) to avoid additional rust.

  3. The Former Fishbowl

    What: What once housed a long-forgotten fish (R.I.P. Neptune) can now make a great terrarium. Make yours look even more unique by decorating it with colored gravel and toys.

    How To: Thoroughly clean the tank and any pebbles you might be recycling with a mild soap to ensure they are chemical-free. Add clean sand, rocks, and any accessories. Choose plants or flowers that can receive full sunlight and won't need watering more than twice a month. The glass keeps the environment hot, so keep that in mind when choosing a plant. Hint: Sedums and succulents thrive in hot, dry climates.

  4. The Empty Wheelbarrow

    What: Wheelbarrows are fabulous options because they offer the space of a true garden bed while adding a touch of nostalgia to the garden. Plus, chances are you've got one gathering dust in your garage.

    How To: Drill a hole in the bottom of the wheelbarrow or use a sharp instrument like a scissor tip to punch a hole for drainage. The type of planting will determine the shape and number of holes. As with all metal planters, it's best to line with filter fabric. Add soil and plant your favorite perennials and annuals.

  5. The Hanging Colander

    What: An old strainer makes a perfect hanging plant container that looks equally as beautiful inside as out. Don't want to bother with chain? Use twine for a more rustic vibe.

    How To: Line the colander with filter fabric so soil doesn't drip out (a sphagnum moss basket, available at most garden centers, would also do the trick). Add potting soil -- preferably all-purpose with a bit of compost. It's best to take this planter to the sink to water it, since it will be extra-heavy when wet. To hang -- attach two S hooks through the drainage holes near the top rim of the colander. Attach the other side of each S hook to a chain. Screw a plant hook into the ceiling or porch (wherever you intend to hang it). Loop the other end of each chain over the plant hook. Voila!

  6. The Lego Box

    What: The beloved childhood staple, repurposed as a decorative container.

    How To: Construct a Lego box large enough to conceal a cup or grower pot inside. The cup or pot is what will actually hold the soil. If using a cup, poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage. When choosing a plant, think succulents or other low-water plants: Water flowing through Legos could get messy fast.

  7. Chinese Takeout Container

    What: Nearly any food container can look great repurposed as a planter. But these planters do have a shelf life (think: dinner party centerpieces, not long-term commitment).

    How To: Remove all food debris by washing the container with gentle soap, and allow it to dry completely. If you're using a box without a wax paper lining, make one by cutting wax paper to size and gluing it inside. Let the glue dry. Poke a few drainage holes in the bottom then line it with a layer of non-biodegradable packing peanuts. Next, create a barrier between the peanuts and the soil using filter fabric. When choosing a plant, go for one that's shallow-rooted, like African violets, geraniums, or succulents.

  8. The Abandoned Bicycle

    What: Who knew an outgrown bike would be a gift that kept on giving? Bikes can be perched in the garden with flowers in the front baskets and planters on the rear racks.

    How To: Attach a planter filled with flowers to the handlebars. To use the original basket itself, poke a dozen holes in a plastic bag. Line the basket with the bag, with the holes along the bottom. Then fill the bag to just below the top with potting soil, and add plantings. Long hanging flowers, which give that "overgrown garden" effect, look best.

    Nestpert: Carmen De Vito, Principal of GroundWorksGardens