Plastic containers for plants

Garden Myths – Learn the truth about gardening

Growing food in plastic containers is on the rise, but is this a safe practice? What about the chemicals that leach out of plastic – are they absorbed by the soil or the food? Do they cause a health risk?

There is a great movement towards organic gardening to grow healthy food locally, and for smaller back yards and balconies it’s attractive to grow food in small containers. I’ve even seen pictures of people growth vegetables right in the bag that contained the soil they bought. This is all so simple but is it a healthy way to produce food? Is it still organic if you grow in plastic?

Growing peppers in containers, photo source: http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com

Understanding Plastic Containers

Before we can have an intelligent dialog it is important to understand that there are many different kinds of plastic and even within a class of plastic there are variations.

To help standardize this process, many types of plastic are now given a recycle code along with an abbreviation for the plastic type. For example #1 is PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate).

Each type of plastic is made from different chemicals, has different properties, leaches different chemicals and breaks down differently. Any general discussion about plastic and safety is of limited value if you don’t identify the actual plastic being discussed.

Does Plastic Leach Chemicals?

The answer to that is a clear yes, for almost all consumer plastics. We buy food in plastic, we store it in plastic and yet it all leaches chemicals.

I remember seeing some lab results 35 years ago, on the wall of the Ministry of Environment in Toronto, comparing chemicals in city drinking water to those in plastic bottles. The bottled water had more chemicals both in terms of type and quantity even though many people thought the city water was not as good. If this information had been made more public we might have stopped the habit of purchase bottled water.

Can Plastic be Food Safe?

If all plastic leaches chemicals, why is this not a big health risk?

To understand the answer to this question and the issue of growing food in plastic you have to understand two important concepts; dose and chemical processes.

I’ve talked about dose before. Any chemical is safe provided that we are not exposed to high levels of it, and the level is different for every chemical. It is important to understand which chemicals are leaching and the safe dose for each one.

The second part is to understand the processes that happen as chemicals move from plastic containers to our bodies.

The plastic container is filled with soil and plants are added. It is then watered, fertilized and exposed to sun. Chemicals leach from the plastic into the water and the soil, are absorbed by roots, then translocated into stems and leaves, and finally we eat them. But how efficient are these processes?

Plastic Chemicals in Soil

The chemicals in plastic are all organic, as defined by chemists, and the microbe community is able to decompose them. How quickly this happens depends on the chemical, the type of soil, temperature, and the microbial community.

A chemicals ‘half-life’ in soil is a measure of how quickly it is removed. A half-life of 10 days means that after 10 days half of it is gone.

Watering also has a big effect on how much of the chemical stays in soil. Containers are watered frequently and it is common to water until it runs out the bottom. This helps wash away any chemicals, including fertilizer.

Another process that takes place in soil is the absorption of chemicals by organic matter. A higher organic level results in less of the chemical being available to roots.

What all this means is that much of the chemicals leaching from plastic never make it to the roots.

Do Plants Absorb Plastic Chemicals?

If a chemical is present in soil, but it is not absorbed by the roots, it won’t get into the food we eat and therefore it poses no health risk when you eat the food.

In some cases the chemical is absorbed by the roots, but little if any is translocated to the above-ground parts of the plant. Eating roots may provide a higher dose than eating leaves.

Phthalates, often called plasticizers, are found in many soft plastic consumer products including plastic bags and garden hoses. Phthalates and its metabolites have been shown to be absorbed by lettuce, strawberry, and carrots. They were found in all parts of the plant, but leaves have a much lower level.

Phthalates

Phthalates are of a particular health concern. Most of our exposure to them is from eating food but we also inhale them and are exposed through our skin. The tolerable daily intake (TDI) has been set at 50 μg/kg body weigh.

Phthalates have been identified in most food groups, including fruits and vegetables. A Canadian study found phthalates in all of 252 cosmetic products tested (fragrances, hair sprays, deodorants, nail polishes, body lotions and creams, skin cleansers, and baby products).

Clearly we want to limit our exposure, but would a bit more leaching from a PVC plastic garden hose or plastic container really make much of a difference considering all of our other exposures? It might be safer to skip the deodorant and eat the lettuce?

It’s important to understand dose. Just because scientists are able to find a chemical, does not mean they found a significant amount. Our testing instruments are now so sensitive we can find a chemical almost anywhere.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic which is used for containers to store food and beverages, such as water bottles.

It can be toxic to plants at higher concentrations.

BPA is not normally a problem in food grade plastics but it, as well as lead, has been found in the new fabric pots.

Although BPA is not found in food grade plastic, it has been highly studied and it provides insight into how other plastic chemicals might behave. Due to health concerns, BPA is sometimes replaced with two similar chemicals BPS and BPAF. Testing of all three of these shows that BPA and BPS have a half-life of less than a day. They don’t last long in soil. BPAF has a half-life of about 30 days, which is still short compared to many other chemicals, but not nearly as good as for BPA.

This same study compared two soil types and found that the half-life in soil with a higher organic matter level was 60% higher, showing that it absorbed onto the organic matter which protected it from degradation. Presumable the organic matter also keeps BPA away from roots.

Biodegradable Plastic

Biodegradable plastic is good for the environment because it breaks down, and over time disappears. But you have to remember that when anything breaks down it is converted into other chemicals and it is always important to know which chemicals are being created. They might be more toxic than the original plastic.

Plastic That is Safe For Food

Some types of plastic have been identified as being safe for food. This includes #1, #2, #4 and #5.

These plastics have been judged to be safe because the chemicals that leach from them have either low toxicity levels or the amount leached is very small. If they are safe for storing food, they should also be safe for growing it. If anything, the soil and water reduces exposure.

Recycled Plastic Containers

I went around the house looking at some plastic containers that could be reused to grow plants and these are the recycle codes.

  • Peanut butter, ketchup, juice jars – all #1
  • Tupperware – #5
  • Large Rubbermaid – #4
  • 4″ plant pot – #6
  • Home Depot 5 gal pail – #2

All the items except the flower pot was made from food safe plastic. Five gallon pails, marked as food safe are available from home hardware stores. In my experience the one above from Home Depot does not last very long when exposed to sun.

Our city sells rain barrels which are HDPE (#2).

PVC Plastic

Lettuce grown in PVC – is it safe?

PVC is used a lot for water lines and some people even grow food right in larger diameter pipes. It is especially popular for hydroponic growing.

PVC is a hard plastic and phthalates are added to make it softer and more flexible. It also contains some BPA. A form of PVC called uPVC or rigid PVC contains no phthalates and is considered food safe.

It is best for the environment if you don’t use regular PVC in the garden.

Heat and Light

Much of the published information about plastic deals with it at normal room temperature and light. In the garden, they are exposed to more heat and UV light from the sun. Both of these speed up chemical seepage and decomposition.

Plastic can release BPA 50 times faster when in contact with boiling water than water at room temperature. PETE (#1) plastic will release antimony in the presence of heat. Polypropylene (#5) has a high heat tolerance and tends to leach less than other plastics.

How much of an effect does heat and light have on plastics in the garden? That’s not clear.

Is Growing in Plastic Containers Organic?

You can grow in plastic and still be certified organic. That seems like a contradiction in terms for me. It is alright to grow in soil that contains chemicals from plastic, but it’s not OK to use synthetic fertilizer which is identical to the nutrients from organic sources?

Even plastic mulch can be used in organic farming.

Are Plastic Containers Safe?

Plastic does release chemicals into the soil and some are absorbed by plants. Most of these chemicals are at very low levels and considered perfectly safe.

Phthalates are considered a potential health issue because they are everywhere and you will be eating them in your food, even if you don’t grow in plastic containers. Reducing the use of cosmetic products will probably reduce your intake more than anything you do in the garden.

A very extensive study on BPA found, “global estimated BPA daily intakes were generally below the temporary tolerable daily intake (tTDI) recommended by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).”

Other chemicals leached from plastic are even less of a health concern.

Growing food in plastic seems to be quite safe provided you use plastic that is stamped as being food safe.

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USING RECYCLED PLASTIC CONTAINERS

Its a common perception that all plastics are harmful to grow food in and should be avoided completely. Some people saying that using plastics to grow vegetables and fruits defeats the very idea of growing naturally or organically. Though it is true that plastic products are not natural, what will landless people use to grow their own food? They can opt to buy inexpensive plastic pots sure, but that would be spending more money, and most people grow their own food to save money. Re-using plastic containers is cheaper and it gives the object one more use before being recycled.

There are other materials that can be used of course, like wooden pallets but sometimes supplies are not always available and they don’t last very long. Using plastic containers to grow food is fine – provided you know which plastics to use. Some plastics are harmful and leach toxins to the soil especially when they are heated or exposed to sunlight or prolonged periods of time. Make sure to discard scratched or worn down plastic containers to avoid leaching of chemicals.

Common plastic containers used for growing:

  • Food-grade 15-30 Litre buckets
  • Plastic bins (totes)
  • Yogurt and deli containers

Using Plastic Containers for Food: Scientific Study

SAFE PLASTICS

1 – Clear plastic bottles

2 – “Cloudy” milk and water jugs, opaque food bottles.

4 – Food storage bags and squeeze bottles.

5 – Rigid containers, including some baby bottles, and some cups and bowls, containers usually used for yogurt.

UNSAFE PLASTICS

3 – Vinyl, some ‘soft’ bottles and commercial cling wraps

6 – Polysterene, styrofoam, plastic wrap, un-numbered plastics

7 – Polycarbonate etc

One of the more common questions I’m asked on the blog is about plastic use, specifically, “What plastics are safe for use in the garden?” Since a lot of Epic Gardening readers are into hydroponics and aquaponics over soil gardening, there are a lot of people with a lot of plastic in their setup that are curious about their safety and place in the garden.

Well, I was curious too, so I decided to go deep into the world of plastics and figure it all out for you all!

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Here’s what I found. It turns out there are 7 different types of plastics that are labeled. If you’ve ever seen those little triangles with a number in it on your plastic products, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Here’s a picture:

Below is a breakdown of what each type of plastic is, what products use it, and if it’s safe to use in the garden.

Plastic Type 1 – PET

Plastic marked with a 1 is made of Polyethylene Terephthalate, or PET. It’s one of the most common plastics for food items like soda bottles, jars of peanut butter, or if you’re like me, jars of ghee you use for cooking. One of the issues with this type of plastic is that it tends to take on the aroma of the food that is stored in it.

It’s one of the most commonly recycled plastics and is almost exclusively used for single-use items since it can break down when exposed for long periods of time to light or heat.

If you’re paying attention, that means it’s not the best choice for your garden, since ​gardens typically are exposed to quite a bit of light and heat!

Yes, it’s probably going to be fine, but why take the chance of some leaching, especially when you’re running a soil-free setup, meaning that the leached chemicals will go straight into your reservoir rather than the bit of soil next to the plastic.

Verdict: While it’s probably OK to use, there are better plastic choices out there, so why not use those instead?

Plastic Type 2 – HDPE

Source: Public Domain Photos

Plastic marked with a 2 is made of High-Density Polyethylene.​ You see HDPE everywhere, from milk jugs to detergent bottles. It’s one of the best and safest types of plastic for food consumption as it resists UV rays and is extremely heat tolerant ( -148 to 176 F / -100 to 80 C ). Because of this, it’s an excellent choice for the garden.

Verdict: Very safe, not known to transmit any chemicals into soil or food. An excellent choice for the garden.

Plastic Type 3 – V

Plastic marked with a 3 is made of Polyvinyl Chloride​, better known as PVC. One of the more commonly known types of plastic, PVC shows up in plastic pipes, irrigation, salad dressing bottles, and liquid detergent containers.

Most PVC products contain chemicals known as phthalates, which essentially help the PVC be more durable, flexible, etc – all of the qualities we associate with plastic.​

While this is great for making PVC a quality building material, phthalates are not the best for us humans. In fact, most of us have some small concentration of phthalates in our urine due to leaching, though the CDC believes that our diet is the reason for most of the phthalates in our bodies.​

For this reason, try to stay away from PVC setups in your gardens. I know it’s attractive to have a cheap PVC garden, but if you value your health, choose an alternative plastic.

*Note: not all type 3 plastics use phthalates as a plasticizer, so you may be OK using some PVC products – but be sure you know that phthalates weren’t used before you make the decision.​

Verdict: We’re already exposed to enough phthalates in our daily lives, why grow with a material known to leach them into the environment?

Plastic Type 4 – LDPE

Plastics marked with a 4 are made with Low-Densidy Polyethylene. Some products that use LDPE include plastic produce bags, trash can liners, and food storage containers.

Are you seeing a trend here? The plastics that are already used for food storage tend to also be safe to garden with. Like it’s older cousin HDPE, LDPE plastic is very safe in a wide range of temperatures and can even be used in the microwave. Conclusion? It’s a good choice for the garden.

Verdict: Very safe, not known to transmit any chemicals into soil or food. An excellent choice for the garden.

Plastic Type 5 – PP

Plastic marked with a 5 is made of Polypropylene​. Commonly used in products that require injection molding like straws, bottle caps, or food containers. While it’s not as universally tolerant to heat as HDPE or LDPE, it generally is safe for use with food and the garden.

There are some minor concerns about leaching that came up after Canadian researchers found that the leaching was affecting their labwork, but for the most part it’s regarded as a safe plastic ​

Verdict: A decent choice for the garden.

Plastic Type 6 – PS

Plastic marked with a 6 is made of Polystyrene​. You see polystyrene based plastic everywhere – packing peanuts, styrofoam cups, plastic forks, meat trays, to-go containers, etc. It’s one of the most widely used types of plastic in a variety of industries.

​Being so widely used, it’s also been the subject of many scientific tests on health and safety. The general conclusion is that it’s safe for use in food products, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it is safe for gardening.

One interesting fact is that the food products that are contained in polystyrene (meat, berries, etc) all have styrene as a naturally occurring compound. Polystyrene is a continual topic of discussion in scientific circles due to it’s wide use. One particularly popular topic is the safety of microwaving polystyrene products with food – the jury is still out on that one.

All in all, it’s a decent plastic to use for the garden, but my only concern is that it is a more porous material and less sturdy, making it not a good structural choice for the garden.​

Verdict: Seems fine safety-wise, but structurally may not be the best choice for the garden if you need it to support weight or water.

Plastic Type 7 – OTHER

Plastic marked with a 7 is made from anything other than the materials listed in numbers 1-6. Typically this means plastics made of Polycarbonate or Polylactide​. Polycarbonate is the most common type 7 plastic, and also one of the most harmful plastics that we have ever created. It’s been proven time and time again to leach BPA, which has been linked to a lot of different health problems.

The thing to know about plastic type 7 is that it’s a catch-all for anything that doesn’t fit into the first 6 categories. That means that there are also some safe plastics in this category as well, but you’ll have to do further research to make sure that you’re using one that’s safe.

Why go through the trouble when there are other, safer plastics to use like HDPE or LDPE? My vote is to stay away from type 7 in the garden simply due to better options elsewhere.​

Verdict: Some type 7 plastics contain BPA, a harmful compound that has been linked to many adverse health effects. Stay away from type 7 plastics in your garden.

Which to Choose?

Hopefully this breakdown gives you a good idea of what to look for when it comes to using plastic in the garden. I’m all for recycling materials and using what you can to build out your garden, but not at the expense of your health or the health of the people who are eating what you’re growing!

My personal choice is to go with HDPE or LDPE, just because they’re the safest by far when it comes to actual scientific tests and potential concerns. Yes, they’re a bit more expensive to purchase, but they last a long time, which means they’re actually cheaper when you consider the fact that you won’t have to replace them often.

Have any thoughts or suggestions about plastic use in the garden? Let me know below!

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Kevin Espiritu
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Clarisa Teodoro
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Choosing Clay or Plastic Pots

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Many gardeners have their own preferences regarding the choice of clay or plastic pots for their plants. If you do not have a firm opinion either way this article will detail some advantages and disadvantages of both types.

Terra-cotta (unglazed clay) pots are made of a particular soil and fired in kilns during the manufacturing process. The rusty brown color of clay is harmonious with every flower and foliage color.

Clay pots provide a healthy environment for most plants. The porosity of clay allows air and moisture to penetrate the sides of the pot. This moisture and air is utilized by the fine roots located at the edge of the soil ball. Clay pots also act like a wick to remove excess moisture from the potting soil. This can be looked at as both an advantage and a disadvantage depending upon your watering habits.

Gardeners with a heavy hand at watering tend to over-water; their plants will probably benefit from clay. Other gardeners who wait for the wilting signal from their plants are better off with plastic. Plants which demand a well-drained, dry soil like cacti also prefer clay pots.

Outdoor usage of clay also has advantages. Clay pots have thick walls that protect plant roots from rapid changes in temperature which can be destructive. They also have a fair amount of weight and do not blow over as easily as some plastic pots. Clay does have the disadvantage of drying quickly. This can be a problem for moisture loving plants such as ferns or when attempting to germinate seeds.

Clay also has the tendency to form a white crusty layer on the outside of the pot. This is formed when mineral salts dissolved in the water are wicked from the potting medium into and through the pot wall. Some find this layer attractive, most gardeners find it unsightly. The salt deposits can be scrubbed off if their appearance offends. A final disadvantage, clay is easily broken.

Plastic pots are lightweight, strong and flexible. They are available in every color of the rainbow to coordinate with interior and exterior decor. Plastic does not have the wicking action that clay has making them an excellent choice for moisture-loving plants or for those gardeners who water infrequently.

Plastic pots are made of inert materials and are considered safe for growing plants. Many are made of recyclable plastic so disposal is environmentally friendly when the pot is no longer usable (unglazed clay pots are fully recyclable as well). Plastic pots generally have thinner walls than their clay counterparts offering roots little if any insulation from temperature change. Black plastic can actually act as a solar collector, heating up the potting medium to plant damaging levels.

If plants in dark colored plastic containers wilt quickly, check to make sure the plants are well watered then move them to a shadier location where heat build-up should not be a problem. Sunlight can be hard on plastic causing fading and brittleness. Many plastic pots intended for outdoor use are treated with ultraviolet light inhibitors to reduce fading and maintain flexibility thus increasing the life-span of the pot.

Whether it be plastic or clay, make sure the pot you select has drainage holes in the bottom to prevent over-watering.

Whether you live in a tiny apartment or on a large bungalow, gardening in containers is a way to add color and the beauty of nature to your surroundings.

The three main elements of creating successful containers gardens are:
1. Choosing the pots
2. Getting the right planting medium
3. Selecting the plants

In all of these elements, the key is to create a healthy growing environment for the plant roots. For a healthy root system, water must be able to pass quickly through the soil. As the water drains out, air replaces it in the soil and an exchange of carbon dioxide is made with the plant roots. This movement of water and air is essential to a healthy plant.

Also read: Homemade Organic Rose Fertilizers for Your Rose Garden
Here are some tips to help you choose from the dizzying array of pots, troughs and boxes:

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A few points to consider:

Financial Cost: There are lots of options on the market if you are looking to buy – from cheap and cheerful to decorative and expensive.
Product Life: Think about the longevity of the pot you require. Is it for a short term project? If so, looks may not be important. Or is it something you’re prepared to invest in, as a design feature? Extended durability can mean less consumption of resources.

Environmental Impact: Some planter materials and construction processes drain our natural resources. Others have a smaller environmental footprint using less resources. Processes used in manufacture and transport often require significant use of fossil fuels. As a ‘conscious consumer,’ is this important to you? If so, consider making your own pots where possible. Choose pots made from sustainable materials or reuse containers creatively to grow your plants.
Time & Energy: If you have limited time, you may want to buy a planter. However, making your own by repurposing a wide range of containers into practical planters, is much easier than you think. See Repurposed Planters for loads of creative and inspiring low-cost ideas.
Pros & Cons: You may want to consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of various types of containers before you put your hand in your pocket and go shopping!
Your particular situation – there are three key factors which may also influence your decision on which kind of pot to choose.

Clay/terracotta pots are attractive and complement a wide range of foliage and flowering plants. They are the traditional potting container because, in addition to draining well, they wick moisture through their sides. This provides a drier root environment, which means less opportunity for root diseases. However, it also means more frequent watering is needed. If you tend to underwater, use terra cotta pots for only drought tolerant plants, or choose another type of container.
On the down side, clay pots can be heavy and must be protected in colder climates during the winter to prevent cracking. A glazed clay container is non-porous, creating a moisture barrier. Because this will not allow the root system to breathe, glazed pots are best used with a regular terracotta pot inside of them.

Plastic pots are inexpensive, lightweight and functional, and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours. If you don’t like the look of plastic, apply a faux finish to fool the eye, or slip the plastic pots inside other containers. With the proper soil mix and attentive watering, plants do well in plastic pots. If you tend to underwater your plants, plastic is a better choice than terra-cotta for you. However, plastic containers may need to be weighted down to stay in place on windy days.

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Wood containers look good in naturalistic environments, and most plants do well in them. Wood drains better than plastic but does not have the wicking advantage of clay, and wood containers can be heavy when planted. Choose containers made of hardwood, such as redwood, cedar or cypress, which are less susceptible to rot over time. Lining wood containers with heavy-duty plastic bags will give you added protection from moisture, but you must remember to provide proper drainage.

Also read: Benefits of Using Citrus Peel in Your Garden

Metal containers can be used successfully in many modern settings. Galvanised containers are the best for planting — they won’t leach rust or chemicals into the soil. Unless the container was designed as a planter, you’ll need to add drainage holes to the bottom of the pot, or slip other pots inside it.
Quaint Accents Found items can add variety and whimsy to your container garden. If you’re going to plant directly in such items as watering cans, old boots, teapots or wheelbarrows consider drainage and air movement around the roots of the plants. Now that you chosen the perfect containers, you need to select the planting medium and the plants. Go fill your world with beautiful plants!

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Location: Pick the spot for your garden first and then find a container to suit it. For example, a quaint wooden trough would not suit a modern balcony, nor would classic urn shaped pots be the best choice for an informal garden. In addition to style considerations, give attention to size and proportion issues.
Weight: Consider the weight of the container — not only empty, but filled with wet soil and plants. If there is a strong prevailing breeze across your outdoor space, the container must be heavy enough to prevent it from tipping over. On the other hand, the structure on which the containers are placed must be able to support them.

Also read: Top 10 summer flowers in India

Looking to start some little seedlings indoors but not really wanting to shell out your cold hard cash for containers? Never fear. Mavis’ freebie suggestions are here! There really are so many awesome places to choose from when looking for free garden containers to plant seeds in. I’ll also toss some free containers I get into my garden boxes so I can use less soil and yet not hurt my plants! Here are some great places to check if you, too, are on the hunt:

Home Depot or Lowes: Your big box plant retailers are the first place I’d recommend checking when trying to score some free containers. They go through mass quantities of plants and have to put those containers somewhere. Ask someone working in the outdoor nursery if they have any containers to spare. I’ve often had them tell me to come back on a certain day and then I’ll return to a free container jackpot!

Craigslist: Always a great place to find all sorts of different containers that you could use for your garden. Just look in the “free” category when searching and you’ll be shocked what you find. Of course, be careful you don’t meet in some dark alley to do an exchange and never go by yourself. And that’s my safety tip of the day.

Recycling Centers: Next time you take your recycling to the center, be sure to pop your head into the place where plastics are dumped. Or if you want some more durable containers to use, you could also check out the tin cans. Sometimes there are larger tin cans that can make great garden containers, too. Always ask permission first, but since you are still recycling the container, just in a different way, I’ve never had them tell me no!

Dumpsters: Put on your ickiest clothes and get ready to do some dumpster diving! Seriously though, I’d only check the ones that are next to large retailers or plant nurseries. Otherwise you’ll be looking for a needle in a haystack!

Food Services: Restaurants are bound to have containers they trash daily. And they’re more than happy to send their containers off to a good home. Plus, don’t forget all those take out containers. Simply poke a couple of holes in to the bottom of the container, fill with soil and plant. Use the top of the container to catch any excess water.

Freecycle: This is another great place to score some free containers in your area, although it’s pretty hit and miss depending on when you search. Stuff goes lightening fast on that site!

Your Own Recycling: Many things that we recycle can be used as very nice plant containers if you think of them in new light.

Milk jugs, coffee tins and cans, egg shells and 2 liter bottles all work great as plant containers!

Bakeries: Imaging all the frosting that the bakers go through. Then imagine how many containers that frosting or the ingredients for that frosting came in. Next time you stop into your local bakery, ask if they have any used containers in the back they’re willing to part with. More often than not they will be happy to have you take them.

Containers of all shapes and sizes are super useful when it comes to planting or filling up those larger garden boxes, and there’s certainly no need to pay for them when you can find them all over the city for free? Where do you get your planting containers and do you pay for them? What are your favorite types to use?

Plant on,

~Mavis

Gardening books hold kind of a special place in my heart. I wouldn’t be the gardener I am today {or maybe not a gardener at all} if it weren’t for a few gardening books I picked up years ago. I spent almost the entire winter of 2008/2009 reading up on gardening. I found some incredible reads that taught me so much and made me realize how much I didn’t know. So I’ve never stopped reading gardening books.

Here are just a few of my favorites, although if we’re being honest, narrowing this list down was hard!

My Favorite Garden Books:

  • Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting
  • The Complete Compost Gardening Guide
  • Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre
  • Sugar Snaps and Strawberries
  • The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food
  • The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook

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Today I wanted to share with you all how I was able to get FREE containers for starting seeds indoors. Last year I wanted a free container for planting my seedlings, so I tried the egg carton method. It worked okay, but I had a hard time getting them out of the containers, and when I watered them it was kind of a messy ordeal. I also purchased a seed starter kit from Walmart last year for around $5.00 and that worked fine. However this year I wanted something that I didn’t have to pay for, but was strong enough to hold my plants.

So I went on down to Lowes to check out what they had available for containers & seeds. While I was wandering around the store I noticed this cart full of empty planters and pots.

They were in the gardening section and they were full of plastic containers they were going to recycle. So I asked an associate if I could have a few of these empty plastic containers for myself and she said “Sure!” She said quite a few people ask her for them and that they are happy to give them away to people that are going to use them.

I was so excited – FREE CONTAINERS!!! Wooo hooo! The ones I found were sturdy and deeper than the ones I would have paid money for at the stores. Plus I was able to find some long flat plastic ones to place underneath the potting ones them so that they won’t drip all over my counters when I water them.

Look how perfect they are!

I found the Lowes cart full of recycling containers up by the front of the gardening department, but look around if you don’t see it right away. And make sure and ask someone first, so it doesn’t look like you are stealing. But from the way it sounds, people get these free all the time. Why oh why didn’t I know about this??? 🙂

When I got home I added potting soil to these free containers and added my seeds. Then watered and placed in a sunny window.

Here is how they are looking now – a few sections are just now starting to grow even after 10 days.

The ones I am doing by seed indoors this year are 3 giant pumpkins, one tomato plant, lots of marigolds, 6 celery and 8 basil. Many of the other seeds I have planted directly into my garden, which by the way is starting to green up nicely!

Have you been able to get free containers at Lowes or Home Depot before too? Any other places to get free containers you know of?

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