Johnny-jump-ups in the john

From boots to bathtubs, upcycled containers add novelty

The Oregon Botanic Gardens in Silverton, Oregon, used conventional household fixtures as planters in its children’s garden area, including an old bed, toilet, and pedestal sink. Upcycling containers that are not garden-specific can provide whimsy and variety to a garden area, and keep these items out of landfills as repurposed containers.



The Oregon Botanic Gardens in Silverton, Oregon, used conventional household fixtures as planters in its children’s garden area, including an old bed, toilet, and pedestal sink. Upcycling containers that are not garden-specific can provide whimsy and variety to a garden area, and keep these items out of landfills as repurposed containers.



The Oregon Botanic Gardens in Silverton, Oregon, used conventional household fixtures as planters in its children’s garden area, including an old bed, toilet, and pedestal sink. Upcycling containers that are not garden-specific can provide whimsy and variety to a garden area, and keep these items out of landfills as repurposed containers.



The Oregon Botanic Gardens in Silverton, Oregon, used conventional household fixtures as planters in its children’s garden area, including an old bed, toilet, and pedestal sink. Upcycling containers that are not garden-specific can provide whimsy and variety to a garden area, and keep these items out of landfills as repurposed containers.



Nobody ever said your garden had to be in rows, in planters you bought from a big-box store or in cookie-
cutter containers.

There are no terra-cotta garden police monitoring yards to ensure you used little brown pots.

Sometimes it’s fun to upcycle containers that can be used to contain plants and bring a little novelty to your garden space.

It turns out, you can grow plants in pretty much anything. Here in western Colorado, it’s good to keep in mind that soil can dry out faster than in other places because of our arid climate, and container plants might require more frequent watering to keep them happy.

Or you could just match plants that aren’t as thirsty with shallower containers so they don’t mind drying out a bit.

But for the most part, anything is fair game when you’re considering less-standard vessels to contain your flora.

Of course, we’ve all seen the rusted wheelbarrows planted with moss roses and the whiskey barrels repurposed to grow petunias.

A rusted-out Radio Flyer red wagon is a perfect home for plants, and the whole pallet garden craze seems to have hit a tipping point with people using them for everything from herb garden planters to making garden benches.

But what about bringing some of the things you normally see in the house outside?

Why not plant daisies in an old toilet? Or make a true flower “bed” with some old, rusted headboard? Everything from bathtubs to old boots are fair game.

Sure, it’s not everyone’s taste and some might find it too kitschy, but these indoor-outdoor gardens with repurposed materials can bring a touch of whimsy to anyone’s garden. Tuck in a few gnomes and they’ll look right at home in their lush garden.

When using alternative containers for plants, I think the most important thing to keep in mind is drainage.

Some containers don’t come with ready-made holes in the bottoms for water to move along instead of staying in the pot.

If you water too much, the roots will suffocate and the plant will shrivel, yellow and die. You don’t want to drown the plant and have nowhere for the water to escape.

Consider using containers that are easily retrofitted with drainage holes, or using plants that don’t require much watering at all and irrigating them judiciously.

Another option for dealing with the drying-out issue is adding a moisture-holding gel to the potting soil you use in the container, which will retain water and slowly release it to the plants between waterings.

These hydrogels or water-storing crystals are widely available and can be useful in small planters to help keep moisture more consistent for the plants.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener and journalist. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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