The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

DIY: Eco-Friendly, Affordable Container Gardens

windowsill container gardening
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We love any decorating idea that’s simple, easy on both the mind and wallet, and that repurposes items you already have in your own home.

It truly is possible to create a style statement on a Shoestring budget, and for urbanites, we like nothing more than to see useful and beautiful container gardens in small spaces. Make like you live in the country with these two cheap, chic, and eco-friendly repurposed can ideas. Inside or outside, they add instant color and a touch of green to your thumb.

Herbs for Urbanites

For our indoor herb garden display, pictured above, we took three empty Italian soda cans (straight out of Melissa’s recycling bin) to create a sweet, soigne, and small-footprint container garden that’s not only useful but tasty, too. These cans add a splash of happy color and a cosmopolitan citrus theme to any kitchen counter or window ledge.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Style time: 10 minutes

First, we cut the tops off the cans with a can opener and covered the sharp edge with a bit of gaffer’s tape. (Don’t forget to spike holes in the bottom with a hammer and an icepick or a nail for drainage.)

Then, we cut the bottoms off three plastic water bottles (also from Melissa’s recycling bin) to create drip trays. You could also use spice dishes, ramekins, or some other cute charity-shop or yard sale remnant for added personality and style.

Lastly, we simply filled the cans with organic soil and planted our favorite organic herbs, both of which we picked up at our local hardware store.

“Terrace” Terarrium

We spied industrial-size tomato paste cans in the recycling outside a local Italian eatery (ahem, Melissa’s landlords, whose restaurant is directly downstairs) and were inspired to also create an urban country garden (pictured above). These cans were perfect for potting a larger flower, small vegetable, or full-sun perennial garden. Decorating the cans adds more visual impact for your buck, and the size of them fits nicely in small spaces like the “porches” and “decks” (or, in this case, fire escapes) dealt as prime and coveted outdoor space to most city dwellers.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes (10 if you go without design)
  • Style time: 15 minutes

The first step in the process is the same as with the herb garden, just remove the can’s labels with hot water and a scrubber sponge, then add some pebbles or broken terra cotta pieces in the base to help with drainage.

Next, for styling, we quickly spray painted the cans to pull an accent color from the interior home décor for continuity, and used our gaffer’s tape again to create a simple striped design. Simply tape your design to the can, spray the entire can, then allow drying time according to the paint’s directions. Once set, simply peel off the tape and voila! Cheap, chic, and totally unique planters. One can of low-VOC spray paint was more than enough for all three cans.

Lastly, fill your new garden “bed” with organic soil and plants from a local farm stand or hardware store. If you have the flowers and no dirt simply turn the can into an instant vase. Or, if you’re short on cash (or just happen to know a lot of gardeners) ask your neighbor, Grandma, or community garden center for some free clippings. Mature plants tend to be healthier and hardier, anyway! Just make sure to research and take each individual plant’s needs into consideratio so they can thrive in a contained environment, such as pruning tomatoes to make for bushier plants that do well in smaller growing spaces.

See, wasn’t that easy? In just a simple afternoon you can turn even the smallest of spaces into a lively, eco-chic and cheap retreat, in the middle of the country or the height of the city.

What are your favorite budget gardening and urban green-thumb tips? Love to hear from you!

Story & Photo: Copyright 2008, Shoestring LLC.

  • sonia

    I wouldn’t let the soda cans just the way they are, they look kinda unaesthetic to me. I think i would go for the painted variant of the cans, they look so much prettier and they seem easy to make too. I have to figure out which flowers are the easiest to grow and take care of, i have never grown plants till now and i don’t want to kill them but i want to try something similar to make my place look more lively.

  • http://www.dscons.com Paul Salisbury

    Although I am not particularly fond of the containers, the idea is great. I would personally paint or cover these little containers so I make a real statement of being individual and creative.

  • Elizabeth

    Even as the media seems to have exploded lately with eco-ideas, I’ve had the hardest time finding tips that actually apply to me as an apartment-dweller. (Suggestions for replacing the fridge or revamping the yard don’t help us single, “low-income” renters very much.) I’ve been looking for window box ideas too, so this article was perfect. I can’t wait to try it. Thank you!

  • Pamela

    These ideas are cute…but would there be rust or chemicals leaching into the plant from what ever was used to make the cans? Has there been any studies? I wouldn’t want to counter act the benefits of having a personal herb garden. Thank you! I really would like to know, I’m not trying to be argumentative.

  • http://andrew1977.vox.com/ andrew

    these ideas really are for people on a budget

    I never had to worry about that until recently.

    Seems like these ideas could work temporarily

  • Ellen Barnes

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my reader!

  • Metal Water Bottles

    On my website, I cover how the chemical BPA can leech out of some recycled plastics into foods and drinks and it’s possible health risks. I have recently seen that the chemical is also found in cans of soup, so I would think it probably makes it’s way into recycled soda and drink cans also.

    Aside from that, aluminum is not very resistant to corrosion with even just water, so adding soil to the mix could result in some funky corrosion in the can. This corrosion could leak into the soil and thus into your herbs.

    As said above, these may be cute for show, but possibly not very safe. I would just skip the cans and go for just the plastic bottles, as they at least won’t corrode.

  • Shoestring Gumshoe

    Even as the media seems to have exploded lately with eco-ideas, I’ve had the hardest time finding tips that actually apply to me as an apartment-dweller. (Suggestions for replacing the fridge or revamping the yard don’t help us single, “low-income” renters very much.) I’ve been looking for window box ideas too, so this article was perfect. I can’t wait to try it. Thank you!

  • Gigi

    I enjoy reading this, and even though the solutions you give are low budget, they look very classy. The next time I buy flowers, I’ll start trying things out.

  • Granna

    This is so cute. Your blog is encouraging me about gardening. Thank you so much for great tips.

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