DIY: Eco-Friendly, Affordable Container Gardens

by Kara Butterfield, Shoestring Magazine
October 8, 2008 - 2:18am

Here at Shoestring, we love any decorating idea that's simple, that's 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? Share them with Shoestringers everywhere by posting a comment!

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Story & Photo: Copyright 2008, Shoestring LLC.

About The Author Related Articles
Photo of Kara Butterfield
Kara Butterfield relocated from Sydney to the South End of Boston. Since 2004, she's worked locally and internationally styling product, interiors, and lifestyle shots. Kara established an interior redesign business in 2004, called MakeReady, for homeowners who aspire to have their personal space look like the photo shoots she styles. Kara brings her wealth of knowledge and impeccable taste to Shoestring as our very own makeover maven and stylista extraordinaire.
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