Wednesday 9 March 2011

Free containers

I'm sure most of you, like me, still buy many of your groceries and other household requirements at a supermarket or traditional shop. Whether we like it or not, many of the goods we buy come in plastic containers. These tend to get thrown in the dustbin when they are empty, and usually end up in landfill somewhere, with all the consequent negative effects on our fragile environment. The sad fact is that if we just thought a little more about it, we could use these containers for loads of other purposes...

We gardeners always need containers for lots of things - seed-trays and plant-pots being the most obvious ones. It can cost a fair bit of money to buy new seed-trays and plant pots from a Garden Centre, so why not consider reusing some of those plastic containers from the groceries, that would otherwise go to waste?

I have shown you this one before - a butter tub being used for growing cress:-

Here are some more ideas for you.

An old washing-up bowl can be used as a harvesting receptacle.

Or as a deep seed-tray.

Here are some containers from Pelleted Chicken Manure being used as pots for growing tomatoes

Some other containers that are going to be put to good use in my garden include:

This plastic biscuit box, which will become a nice deep (approx 6") growing-container for Baby Leaf Salad, or Corn Salad, or even radishes. (No chance of losing this one in the gloomy weather, eh?)

This large 1-kilogramme Margarine tub, which will be a seed-tray.

These 284ml (10 fl oz) cream cartons will provide perfect deep pots for tomato seedlings. Obviously the normal little yoghurt pots also make ideal individual plant modules, but with a pot this tall you can plant a seedling really deeply, thus promoting beneficial additional root growth from the stem.

This shallow 175g paté tub will be a good one for growing Mustard-and-Cress on the windowsill.

And what about making individual plant modules from cut-down milk bottles. Most people use loads of these, and they are easy to cut using a sturdy pair of kitchen scissors.

And don't let's forget the traditional use of the surplus egg-carton: keeping seed potatoes upright during chitting.

This can be done with polystyrene ones too, but the cardboard ones like that in the picture above have the added benefit of being compostable.

Even when one of my plastic compost bins was broken by a falling fence in a gale, I was able to salvage part of it and convert it into a tub for growing Marrows.

OK, I've shown you lots of my Reuse ideas. I'm sure that many of my readers will have some equally good ideas, so who else is prepared to share them with us? 

P.S. Have a look at this great idea from David Offut's blog - In The Garden


  1. We cut up the tall yoghurt pots into strips and make plant labels from them.

    Maybe if containers were made of some neutral colour with a paper label showing company logos that was easily removable etc we would use old containers more. What about growing watercress in an old washing up bowl.

  2. i am a little bit of a hoarder tomorrow i will photograph some of my finds and maybe you could give me some ideas what to do with them.

  3. Lest year I used compost bags to grow potatoes. I've used old carpet scraps as weed suppressants around trees.

  4. Mark all I can say to this is with you being such a fabulous cook, what are you doing with margarine in the house?!


    I try to reuse plastic containers and keep leftovers in them, tupperware style... ummm what else, I also wash them and give them to the boys to use, you know, as a drum or to make a boat, whatever takes their fancy.

    I am also with Green Lane Allotments on this, I don't tend to use them in the garden because they look awful, and goodness knows there's already enough stuff lying around thanks to the boys and I.

    I'm trying to think of something that I do that will really impress you all, have you nodding your heads and murmuring, yes, that Ali has some great ideas.

    I'm going off to think now.

  5. Ali; the 1kg tub of margarine was something that Jane was given as part of a Goodie Bag when she recently attended a "Cup-cake Masterclass" hosted by Flora. She made (and learned to make for future use!)some fabulous cupcakes - e.g. banana with dulce de leche, and chocolate and peanut butter. Wow, they were good!

  6. I have a whole cupboard full of the margarine container because we love the Move Over Butter margarine. I mostly use them as food and water dishes for the chicks. I have gotten some really good plastic containers lately though that are clear plastic with clear plastic lids (the organic salad greens come in them)that I know would make great starter greenhouse containers. They are piling up beside the kitchen table along with several other things, sigh.

  7. Free is good: here is my contribution to your recycling ideas,

  8. We just use knife to make holes for drainage with containers from the kitchen. My wishlist this year is a driller!

  9. Mark, you are a man after my own heart!

  10. Love your zingy orange planter!
    I did try using toilet roll insides for sowing bean seeds, but they turned mouldy. So now I just compost all my cardboard. I have used cut off mineral water bottles as mini cloches, but prefer fleece, and we have decided not to buy water in bottles, so that removes one source of plastic. I like Green Lane Allotments' idea of making plant labels from yoghurt pots.

  11. Nice one Mark! I'd add that you can leave the tops of the milk cartons in place with a small section to act as a hinge, punch holes so that you can wire the two together, and use it as a mini cloche/propagator. Not my idea, came from the wonderful SweetBean gardening blog. Ooh, and what about loo rool middles! I guess you were concentrating on the evil plastic though. Aldi used to sell grapes in a plastic box with a lid - they make great mini propagators. I am running out of places to store all this Useful Stuff though...

  12. Like you I use a lot of my "garbage" for my garden.
    We can recycling so many thinks in our home.
    Great post. Have a great day.


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