Wow! Jumping back into the saddle after months without a murmur here. Life has been busy with some notable projects, a vision plan for the Pacific University Center for Sustainability Education and a community food garden at Nike’s international headquarters.
There are a few lose threads hanging around here, so I thought I’d immediately jump on one. As promised back in May (eek!), here are some resources for highly-aesthetic container gardens, when scrappy-looking ones using random materials just won’t do. If you’re looking for introductory information, here is a post from a while back with great links.
When Looks Matter
There are contexts in which sawed-off 55-gallon drums, 5 gallon buckets, and old nursery pots aren’t appropriate. Many of us live in places that we share with at least one person (ourself, landlord, neighbor, etc.) who has a strong preference (or neurotic obsession) for clean lines and refined materials. Here are a few ideas for those types of situations, with planters that you can make/source/upcycle easily, look nice by most people’s standards, and are still affordable.
Ceramic planters are easily the most common (non-plastic) planters around. If you can find ones you like (many are hideous), at a price that is agreeable to you (many are ungodly expensive), they’re some of the best containers to grow in. The pot itself is usually relatively light, it’s a large soil volume that really makes them hard to manage.
Check yardsales, fleamarkets, and end-of-season sales (late Fall) at nurseries for these.
Simple planters made of concrete are cheap, easy to make, and look nice, especially to those fond of a modern look. By adding a lightweight additive (like perlite or shredded paper), you can make planters that don’t require a team of draught animals to move.
Check out this page for more info about making concrete planters.
If you’re handy with wood, reclaiming cedar or other rot-resistant lumber is one of the best ways to make really gorgeous planters. With the help of a belt sander or planer, the most sun-bleached boards will reveal beautiful new color. Because of cedar’s natural rot-resistance, it will last for years in contact with soil.
During the warmer months, when most construction work is happening, be on the lookout for fences being torn down. You only need a few boards to create a planter. If you’re feeling ambitious, a fence’s worth of boards can yield a whole patio’s worth of planters or more.
Watch out for pressure treated lumber (which generally has conspicuous dimples in a grid pattern) and fencing that looks like it was recently stained or sealed.
When they can be found used, I’m a huge fan of using metal feed troughs as planters. Generally made of galvanized steel, feed troughs are durable, good looking, and come with drainage holes already cut. If you live relatively close to agricultural areas, try searching “feed trough” or “trough” on craigslist. Also check classifieds in rural newspapers or farm and ranch-related newsletters.
Many other techniques and uses exist for the materials listed above, but those are some of my favorites. Do you have edible container gardens that you’ve created in a situation where looks really matter? Send photos and stories to share [at] permacultureforrenters [dot] com