Miniature Gardening in Recycled Containers, Part I
One of the joys of miniature gardening is that you can fit a garden in just about anywhere but, sometimes you gotta ask yourself, do you really want to? Here are some tips and insight into planting up the recycled containers and the sometimes not-so-wonderful aftermath of whimsy.
When thinking about planting in an unusual container, remember what Grandma used to say, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” The reduce, reuse, recycling idea has opened up a vast number of places to plant but you may be speeding up a trip to the landfill as a result of it. The main idea to recycle or reuse something is to keep it out of the garbage bin for as long as possible – or not at all. Speaking from experience, when you start with junk, you’ll end up with junk.
Suitcases and Drawers
Planting up suitcases and drawers can be very whimsical but they don’t last very long. Repurposing something that’s not meant to be planted will send it quickly to the trashbin. In order to make it plantable, you’ll have to drill some holes in the bottom which speeds up the water-damage. Once you place it outside in the sun, the UV rays will quickly age and fade the finish.
Drawers are usually made of some type or plywood or particle board which isn’t meant to get wet. Wood will quickly warp with moisture, the glue holding it together will decay, the sun will dry it out the wood and it will fall apart in a couple/few months.
Once a suitcase is planted, the moisture will start loosening up the seams and edges and, from my experience, if it’s a soft, fabric suitcase, you won’t be able to move it without disturbing the plants.
Wheelbarrows, Metal Water Cans, Anything Metal
Metal containers will heat up in the hot summer sun and it will dry out the soil too often for most plants. Make sure to drill or punch drainage holes in the bottom for the rain to escape. Stick to using plants that can tolerate dry soil and heat, like succulents and Sedums for your “miniature bedding plants” and pines and junipers for your trees and shrubs. Keep an eye on the watering in the hot months by poking your finger at least one inch down into the soil to check the level of dampness.
Wood Crates & Trugs
When planting up wooden crates and boxes, make sure you have enough depth for the plant’s roots. You may be able to get away with boxes as shallow as 4” deep, but the deeper the box, the longer your garden will last – providing it’s a sturdy box that is. Choose containers more than 4” deep if you can.
Wood ages and weathers in the sun and moisture but the more it weathers, the sweeter it can be. As long as your wood crate or trug is made from wood at least ½” thick, it can last for quite sometime. The thinner the wood, the quicker it will warp.
The seams in the bottom of the box will eventually come apart and warp with the moisture. Line wood crates and boxes with a sheet of mesh or landscape cloth to help keep the soil in place. Attach chair nails (also called nylon buttons or chair gliders) to the bottom of the box to raise it up off the ground to slow down the rotting process – you’ll be surprised at how long they last.
They Can Last for Years
A miniature garden can last for years before needing repotting so choose a container that will last for the duration – and one that you can live with for years that is more traditional or classic, rather than trendy for this season. Here’s a blog post on investing in containers with photos of our oldest miniature garden, click here.
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