Making Garden Pots from Recycled Materials
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Making Garden Pots from Recycled Materials

Making garden pots and planters from recycled materials is a great way to get creative in your garden, reduce waste and save money. This step by step guide shows how to make pots and planters from commonly found materials around the home.

What can be Turned into a Pot or Planter

From old ceramic bowls to toilet rolls and plastic ice-cream containers, always ask yourself if it can be reused before it throwing out.

Seed Raising Pots

Reusing the plastic seed trays from seedlings bought at your local garden centre is a great option for raising your own seeds however when you run out of trays there are other options.

The first is reusing egg cartons. The individual cells are perfect for planting lettuce seeds or annual flowers. As the cells are not very deep the seedlings should be planted out as soon as the plant has its second leaves.

Toilet paper rolls are also a great option for raising seeds as they have a good depth and can be planted straight into the ground as the cardboard will decompose in the soil.

It is best to sit the rolls in a tray then tie string around the outside to keep them upright before filling with seed raising mix.

Reusing Ceramic Bowls

Old or chipped ceramic bowls can be used as pots by drilling a hole in the bottom with a ceramic drill bit. These drill bits will have a flatter edge across the end and are commonly used to drill through tiles.

This ceramic drill bit is used for making a drainage hole in the bottom of ceramic bowls.
Drill bit for drilling ceramic bowls.

Be careful not to press too hard when drilling the hole or the bowl may crack. It is easiest to use a smaller drill bit first then increase the size of the hole with a larger bit. Stoneware bowls will work better and last longer than porcelain.

This multi material Drill Bit Set replaces two types of drill bits. The spear pointed design prevents breakout. These are great quality and are highly rated. (Paid link)

Large Recycled Pots and Planters

Old water troughs, sinks and bath tubs make unusual pots which will look beautiful once planted with your favorite plants.

Another option is old washing machine tubs which were made from steel then covered with hard wearing enamel. These already have a drainage hole in the bottom and are large enough for a dwarf fruit tree.

Recycled old steel and enamel wash basin used as a pot or planter for a dwarf lemon tree.
This old enamel wash tub is the perfect size for a dwarf lemon tree.

Copper washing basins are harder to find but also make a great pot which will last forever.

This old copper wash basin makes a perfect pot.

These can be found cheaply at scrap yards, clearing out sales, garage or yard sales, internet classifieds or sometimes local farms will have old rubbish tips but remember to ask permission before entering someone’s property.

Making Pots and Planters from Bricks

Permanent pots or raised beds can be made using old bricks or pavers. They will need to be mortared in however this is made easier by buying a mortar premix which just needs the addition of water.

Smaller temporary pots can be made from old bricks by simply stacking the bricks a few high in an overlapping pattern without using mortar. It is best not to go too high or they may move out of place. You will also need to be careful not to hit them with the wheelbarrow or lawnmower.

Stacking old bricks to make a garden pot.
Overlapping the bricks to make the sides stronger.

Place weed matting or a thick layer of newspaper in the bottom before filling with soil to prevent grass from growing up through the bottom. This Weed Barrier from Dewitt is top rated on Amazon and is guaranteed to last 5 years. (Paid link)

Turning Plastic Waste into Pots and Planters

This is the most cost-effective method of making garden pots from recycled materials. Use old butter or margarine containers for smaller pots or plastic ice-cream containers are perfect for a larger planter.

They can be easily decorated to create a beautiful pot for your garden. This is a fun project and perfect for children and adults alike.

Recycled ice-cream container decorated with shells and planted with lilies.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Plastic Container
  • Corkscrew or Drill Bit
  • Paint, Shells, Old Tiles etc. (Optional)
  • Glue (Optional) – This Gorilla Glue is great for glueing on vertical surfaces and doesn’t need clamping. (Paid link)

Instructions

How to make garden pots and planters from home plastic waste.

  1. Wash and Dry

    Wash out the plastic container then leave to completely dry.

  2. Make the Drainage Holes

    Make the drainage holes in the bottom by using a corkscrew. Push the end of the corkscrew into the plastic then turn until a large enough hole is made. This can also be done using a drill. The hole should be at least ¼ inch (5mm) in diameter. Make 1 hole for smaller containers and up to 5 on larger containers.

    Making drainage holes in the bottom of the plastic container with a corkscrew.

  3. Decorate by Painting

    Next decorate the outside. Exterior paint is a great option as it will wear well otherwise paint a layer of clear varnish over acrylic paint so it won’t wash off.

    Painting the outside of a recycled plastic container.

  4. Glue on Embellishments

    Another option is to glue embellishments onto the outside such as shells or old tiles. Use good quality glue which dries clear. You may need to glue one side of the container at a time until the glue sets. Any excess glue will clean off with methylated spirits or rubbing alcohol.

    Glueing shells on the outside of an ice-cream container.

  5. Plant Your New Pot

    Once completely dry, plant your pot then place in your garden.

    Recycled pot planted with succulents.

Tip

Knives don’t work well for making holes in plastic as they can split the plastic creating a long line. If you do need to use a knife be careful to insert just the tip then turn the knife in a circular motion until you have a hole large enough.

As recycled plastic isn’t UV stabilized, these pots will become brittle over time especially in full sun.

Making garden pots from recycled materials can be done without spending any money by using whatever you can find around the home to decorate the outside whether that be leftover paint or even old metal washers.

Are you looking for more garden projects? Try these guides to Making a Brick Garden Border, a Bird Scaring Device or Restore a Rusty Gate.

For more home project ideas try this guide to DIY Projects or this Homesteading guide.

To Print or Save this guide on Making Garden Pots from Recycled Materials, click the button below for the PDF file.

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