10 Unique Garden Containers and Techniques


Creating a garden that is both beautiful and functional doesn’t require a three acre homestead in the middle of nowhere. In fact, some of the best community and urban gardens are not only creatively small, they make use of recycled materials to create a healthy growing environment and eliminate waste. Here are ten of the more distinctive methods of starting and growing many common fruits and vegetables. (See also: Garden Ideas for Small Spaces)

Starting Seeds

If you opt out of garden plants that have gotten their start at a commercial greenhouse, you’ll likely need to start ahead. Seeds can easily be started with commercial kits and pots, but these savvy strategies work well too!

Bottles, Jugs, and Tubs

Some gardeners swear that they get great results from growing their seeds in whatever containers they can find around the house. This includes the bottom half of milk jugs, old margarine containers, and salad bar quart containers. Just be certain that whatever you use is clean and can provide proper drainage.

Egg Shells

After you’ve cracked a few for your omelet, rinse out the shells and set them carefully aside to start your next tomato plant. These tiny little containers are all-natural, which means you can place them directly into the soil after your little seed has sprouted, minimizing trauma to the roots and allowing the shell to become a natural compost ingredient for the tiny guy. Plus, slugs hate eggshells! Note that it’s best to crack just the top of the shell — the pointy end — and break it away when using the egg. This leaves more of the bottom portion intact to hug the soil.

Egg Cartons

The amazing egg is good for a few garden tricks; the humble egg carton (the paper, not foam kind) can be transformed into a planting center for all kinds of vegetable seeds. Use two layers of egg cartons to create a sturdier surface; constant watering can wreak havoc on the cartons over time. Since they are not waterproof, you’ll want to lay down a sheet of plastic wrap or an old tarp to catch moisture that leaks through. Egg carton seed starters can also be placed directly in the soil come time for the transplant.

Container Gardening

Now that your seeds have become plants (or if you skipped this step and purchased your plants outright), you’re ready to give your greens a permanent home! Here are some unique containers to hold the soil and your new plant.


We have used others’ trash as a way of creating raised tire beds for years. Stacking tires, filling them halfway with dirt, and planting your tomato or pepper directly into the center will not only offer it protection from wind, it will also keep the soil warm and help plants to bear fruit far sooner than a typical container. If you are concerned about tires “leaching” chemicals into the soil, check out our recycled tire tips for making sure they stay safe.


Root plants love staying hidden under the soil, and using old barrels as both a way to grow and cold-store potatoes and other tubers is economical and eco-friendly. This article from GreenUpGrader shows you how to literally grow hundreds of pounds of potatoes in one barrel, giving even urban dwellers a chance at the taste of fresh fingerlings this year.

Dresser Drawers

Inspired by these stair-step commercial planters, many DIY’ers are fashioning their own multi-level gardens using old dresser drawers. You will want to be certain that the dresser you plunder from isn’t covered in lead paint and is made from genuine wood (not particle board); make sure that you drill holes in the bottom for proper water drainage and set up a slightly elevated surface as well. You can arrange your drawers in any way you can imagine!

Shoe Organizers

This idea for an herb garden planted in a canvas shoe holder is amazing! I can imagine doing this for flowers as well. (Leave one or two pockets empty for a convenient place to hold your gloves and tools.)


Not only are these one-wheeled utility carts whimsical to look at, they can make a back-breaking job quite easy.  Grab an old wheelbarrow with a fresh coat of paint to match your decor, and then use it as your garden “container.” Moving your plants into better light, away from damaging winds or storms, or even closer to water simply involves picking it up and pushing it along.

Old Shoes

Unless you wear a size 20, this one won’t work for larger veggies. Planting one or two herbs or a sweet, small annual, however, would work perfectly in an old pair of boots. One blogger decided to create a memorial for her father using his last pair of shoes and a delicate floral.


This is one you either love or hate, but there are dozens of photos online and on Pinterest showing this theme in action. Perhaps we can agree to use it for decorative plants only?

As you can see, gardens can take most any shape and size. 

What unusual planting ideas have you seen? What are your favorite tricks you can share with the readers?

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Meg Favreau's picture

I LOVE the shoe bag herb garden idea. So much fresh-herb deliciousness in one neat little package!