Gardening can be expensive! From buying fertile soil to your favorite heirloom seeds, there’s a long list of gear you need to grow a bountiful, productive garden.
Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank in order to create the lush-looking oasis of your dreams. You just need to think outside the box.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your gardening budget is to look for free gardening containers. While you should never skimp on seeds or soil - this can really make or break your gardening success! - looking for free or cheap containers can help you lower your costs and will make it easier for you to garden on mere pennies.
Here are 13 places you can get free gardening containers - they don’t have to look unattractive, either!
1. Your Own Recycling
Without a doubt, one of the first places you should look when you’re trying to score some free gardening containers is in your own trash and recycling. There are all kinds of materials and containers you can use for gardening if you’re only willing to get creative!
Some of the best things you can use as planting containers include:
- Milk jugs
- Soda bottles
- Coffee cans or tins
- Old colanders
- Yogurt cups
2. Give Pallets a Try
Just about every business will have a boatload of pallets to get rid of from time to time, so pallets, despite being a bit bulky and cumbersome to move, offer gardeners a great resource in the form of free gardening containers.
Check with local stores to see if they have any pallets they want to get rid of or check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for people who are hoping to offload them. You can plant just about anything in a pallet, but some of the best things to grow include lettuce and beans, along with any kind of crop that can be grown vertically.
Don’t let pride get in your way - the dumpster is a great place to score some free gardening containers! Check ones next to plant nurseries or similar locations, though, or you’ll be wasting your time (plus, it could get kind of gross!).
Restaurants, cafeterias, and other places that serve up lots of food have all kinds of containers that they throw out on a daily basis. Usually, they’ll be willing to give them to you free of charge - it doesn’t hurt them any! From take-out containers to cartons used to store food, you’ll find everything you could ever want at a restaurant.
Just make sure you poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage before you plant.
5. Recycling Centers
Often,r recycling centers will have stockpiles of gardening containers and other durable materials you can use in your garden. Just head to the section of the recycling center where plastic goods are deposited. You can also check for tin cans, which can serve as good gardening containers, too.
If you head to the recycling center to get some free stuff, just make sure you ask permission first.
6. Use an Old Wagon Wheel
If you have an old wagon wheel lying around, this will make for a planter that’s not only attractive, but functional, too. Wagon wheels are great for growing just about any kind of crop, but especially things like succulents and herbs. You can use an old bicycle rim if you don't have a wagon wheel!
Think about all the frosting, flour, sugar, and other bulk items that bakeries go through on a daily basis! You can score some free gardening containers by swinging by your local bakery and seeing what they may be willing to part with.
Craigslist, along with its sister, Facebook Marketplace, both offer a great source of information for people hoping to score free gardening containers. When you’re searching on Craigslist, just check the “free” section - you’re sure to find something there. You can also just type in whatever it is you are searching for (this works for both Facebook Marketplace as well as Craigslist) and see what pops up.
Of course, when you’re trying to score free stuff on either of these websites, it’s important that you trust your gut and meet the person you’re buying from in a safe location. Don’t go alone, either!
Freecycle is another website where you can score some free containers. It can be a bit hit or miss depending on where you live (Freecycle isn’t as actively used in some communities, particularly rural ones, as it is in others). You’ll want to act quickly, too - stuff tends to disappear in a hurry on this website!
10. The Big Box Stores
Sure, you can head to Lowe’s or Home Depot to buy a few planting containers - but why not see if they have anything they can give away to you for free instead?
In fact, these large stores present thrifty gardeners with one of the best opportunities to score free gardening containers. After all, they go through huge quantities of plants and have to put containers somewhere!
Check with your local department stores as well as nearby nurseries and garden centers to see if they have any containers they wouldn’t mind parting with. You might get turned away, but you might score some free goodies - it’s worth a shot!
11. Try Old Wine Corks
If you’re growing something small, like miniature succulents or tiny, fragile herbs, you can also try growing them out of wine corks. You’ll just have to hollow out some planting room in the cork first. There won’t be a lot of room in there for roots, so you’ll want to pick something that is shallowly rooted - that’s why succulents work great.
12. Use Old Dishes and Pots
You can use just about any kind of dish or pot as a planting container - some of the best include old teapots, colanders, cooking pans, and decorative bowls. They’ll look absolutely whimsical! Just make sure you drill holes for drainage, of course.
13. What About Repurposing?
As long as you are willing to think outside the box, you can use just about anything you might have lying around as a planting container.
Some of the most creative ideas include:
- An umbrella table or stand
- A repurposed guitar
- A window shutter or vent
- Half a basketball or volleyball
- A storage tub or washtub
- Kiddie pool
- Old dresser drawers
- Trash bins
- Wine barrel
- Ice cube trays
- Muffin tins
- Frozen food trays
- A birdcage
- A broken ladder
- A chandelier (works as a beautiful hanging basket!)
- An old wheelbarrow
- A book
- One of your favorite old purses
What To Look for When Shopping for Free Gardening Containers
If you’re new to the gardening scene, know that there is no shortage of free containers. You can learn more about vegetables and fruits you can grow in containers.
There’s also no single container that’s better suited for garden use than another. It doesn’t matter whether the container is long or short, wide or narrow, square or round - all are perfectly suited to gardening. Plus, you can use a container of just about any shape or size. From wood to poetry, ceramic to fiberglass, all are fine to use in the garden.
However, you will want to make sure that your garden containers are suited to the plants you want to grow. They should have drainage holes (or if they don’t, be made out of a material that will allow you to drill holes into it without breaking apart). If your containers don’t have adequate drainage, they aren’t going to be able to foster plant life with any kind of success.
Otherwise, get creative! You can find containers all over the place, from yard sales to thrift stores - you can even use your grocery store leftovers! Whatever the case may be, there’s no need to shell out hundreds of dollars for new planting containers each season. Just consider some of these 13 places you can get free gardening containers instead. Make sure to learn other nifty gardening tips that'll make your garden a smarter place.
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