I've never really been a "save and see what I can do with it later" kind of girl unless an item was Tupperware-ish looking (like plastic Chinese food containers!) or I could see an immediate use for it. Therefore, over the years I have tossed, broken down or neglected to disrepair anything I might have used as a container for my new veggies.
Looking at containers that were created for that purpose I find them ridiculously expensive. Home Depot wants $15/ea for BPA-free 5-gallon buckets. Lowes and Wal-mart want even more! Scouring my local thrift, dollar and bulk stores I find that I either have to make do with flimsy plastic that may or may not last me one season or I have to buy 500 of them to make it worth the expense. Hoping for some relief I looked on my local craigslist.org for "fun and funky, creative container ideas" but nothing I've found after almost two months of looking was 1.) big enough or was too big, 2.) strong enough to hold enough soil, or 3.) safe to use for vegetables. It has been very discouraging.
So, I drag my dearest darling husband on a trip to the flea market (which he has come to dread because I always leave in a bad mood) and, like always, find nothing suitable (there *was* a 3-foot-tall clay pot made for a dramatic palm tree but my poor husband stared daggers at me until I moved on... only $25 dollars people!!). So, to make him feel better we ate lunch at his favorite restaurant, Firehouse Subs. As I'm plowing through my ridiculously overstuffed sandwich I stop dead when I overhear a man asking for "leftover pickle buckets" at the counter. You'd have thought I was a gazelle that just heard a rustling in the leaves nearby; I turned around and shushed my DH and blatantly eavesdropped as the man chit-chatted with the young lady behind the counter.
He asked about her brother or somesuch, she assured he was doing well in school, he commented on some new dessert treat they offered and she assured him how delicious it was, she tells him it's going to be a minute because the guy who stored them didn't put it in the right place and they have to find the buckets, he says "I'll just use the restroom, be right back". So, of course, I go immediately to the counter and interrogate the girl about the buckets.
Sure. He comes every week after the lunch rush on Saturdays to pick up the used pickle buckets. No, anyone can get them. They're only $2 each. No, they're not bleached out, only rinsed out. They still have the pickle smell. We'd be glad to sell you some. First come, first serve. We have five locations in the area including a catering business.
At this point, when the man returns, I'm walking on air. My husband, feeling abandoned asks me what all that was about and I tell him, "Let's just say you don't have to worry about flea markets or 500-gallon clay pots anymore." He looked very relieved!
I felt so silly not thinking about it before especially since I *work* in the restaurant industry. Of COURSE people have leftover 5-gallon buckets and every single one of them are food-grade, BPA-free buckets! I slapped myself on the forehead and started calling around to local restaurants. Most were busts. Apparently 5-gallon buckets weren't *quite* as popular as I thought. Then I started targeting delis and had more luck. Then I thought... what about grocery store delis? They don't *honestly* make everything they sell there so it might be a good bet they would have buckets to store the items in and I was totally right. Jackpot! FREE if I could get to it before they took them out to the dumpster for the day (usually around 7pm)! There were 1/2 gallon, 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 10 gallon buckets... they used them from everything from holding icing to dried gravy powder, buckets of egg salad and potato salad... you can imagine my excitement!
I'm not ready to start my veggies just yet, but knowing that I have a source of free planters has taken a lot of worry off my mind and helped me turn my focus back to what I'm going to plant rather than where I'm going to plant it.