Lehcar
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Free/Inexpensive Container Ideas

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.
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applestar
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This is fantastic information! I'm going to ask next time I'm at the grocery store too! 8) It seems to me buckets that held non-greasy items like pickles would be easier to wash.... :wink:

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Hydroponics
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That's one of the best ideas I've ever heard. I always try to get food grade plastics. The hard part is finding the buckets that can withstand the pressure of water. You could link a few 5 or 10 gallon buckets together to create a nice big free nutrient/water reservoir. :D
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wordwiz
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I got lucky last year. Jim Beam has a brewery here and I needed some rain barrels for a project at the county fair. Got nine, food grade, heavy duty, 55-gallon barrels for free. This year, I'm doing a CSA project at a site that has no water, so I'm hoping to get more in order to set up a watering system.

Mike

Lehcar
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You could link a few 5 or 10 gallon buckets together to create a nice big free nutrient/water reservoir.
What a great idea! You could stack 5-gallon buckets on top of each other to make a rain barrel... not very big but when it's free, right?
"A weed is a plant that has mastered every aspect of survival except for growing in rows." -Anonymous

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." --Greek proverb

Bobberman
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Get some old hoses and run one from each container to the bottom of each one like a string of buckets. Put 6 inches of water in each bucket and start the syphon effect by filling up the hose holding your finger on it placing it below the water level in the next bucket and you will have every bucket a the same water level for ever . As the main bucket fills it will even out with the other buckets. This is a great technique for two or more roof bucket systems! Garden hose works best because too small a hole will get clogged with the smaller tubing!
I enjoy fishing ,gardening and a solar greenhouse! carpet installation repair and sales for over 45 years! I am the inventor of the Bobber With A Brain - Fishing Bobber!

gros michel
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Free food grade buckets are always great and I've been using the pickle buckets for a while but can never seem to get the smell out! A few more things I use as pots that are free or cheap has been recycling old milk containers , cutting the tops off and making some darinage holes for smaller seedlings. Those rubber maid containers some even having rope handles get thrown out all the time once they get a bit grungy and I never hesitate to stop and pick them up when I see them to use as a plant pot. Last year at the end of the "party season" I noticed my local liquor mega mart had an abundance of 25 gallon sized containers meant to be used fo holding a keg of beer. Figuring they didn't want to carry them over winter I asked and was able to get them for about $5 each and bought several since I overwinter some very large banana plants every winter. Just punch out a few drainage holes and you're in business.

PatioFarms
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Free Seed Starting Containers

I'm a bit new at container / patio gardening so I'm working on the cheap so as to keep my up front costs from exceeding production until I get a good working system figured out and documented in my logs.

As the old saying goes, you always have to buy the learning curve up front.

That said, I picked up some market strawberries the other day and after cleaning'em, I tossed the containers and the tops into the trash out of habit.

Ok settle down....I don't compost yet and I rescued the containers because it suddenly dawned on me that they could make excellent seed starting mini-greenhouses. They are clear, durable, re-close easily and are the width of a typical windowsill.

I taped over the drainage slots in the bottom and then put a few of my own holes in the bottom panel with a hot paper clip. Just straighten out the long side of a paperclip and heat with a lighter or candle... Works great

As for Composting, well I'm an apartment dweller with limited space so I haven't yet figured out how or where to make a composter. Suggestions about in the proper forum I'm sure so I'm off there not.

Happy Gardening everyone!
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Vorguen
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anyone figured out any chain restaurants that give free buckets away???

I called firehouse subs that was close to me and they were charging two bucks and they said they were also bleaching their buckets...


maybe i just have bad luck lol

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mtmickey
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Try the grocery store deli. They get buckets full of frosting and such. Ours here will save buckets if you ask them to, as long as you stop by to pick them up when you say you will

Strive2Survive
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Can clean paint buckets be used? Found a yard sale that has 20-30 5 gallon paint buckets for $2 each.
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luvnsurf
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Hi guys! Another possibility is checking out your local botanical garden. I volunteered at mine while I was out of work (btw, I wish I started the first day I could, I loved it anyhoo ...). They had a bunch that they said I was welcome to take. You might have to volunteer a few hours, but heck, I definitely felt it was worth it!

Tyro
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I think you can use other than food containers ...

I think you don't have to limit yourselves to containers that had food in them. I went looking and the only polyethylene bucket I found that wasn't FDA rated was one with a non-reusable lid, and I wager that had more to do with the lid than the bucket.

The recycling numbers:

1 PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) some waterproof packaging
2 HDPE (high density polyethylene) Milk, detergent and oil bottles, toys and plastic bags
3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) Food wrap, vegetable oil bottles, bubble wrap
4 LDPE (low density polyethylene) Many plastic bags, shrink wrap, garment bags
5 PP (polypropylene) Refrigerated containers, some bags, most bottle tops, some carpets, some food wrap
6 PS (polystyrene) Throwaway utensils, meat packaging, protective packaging
7 Other (mixed plastics) No recycling potential - must be landfilled.
(Society of the Plastics Industry - SDI)

I got this list from a Home Brewers site, [url]https://www.tastybrew.com/forum/thread/52137[/url], the data is reflected in recycling sites.

Apparently what was in the bucket is more important than what the bucket is made of, I wouldn't worry about using a bucket that had contained something like nails, I would stay away from one that had motor oil in it, wouldn't touch a bucket that had industrial chemicals in it.

I'm using buckets that use to contain environmentally friendly floor wax, washed them with TSP, I'm pretty sure their inert.

What I did for my herbs was I took a saber saw and cut around a distance under the lid then stuck the bottom inside the top and secured their position with a few small screws. (or did I cut them twice, I'll have to look). This reduced the volume by about 1/2. Allows me to carry using the handle till the plant gets too tall.

This isn't overly pretty but, heck, I'm using 5 gallon buckets. I must not be too worried about my Home Beautiful photo spread. :lol:

Downside to this is between the inner and outer bucket parts isn't water tight, if the soil isn't highly permeable the water runs to the bucket edge, down the bucket and out the "gap". OTOH in a regular pot the water would run all the way to the bottom.

And something else, This year the soil left in the buckets from last year had moss and one bucket had alga growing between the bucket and soil. Part ofm tis was because of (lack of) drainage, and HDPE passes UV. This year I lined the inside of the buckets with news paper.

ruggr10
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A local market that makes their own doughnuts puts his buckets out and lets me snag them. There are some pickle buckets too, but the smell never goes away.

This week I was all excited, he had 6 out front, but when i went to grab them they were full of used grease and were waiting for the trash man. Doh!

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applestar
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8) Maybe they were for people making bio-diesel to pick up....

Bobberman
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Those cat litter square buckets about 3 gallons are really nice. They have a half lid at the top. You can even cut them in half and have two containers
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thanrose
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I still have a few of those cat litter buckets, and my last cat died two and a half years ago. Tsammi, Tsammi, RIP. le sigh. I use those buckets for carrying compost, for mixing up potting soil, storing heavy stuff like rocks and shells, and for keeping amendments like peat moss from drying out too much. I think I have charcoal in one of them now, too. Always humid here and we're coming into 'cane season so some dry charcoal and tinder is a good thing.

My oldest cat litter bucket still in continual use is just for rock storage now because at around 12 years old and outside all the time, the plastic is crazed and brittle. The anoles don't seem to mind, and the rocks are very patient. Geodes in that one, I think.

I used to be able to get food grade 55 gallon barrels for $15. Long drive away though. I had one as a vermicompost tumbling bin, one as a kennel for a dog who liked shelter while I was working outside, and one sliced down in thirds for two bowl planters and one ring edger. Bright blue and matched my Greek isles painted doors.

Leo Mitchell
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Inexpensive Containers

Call your local landscape installer. They have tons of containers left after installing landscape plants. They may be happy to save some of the larger size containers for you. Heck, take um a tomato and smile, that will do it! :D

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Vorguen
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Free 5 gallon buckets at Jason's Deli guys. They wash them with bleach but you can clean that out.

They were used for pickles, if you talk to the manager he can probably save you some before they were bleached too :)

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Tilde
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Okay, raided my local FireHouse subs and they had them yay! I of course now smell like pickles.

Next target: Jason's Deli ...

If you work in an office building, keep an eye on the dumpster area and make friends with the staff - when plants and containers are tossed in office cleanouts and upgrades - free pots and plants!

My tip - stalk the local hardware megastores. I found some great expensive heavy wood suitable for use in the container garden in the scrap bin. Too long and heavy for practical use but at most places they'll give you one cut free ... Make plant risers or just block off areas for putting in containers.
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Tilde
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So it looks like Jersey Mikes Subs uses pickles out of #10 cans (tossed - no enforced business recycling here) and banana peppers out of 1 gal screw top jars if that's what you're looking for.
USDA Zone 10, Sunset Zone 25, 16 feet above sea level, surrounded by chem-turfers.

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Tilde
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Source: Furniture and appliance stores - high end, locally owned.

If your community doesn't mandate recycling, these shops might not choose to pay for the recycling necessary for their waste. I phoned one earlier in the day and they said I could have all of the pallets, crating material, and cardboard I like.

I've seen folks scavenging pallets there all the time, but some of the stuff is totally ignored. More for me! Light, pine, solid - usable for me.
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Boomslang
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I have used two five gallon buckets to make a self watering system. Works great. It uses the same design as the "Earth Bucket" system. You can just type in "Make you own Earth Bucket" or "Self watering plant container" on Youtube.com and it will give you some great ideas. :) It is also fairly inexpensive to make.
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Tilde
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Woo, free milk crate!

Image

Q: I see you have a broken milk crate there - what do you guys do with them?

A: Oh, we just throw them away.

Q: Can I have it?

A: Sure.
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MattLevy
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My girlfriend works at Wal-Mart in the bakery and they throw out errr... Claims out? 10 or so 5 gallon buckets and another 5-10 1/2 gallon buckets. She gives them away to anybody who wants them

alfa
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When we first moved into our house my mom nagged for a garden. Since we wanted a private garden dad made a roof garden using old concrete molds used at construction sites. We had to clean them real well. But they hold up just right the size is resonable. I don't think they cost him cuz the construction contracter wanted to get rid of them.


[/list]

Duets
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I really lucked up here.... my local landscape place was going out of business, they had a HUGE pile of 5 gallon buckets, I was in bucket heaven, it was as if the pile of buckets reach to the sky, lol. I now am the happy owner of a few of these buckets with holes in the bottom of them for drainage!! My veggies are luvin it!! :D

Duets
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Uh....if I might ask, what do you line the milk crate with, in order to hold the dirt in?
Tilde wrote:Woo, free milk crate!

Image

Q: I see you have a broken milk crate there - what do you guys do with them?

A: Oh, we just throw them away.

Q: Can I have it?

A: Sure.

Bobberman
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Duets wrote:Uh....if I might ask, what do you line the milk crate with, in order to hold the dirt in?
Tilde wrote:Woo, free milk crate!

Image

Q: I see you have a broken milk crate there - what do you guys do with them?

A: Oh, we just throw them away.

Q: Can I have it?

A: Sure.
---
Just get a white garbage bag and put the black container inside the white bag. Now both sides are inclused and just add dirt. I put all my seed starting oxes in white plastic bags. Its east to add a small drain hole if you need one!
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cyndi k
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Reusing container gardens without moss or algae

Local garden center says have to solarize the soil, air out, bleach, etc the containers and start over every year. Sounds labor intensive. Do any of you simply add soil amendments and reuse the " earth boxes" year after year? Lazy gardener
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Bluebell
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My grandma and I both use mineral buckets brought to my mother's greenhouse by local cattle farmers...they are huge! Perfect size for tomatoes, peppers, cukes, zuchini, etc. I'm trying potatoes and onions this year in them as well. Just drill several holes in the bottom for drainage.

FaTRippz
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Not to change the old subject, but speaking of inexpenisive ideas, i use a clear storage container to germinate my seed. It is like a seed starter but bigger and around the same price. i put my seeds in styromfoam cups with my seed starting medium, put them into the container upside down and fogetaboutit. hehe
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MrGreen
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But one thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is burlap sacks.

What I did was I found a local coffee roaster and discovered that they roast their beans once a week on Tuesdays. So on Tuesday afternoon I drop by the coffee roasters and ask if they have any burlap sacks I can have. Usually you can get a few for free. Some coffee roasters just throw them out, so by using them in your garden you are re-purposing the by-products of commerce.

They will bio-degrade over time, but should last at least a few seasons before becoming too gross. They can also hold a lot of soil, I filled mine with 2 cu. ft. of soil each, and the sacks aren't even half way full.

I would be curious to see if you could use them to grow potatoes, adding soil to the sack as the potatoes green shoots grow taller. Has anyone tried this?
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baconfiend
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Sorry if I missed this elsewhere, but the cool thing about Firehouse subs is that when you buy the pickle bucket for two dollars, the money goes to charity.

Win-win

Funny
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$3.50

Menard's is selling cheap 12" diameter self-watering containers for $3.50. They've been on clearance there for the past month. I just picked up a few more three days ago.

Watchrebel
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Re: Free Seed Starting Containers

PatioFarms wrote:I'm a bit new at container / patio gardening so I'm working on the cheap so as to keep my up front costs from exceeding production until I get a good working system figured out and documented in my logs.

As the old saying goes, you always have to buy the learning curve up front.

That said, I picked up some market strawberries the other day and after cleaning'em, I tossed the containers and the tops into the trash out of habit.

Ok settle down....I don't compost yet and I rescued the containers because it suddenly dawned on me that they could make excellent seed starting mini-greenhouses. They are clear, durable, re-close easily and are the width of a typical windowsill.

I taped over the drainage slots in the bottom and then put a few of my own holes in the bottom panel with a hot paper clip. Just straighten out the long side of a paperclip and heat with a lighter or candle... Works great

As for Composting, well I'm an apartment dweller with limited space so I haven't yet figured out how or where to make a composter. Suggestions about in the proper forum I'm sure so I'm off there not.

Happy Gardening everyone!
Patiofarms check this out!! If you can squirrel away you pennies for a little while and save up for one of these bad boys you would be well on you way to a self sufficient container garden! This particular item has been used by several forum members with rave reviews with great success. I must admit I have started a savings fund to pick one up for myself.

Best,
Watchrebel

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Re: Free/Inexpensive Container Ideas


Gilcano
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Re: Free/Inexpensive Container Ideas

Hi everybody, I'm new to the forum and experimenting with gardening. I got some insteresting ideas from the NET to use containers. I like the idea of the 5-gallon buckets. I work in building maintenance and get a lot of those containers so I'm going to start my container garden. For now I used a 55 gallon barrel and modified it for planting.

Image

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8)

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leke
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Re: Free/Inexpensive Container Ideas

Those blue Ikea bags are food grade plastic and are not very water retentive. They are really cheap if you think of what you get by volume.
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containergardener
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Re: Free/Inexpensive Container Ideas

Wow, thanks for sharing your find and idea.
I always look for cheap ways to accomplish container gardening as well and have even found some on the roads, amazing how many people throw or lose buckets on the highways.
Since a lot of my container gardening is done indoors and I don't have to worry about heat or BHP leaking as much, I tend to reuse a lot of plastic containers that we normally send to the recycle bin. Soda/water bottles, the plastic containers that hold lettuce and strawberries work great since they are all ready for soak watering from beneath.
I have also made some creative designs with milk cartons as seen below.
Image

Container gardening is lots of fun and there are so many ways to do it and be creative with it.

https://www.mycontainergardeningideas.com

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