Creative Gardening [Repurpose and Save]

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For the first time since being married, Matt and I are renting a house. We’re finding huge advantages to no longer owning a home, but one of our passions, gardening, has definitely become more of a challenge.

We miss our custom-built raised garden beds, rain barrels that collected water for the garden, and the freedom to do what we wish with a yard.

We couldn’t let a spring go by without planting something… thank goodness for a little combined creativity.

Alternatives to gardens

Planting herbs with flowers

Having given away the majority of my pots before moving recently, it was absolutely necessary to make my few remaining pots very functional. I wanted colorful flowers to give the rental house more curb appeal, but needed the pot space for herbs as well. Combining herbs and ornamentals was the perfect solution.

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I created a few eye-catching arrangements to sit near the front porch, giving me easy access to herbs that will be cut and used later on. The flowers serve as a focal point in the arrangements and add a little color to the predominantly green herbs.

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We’ll use chives in fresh summer salads and thyme to flavor many meat and pasta dishes throughout the year. This arrangement is complete with bold colored Persian Shield, and small golden flowers (that apparently the bugs love!).

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I can’t wait to see what these pots look like when the plants have matured a little. I chose some flowers and herbs that will give height to the arrangements, and others that will trail and spill out of the pots for a softer look.

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Repurposing containers for planting

We had to put aside all desires for things to look “pretty” this year. We decided a more rustic, repurposed look would suit us just fine for our planted edibles.

Tomato and pepper plants are now resting happily in 5-gallon buckets on our small dock. Matt drilled holes in the bottom of each one, layered rocks and pine needles in the bottom for drainage, and nestled some marigolds in with each plant to deter critters and beautify the bucket planters.

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We desperately wanted to grow some greens, so we scavenged around for another “planter.” We had found an old rusted, broken down wheel barrow in the carport when we moved in, and tossed it aside so it wouldn’t be in our way. Luckily it didn’t make it into the trash because we decided it was another perfect repurposed planter.

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Matt gave a few kale plants a good home in the old wheelbarrow. The small rusted out holes in the bottom serve as efficient drainage holes, and the entire thing can be moved around if plants aren’t getting enough sun.

For a more attractive planter, you can use your creativity to adorn the containers. Ours are hidden away, so we didn’t take the extra time. (And we’re kind of enjoying our array of unattractive makeshift planters this year!)

Use your imagination AND your space

There are many other ways we could take advantage of the resources we have to grow food. What empty containers do you have that can be put to use? Do you have windowsills you can grow herbs on? Floorspace that can be called home for a plant or two? Hooks hanging over a window where an herb might be able to hang out? It might not be exactly what the oh-so-pretty pictures in the gardening magazines show, but you’ll save money, utilize your resources, and put your creativity to the test with do-it-yourself container gardens.

We’re getting the bulk of our fresh produce from a CSA membership this year, but these herbs and vegetables will provide a welcome addition.

So how about you? Are you proud of a little gardening ingenuity you’ve used this year or in the past? Let us hear about it!


About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebookand Twitter.

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  1. Lisa says

    The only south-facing window in our whole house is our patio door in the dining room- no window sills! So I got my husband to take the back off an old low bookcase so you can see right through it. We nudged it against the door that doesn’t open (obviously) and now I have 3 shelves (top, middle, bottom) for plants. Plenty of room for plants and plenty of light for them. Plus it just looks cute!

  2. Mercy says

    I wanted to garden this year, but my new apartment does not get very much sun. At first, I tried to figure out what to plant and how to maximize sunlight. But then I found out that there are two community gardens in town. I pursued getting a plot at the one closest to my house. I am loving it. Not only will I get fruits, veggies, and herbs out of this, but I am making friends as well.

  3. Michelle says

    Because you’re renting, you may be leery of planting a garden. Don’t forget you can buy bags of soil, lay them flat, and cut out a rectangle in the center of the side leaving a couple of inches around the sides. punch a couple of drain holes in the center. You then plant right in the bag. So many pluses to this method. Good soil, no bugs and nematodes, no digging up the landlord’s yard, etc. You can even camouflage the plastic edges with mulch or pine straw if it bothers you to see it.

  4. Carolyn Palmquist says

    I have re-used some milk jugs and vinegar jugs as hanging planters on my porch railing. They’re easy to cut and the handle makes them super easy to hang up. I’ve also done some potatoes and cucumbers in 3 gallon buckets that I got from my father in-law who works in a kitchen (they’re free and easy to plant in). My husband saw my little apartment garden and now he wants to plant some stuff. Yay!


    We love the idea of repurposed planters and can offer a few options of our own:
    Shoes – old Wellingtons, work boots, baseball shoes
    Straw hats – good for one season only!
    Torn garden gloves – fill with soil, plant with nasturtium seeds, toss about the garden
    Tonka trucks – fill the dump truck with soil and plant away

    We also use water bottles instead of rocks and pebbles to fill the bottom of the container. Crush the bottle (it crushes like an accordion), cap it, and fill the bottom third of the container. Add soil to the remainder. IN THIS WAY, you have delayed sending plastic to a landfill and have found a filler that can be used over and over again.

  6. Pam says

    I have a friend that owns alpacas. We recently completed the annual shearing. I brought home a bag of “trash” and used it as mulch for the garden. The nesting birds love it also.