How To: Reuse Tin Cans as a Container Garden

updated May 9, 2019
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9-18-08_garden5.jpgGrowing up, we were taught that everything can have more than one purpose. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, some would say; we like to think we just concentrated on the “reuse” part of reduce-reuse-recycle. So when we went home earlier in the week, we snapped this photo of one of our mom’s trash-to-treasure successes.

Here’s one small, simple project that you can do at home, whether you’ve got a green thumb or not. Imagine: you, too, can pluck basil leaves from your new planters and toss them into your cooking. Jump below for the easy directions and then make your own.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large tin can(s): 1 to 3 liters in size

  • Can opener

  • Electrical tape

  • Drill with metal bit OR hammer and large nail OR ice pick

  • Shredded newspaper OR other compostable material

  • High-quality potting soil and organic fertilizer (like bone meal, blood meal, or manure)

  • Seeds OR small plant

First of all, you’ll want to find a few large tin cans. (If you’re going to plant something with a shallow root system, any size can will do—just get creative.) These tins of olive oil can be found in places like Cost Plus World Market, but we find ours at discount department stores like Ross and T.J. Maxx. They range in sizes from 1 to 3 liters. Just remember not to throw them out once you’ve used a few liters of EVOO! We also love the look of the entire collection together—so keep that in mind when selecting your cans (i.e., DO buy for the label in this case).

Carefully cut the top out of the can using a can opener—preferably one that leaves very smooth edges—and remove the top. If the rim is jagged or sharp, line it with electrical tape so that you’re spared the unpleasant experience of sliced fingers.

Next, you’ll need to drill holes in the bottom for drainage. You can do this using a drill with a metal bit, or go with less power and use an ice pick (or good ole hammer and large nail). You will need several small holes in the bottom. If you’re using a 1-liter container, four small holes evenly spaced should be sufficient. For the larger containers, six small holes should do the trick.

To help with the drainage, place about two inches of compostable material at the bottom. We use shredded newspaper. This just creates a permeable cushion between the bottom of the can and the soil.

Add potting soil: you want some high-quality dirt here, folks. We mix in some organic blood meal for fertilizer. Then, you’re ready to add your seeds, or transplant a small herb plant.