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Photo: backporchgarden.blogspot.com

If you want to create a big container garden, any garden center offers plenty of choices of large containers designed for growing plants and already equipped with drainage holes. But you can also easily convert one of those popular plastic storage bins into a mini-garden, usually for much less money.

You probably already have a plastic storage bin you’re not using and, if not, there is a wide choice available in any hardware or box store. Essentially all you have to do to convert it into a garden container is to drill a few drainage holes in the bottom and fill it with soil.

Here’s how to do it step by step.

  1. Drill drainage holes to about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) apart in the bottom. A ¼ inch (6,350 mm) drill bit will suffice.
  2. Cover the holes with a piece of newspaper or window screen, an old cloth, or paper towels. This will keep the soil in the bin while letting excess water drain out. There is no need for a drainage layer of gravel or pot shards.
  3. Fill the bin to about 2 inches (5 cm) from the top with top-quality garden soil. The empty space at the top is designed to facilitate watering.
  4. Plant.
  5. Water well.

You’re now off to the races!

The container lid can serve as a saucer if you feel you need it, but usually a saucer isn’t of much use in an outdoor environment.

You can place your new “garden in a box” on a balcony, terrace, parking lot, roof or any other relatively flat surface.

What to Grow?

With its excellent depth, rich soil, and infrequent need of watering (bins are large enough to hold a huge mass of soil… and soil is Mother Nature’s water reservoir!), many people use their bin gardens for growing vegetables, herbs, or annual flowers.

You can also grow permanent plants, like perennials and shrubs, in a bin garden, but if you do, make sure you choose extra-hardy varieties, because container gardens freeze deeply during the winter, creating an environment that is about one hardiness zone colder than the normal zone in your area.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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