How to Find Free Containers For Your Garden
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By Mavis Butterfield on April 22, 2012 · 170 Comments
Yesterday, I went to the Home Depot to pick up a gallon of stain for the garden boxes. As I was waiting for my order to be processed, I headed over to the flower section to see if there was anything I was interested in. On the way there I passed by a man who was carrying a black 5 gallon plastic pot. The kind of plain Jane pots trees come in when you buy them at a nursery. Knowing I needed to find a bunch for my greenhouse, I excitedly asked him where he found the black plastic pot.
“Over there” he pointed, as he walked by, “and they are only $9.42 each”. I stopped dead in my tracks. Did he just say $9.42 each? For a plastic pot? I thought I must have heard wrong so I went to take a look. Sure enough, Home Depot was selling the common black plastic pots for almost $10. Holy canolies Batman, who on earth would PAY for a black plastic pot I thought. I smiled, let out a little laugh and then headed outside to the nursery area. After all, I had 15 minutes to burn until my stain was ready so I took my time walking past the tables and carts of flowers and shrubs .
And then BAM! I found gold. Did you know the Home Depot has a “recycling” program? Oh yes, yes they do Bob. Of course this is all news to me, but apparently if you purchase a tree, plant, flower, yada yada, at Home Depot, you can bring the growing container back for recycling. Wowza! There should be a press release on this for the cheapskates like me out there. Not to mention “I’ll happily pay $9.42 for a plastic pot” guy in his brown leather shoes and pressed chinos. Not that he would want to necessarily put a used
So in stealth like fashion I quickly scooped up all the buckets I could carry and headed over to the cashier stand. Yada Yada Yada, “Can I have these?” “Suuuuure” she said, obviously unaware of the riches I was holding in the form of black plastic pots. “Knock yourself out.”
Wahooo what a find! Not only did I get a boatload of large black plastic pots for the greenhouse from the Home Depot, but I also stopped by the Albertsons bakery department and asked if they had any cookie or frosting buckets they wanted to get rid of. Mr. Master Baker
You know what they say…
One mans trash is another man’s treasure.
How about YOU? Have you scored any awesome freebies lately?
Looking for a good gardening book? Gardening books hold kind of a special place in my heart. I wouldn’t be the gardener I am today
Here are just a few of my favorites, narrowing this list down was tough!
My Favorite Garden Books:
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I refuse to pay for boxes. I send packages of FREE-bies and CHEAP-ies to my oldest DD in the San Juan Isalnds. I keep my eyes open at Target, Fred Meyer, etc. for someone stocking shelves with the size box I need. I ask for one, and have NEVER been refused!
Do you know the mailing places, shipping supply places, etc. charge $6 – $7 for a medium size box?? I checked once and left empty handed.
I love the San Juans! 🙂
yes the San Juan Island are awesome. I got married on Ocras
I know that is silly the will not give away anything where i live either. I’ve been looking for days i live in detroit and i am starting an organic business.
You can get the left-over “scraps” (garbage) from any building site, any new construction, or landscaping project. Just go ask for the project manager and tell them you’d like to haul away their scrap for them. Usually, they’re very accommodating. They might even help you load it up. If you don’t have a truck, you can usually borrow one from a friend.
I also had the good fortune recently of asking a landscaper crew if they were going to Keep their empty” pots and was told, if I pick them up, I was welcome to them. I scored over 200 5 gallon pots and several dozen 1 gallon containers as well. It never hurts to ask! the worst that can happen is they say “no” 🙂
The dirt digger says
As my Rabbi says, ” ask for EVERYTHING, EXPECT NOTHING ” & usually when i ask , i DO GET, but am NOT disappointed if i dont . the
If someone has already scored all the frosting buckets at the local bakery, try the local pub for pickle buckets.
How do you get the pickle smell out? I picked up a couple of these and tried everything I could think of… even storing bleach in them, could never get the smell out…
coffee grounds…. scrub old coffee grounds through out the container let sit then fill with water and sit over night. should take all the smell out but may have to repeat.
I put baking soda and hot water in mine. seemed to work well.
Rita chadha says
You can try putting them in the sun for a few hours. That should do it.
Betty Keeney says
You can wash the container out with bleach, but the pickle smell remains. Let it dry completely then stuff it with crinkled up newspaper. Let it stay for about a week. When you take it out, pickle smell will be gone. I do this with the half gallon glass pickle jars.
Try watted up newspaper. Works wonders.
John Hedtke says
I used to get the 5-gallon food-grade buckets that I used for brewing beer from McDonalds. They’d had pickle chips or mayo in them. I’d take the tops off, remove the rubber gasket in the lid and bring that inside, then leave the buckets and lids exposed to the elements for a couple months. The sun, rain, and algal growths cleaned the smell, grease, and residue from them, and then I’d just scrub them down in the bathtub with a brush and a sponge.
Worked like a champ. 🙂
Our McDonald’s also gives away their used coffee grounds. A good addition to compost or soil!
Raylene Toolin says
Try baking soda. It gets the smells out of the frig.
Ella Walls says
….use some salt and some dishwashing liquid and water…scrub, rinse real good and. I do this with all my containers….works every time….
I save the large pickle jars to put dried foods (beans etc) in. Wash out first dry and then i add backing soda and often spray then with white vinegar, swish around rinse and dry same with the lid. Works for me.
Viola Boggs says
I save pickle jars, run them through dishwasher to clean them,but the lids still smelled . So I made a paste of baking soda and let it sit in the lid overnight. Later next day rinsed it, sniff tested it and no more pickle.
Wet newspapers and leave a couple of days
Pat Murphy says
Pickle juice is very acidic. Try using limesone to neutralize it. Pretty cheap at local nurseries or even Home Depot.
You can also fill it up with water and add some vinegar…works well with pickle jars, milk jugs, orange juice jugs…etc. Let it sit over night and your smell is gone
Also fast food! We have a chicken joint here that has 5 gallon buckets with lids ( I use them for storage too!) just have to tell him how many I want.
For drop trays I use the plastic tops from Safeway’s bakery items. The big ring of cinnamon rolls is awesome for the “larger” pots, plus you get cinnamon rolls
Linda Gallagher says
I just read your posts about boxes & yes I to refuse to pay for them. FYI for your future need of boxes all new almost any size you need or want. Go to the USPS web site & they have flat rate boxes, that you can order for free & your post man just drops them off to you in a few days… There are ones that do cost on the same pages but you will see all the ones you should ever need where it shows the price it is like this $0.00 (free), no shipping charge or anything just completely free. Hope this helps you as it does for me.
Not to be a downer on that idea, but federal penalties aren’t fun. Please keep in mind that those “free” boxes on the USPS site are also considered a federal offense if they not used for shipping through USPS. Don’t chance being the one they make an example of!
Oh wow, I definitely never knew that! YEARS ago I – um, I mean, a “friend” – used to pick up the 3-day shipping boxes, turn them inside out, tape them back, and use them for regular shipping!
Ya know what you could use in a pinch, if you don’t need anything *too* strong? A cereal box!
That’s right and it’s for a good reason. The P. O . spent money to make them, to print on them and it’s their property. Use them for their intention, and your getting a free box though. If mailing to service people overseas, those same boxes go at out domestic rate, not foreign.
Kennie lacey says
Please… Omg why would you think they would be after you… Paranoid.. don’t you think they have better things to do besides Chase somebody getting boxes after all you are recycling
Jane American says
That is not cool. USPS needs our collective support, not waste of resources.
Jean Hollander says
You can also go to Mc Donalds or restaurants for all kinds of cardboard boxes to spread out over your garden area with a layer of cardbosrd, newspapers, mulch. I put my seeds right into the cardboard and keep it moist. The seeds do start up, then I put some soil over that and give the plants added nutrients.
Taco bell….all food comes in bags IN the boxes. … they’re PERFECT moving/shipping size and clean as a whistle. Taco Bell stores have two dumpsters-one for garbage and one for boxes. 24 Hr access and no need to ask anyone.
Rebecca Hosler says
When you get something in the mail – save that box, if you move and buy boxes – save those boxes I have always saved boxes break them down and store them, and when I move again I have my boxes. I also store the freezer bags I get from the steaks i get at christmas and insulated packages to reuse. Believe me, it does not take up that much space and it saves a lot of money. other things are plastic bags with snaps like sheets I just bought, ribbons, foam from packages, etc. I recycle it all and I don’t have to go out and buy those same things most people put in the trash and then go out and buy it again, If you buy plants at lowes save the containers and reuse them. Stop and think am I going to need something like this later. Your trash can will get smaller and your checkbook will get bigger.
You are a smart gal. I do the same.
Very good ideas for recycling. I do the same thing too.
Robin in SoCal says
Good info thanks for sharing like you I refuse to pay for something like a plastic pot, just silly if you ask me. Great score!
I agree. Very silly. 🙂
Yor’re so BRAVE! I tend to be chicken little sometimes. Although I have come to the conclusion it doesn’t hurt to ask, they normally will say yes, and who cares what they think because they don’t know me. Awesome freebies Mavis! I should check Albies for buckets!
As a former deli/bakery manager I would never give away plastic frosting buckets(or sale) them as a person whom had been given a free bucket used it for food purposes and had sued for getting his customers ill. so, ask away, but know if your told no, there is a reason.
I would never give away plastic frosting buckets(or sale) them as a person whom had been given a free bucket used it for food purposes and had sued for getting his customers ill. what a contradiction.. its already being used for food purposes.. makes ya think huh? If it will leach into the soil, why wouldn’t it leach into the food being stored in it?
I wished you lived closer to me! My husband works for Lowes (we don’t say Home Depot in our house) and the deals he gets would make your heart swoon! I will have to ask him if he can get the pots for me…by the way, Lowe’s gives him killer deals on broken bags of potting soil etc..we never pay full price for it..you should ask at HD if they do that as well
Yes, Lowes also recycles. I work for Lowes (in the Garden Center) and we recycle the pots. People are certainly welcome to take as many as they want to. As far as open bags of soil, fertilizer, mulch etc, we give a % of based on the amount gone.
Thanks for the info! So what do you use the stock tank for in your greenhouse? And are those nasturtiums in the gutters? I long to have a green house someday!
I currently don’t have anything planted in the stock tank but should by the end of the week. 🙂 In the gutters I am growing, lettuce, carrots, radishes, spinach and strawberries.
I am a brand new grower, and can never get carrot roots to grow from scraps, but the tops grow well, then when I plant the carrot, it lasts three days and the tops wilt.
Along the lines of half-price items, when my husband worked at a fertilizer sales company, they would sell broken bags at at least half-price.
Our Lowes used to do that, but we had some customers ruin it. They would come in and deliberately poke holes in it to get 50% off. So – – after seeing this done a few times, we stopped. Now its based on home much is out of the bag.
At home Depot the same thieves were poking holes as well . we stopped for the same reason . please don’t call them customers.
This is the first time I’ve read your wonderful blog, so you may already be privvy to this, but I noticed you have some chickens… My mom found out that the grocery store in her town tosses “old” produce very regularly, and they are happy to give it away to people for their animals. Granted this is a small town in the middle of nowhere where feeding one’s livestock old veggies is commonplace, but if you have not tried this, it’s a great way to save some of said veggies from getting dumped, and as an added bonus, many of the “old” veggies are totally usable for people as well– can be cooked, canned, frozen, etc.!
I’m involved in a group that gets veggies and fruit that the organic health food store is gonna throw out and then cooks hot vegan meals with them (after cutting out any bad bits of course). We then take the food downtown and feed the hungry and homeless (and ourselves). We also give out the produce we don’t need to cook with if we have too much. It is amazing how much food goes to waste in this country.
When I was growing up, there was a very dear neighbor who would shop at a local grocery store and the produce dept. would give her a crate of greens like outer lettuce and cabbage leaves, Overripe or, soiled vegetables for her chickens every Saturday FREE..It was not a chain store as there was only one by same name in town.
I doubt if our Home Depot would give anything away..I’ve asked for the black nursery pots and the nursery that supplies the plants for our HD told me they didn’t give those away, they clean them up and reuse them.
Betty, I got the same reply at Ace here, about their re-using their pots. I was told a few years ago that commercial nurseries could not re-use pots because of possible disease spreading. Does anyone know what the rule is today? Linda
I used to have pigs and chickens when I worked at Food World grocery store over 20 years ago. They would throw out so much food from deli and produce, it made me cringe. I asked if i could have it, and was told no, it had to be put into the dumpster that stayed locked! I promised it was for the animals, but they wouldn’t allow it. My animals would’ve loved that produce!
I’ve found that stores like Kroger’s will deep cut the price on their plants after they become unsellable. I love the bulb plants from the spring plants, and I’ve gotten bulges as cheep as $0.50, with a nice pot. I plant them directly into my bulb garden and get rewarded with beautiful flowers the next spring. They’ll start multiplying and creating new plants. I’ve got three beautiful build gardens with very little output. Roses can be done the same way.
I’ve gotten some beautiful tiger lillys that way from Kroger
Susan Mercurio says
I lived in Mpls/St. Paul, MN, and the large supermarket grocery stores there also give away throw-away vegetables to pet owners.
We used to go to the day old bakeries, back in the day and get all their past dsted bread, goodies etc for our chickens.
There was alot that want bad, that we ate.
I work for the garden center that put on the chicken coop tour last year and we have what we call “alley specials.” It is our pot recycling program and dump it there location.
If you have empty pots you can leave them in the alley. If you need some just take them. We check it frequently for the larger pots (tree sized) since the grower makes us pay a $5 deposit on them, but gallons and 4″ are usually plentiful. So are flats.
We also set plant material out there that is not what we consider salable. If it’s looking sad and we don’t have the space to revive it it goes in the alley and becomes free for the taking. Just don’t come into the store asking if we’re going to put anything into the alley that day. We have one lady that does that on a near daily basis and we find it rather annoying.
A good portion of my perennial garden is from “alley specials.” I also score free split bags of bird seed and chicken feed. It’s a perk of working at a nursery.
Way to think outside the box. Brilliant!
I know this is a tiny bit off subject but I agree to the fact that I never pay for boxes. We moved 7 times in 2 years and I never paid for moving boxes either. I just go to Walmart after 11pm and all the stockers let me have whatever I want.
Agreed — I moved (packed into three large PODs) and used almost exclusively boxes salvaged from a local liquor store. The boxes were just the right size for me to be able to move on my own. I found larger boxes in dumpsters behind office buildings. I kept my open for sales on strapping and packing tape — hated it when I had to pay full price — most drugstores had the tape on sale fairly regularly and I stocked up when it was on sale.
Helen in Meridian says
Mavis, how do you get the labels off the Albertsons bakery white pails. I have been using them for 3 years, but just turn them backwards most of the time. Do you have a good way to get the labels removed? I suppose I could soak them in my bath tub. Do you clorox your pots before use, or just agree that shortening will add to the health of your plants? I am also shocked at how much those Orange 5 gal buckets are at HD and Lowes.
I don’t. I just turned the pails around so I don’t have to look at them. If you want to come peel off my labels you are more than welcome too. 🙂
Use a heat gun, or hair dryer on labels. Lift a corner and peel carefully. Reheat as necessary. If any adhesive is left, use orange oil to remove it. It’s a skill, so don’t expect to be good immediately.
Barbara Blumenthal says
For any and all sticky labels…Use patience and start a corner with a fingernail, then lift slowly straight up, don’t pull back, just straight up. If you need to start again use another corner.
June Scott says
I just found a cheaper way to remove labels than GooGone and the like. Baking soda and vegetable oil. I save large prescription bottles and was having an awful time with the labels. this worked and fast!
WD40 Works great to remove labels!
I don’t remove those large stickers…it takes too much time and the end result is usually not very attractive…I use a wallpaper print I like and cut out an area to cover the label… spray glue it on…then spray, or brush over it with a waterproof outdoor clear acrylic…
I’ve also used the same method and brightly colored construction paper, then use permanent magic marker to print the plants name on it…makes the buckets look much nicer.
Try rubbing alcohol. Works like a charm on price stickers as well as removing black marker from things you buy at a resale shop.
I use nail polish remover. Works every time!
You can also try WD40. I have used it to remove labels on lots of things. It works really well!
Two words for any and all labels: GOO GONE! It’s glorious, and is at dollar tree! You only need a bit and minimal elbow grease. 🙂
Jane American says
As a child in the 80s, I grew up enjoying the smells at the gas station. IMO, Goo Gone’s benefits were way under proportion to the knockdown, brain-killing fumes.
Warm hair dryer. Fat and baking soda. Highly effective and non-toxic.
Heat the labels up with a blow dryer and they will possibly peel off easy. I know it works on bar codes etc.
Liquor stores are the jackpot for boxes. Most boxes have handles, and some even come with dividers, which are great for glasses and fragile items. They’re always happy to get rid of their boxes, and the smaller sizes make them easier to carry while moving.
Avril MacNaughton says
I have found the boxes that bananas come in are great for moving boxes. All the same size and extremely strong with hand holes, there is hole in top and bottom of each box but sacrifice a damaged box to cover these. I have shipped stuff from the UK in these and nothing got broken.
I completely agree…I forgot about all the other advantages of liquor boxes and also the banana boxes.
Linda Keith says
WD-40 will remove most adhesive from most anything.
We can get the black pots that you are talking about from our local garden centers for about $1 per pot. We planted shrubs a few years ago and kept the pots and cut the bottoms off and use them around newly potted garden plants till they are established good and to help keep rabbits away from them. Also you can find cheap or free dirt on craigslist or other local sale boards (like your local news sites). You can find plants and seeds on craigslist also.
To remove lables off anything (that is not leather or cloth) use regular cooking oil. soak a papertowel or washcloth/towel with cooking oil and rub the label. It will remove the glue without damaging the plastic. I do this with my daughters hard cover books and dvd cases also.
We live near each other. No wonder every time I go shopping they’re all out of the frosting buckets! It’s YOU! LOL
I call but the home depot store on the OR state border with Wa state which said they had no program like that then called the Wa state store which told me they did but the pot go back to the vender because there plants flowers and tree are vender item and not there’s so to speak. double bust. 🙁
As someone whos spouse works for home depot- the plants are given to store to sell. Home depot does not have to return anything that is not sold or damaged as greeenhouses realize plants are alive and things do happen. Typically when plant get wimpy looking they are thrown out. Lowes will sell damaged plants real cheap, but home depot just throws the out.
I use kitty tidy cat litter boxes to plant in.just drill holes in bottom and keep lid to store soil for next year.they stack beautifully and free.the boxes make great trash boxes too.I leave handle on for easy moving.only problem I’ve found it can’t get label off so I cover 28th pretty contact paper
What brand of green house is that and where did you get it
It is a Magnum glass greenhouse and I purchased it locally. You can find deals online as well.
Free is my favorite price also! We used to have a “dump” store at our local dump where people could put usable stuff and others could take it. But they closed it after someone fell and sued! While it was there, I got lots of great stuff, but the all time best was the food dehydrator! We love our dried tomatoes! I also picked up 13 glass “walls.” must have been someone’s sunroom. Someday they will be a greenhouse. We also go to the dump every May when they have piles of free compost.
Karen Dries says
I just love your blog. Nice to know I’m not the only one who does this stuff. And I learned some great new things too.
I’m scoring eight 275 gal totes (IBC) this weekend free for a rainwater collection system. I also scored over 2000 bricks for garden paths and a truckload of rabbit manure to toss in the compost pile.
I am totally jealous of you getting 2,000 bricks. Way to go! 🙂
I simply placed an add in my local free classified paper. A guy called and said if I would come get them I could have them. I’m trying to garden without spending money that I do not have. 😀
Ha! I bet they had fun moving them. 🙂
Actually a little. They were tired by the end of the day! No complaints about bedtime at all.
Agreed! 2,000 bricks..the possibilities are just running through my head! Great score!
Sherry Lacy says
my mother is 73 she loves her yard she needs some pots she’s on low income so if you know anyone or yourself would like to get some extra pops out of your way please call me as 682-2399 area code eight one six
Where do you get those large galvanized steel troughs? I can’t find them anywhere!
Wilco. Any feed store should have them. 🙂
Atwoods sells them here in Texas.
My better half scored 15 yellow cat litter buckets on the road side. We have four large round and four oval stock tanks that we got off Craig’s list, Yesterday my oldest daughter brought us a pickup load of composted horse manured and
40 assorted veggie plants. We have volunteer rasberries and dill.
LC Campbell says
Yup, we’ve used those cat litter buckets for a couple of years. Pretty bright and rather unsightly, but we just put then in a sunny place where we don’t have to look at them out our dining area windows.
I just did the same thing here at my college, I noticed the gardener had place a bunch of the black plastics around as place holders but he also had many more standing by. I asked him if I could have some and he asked me how many!! Too bad I don’t have a car (I walk everywhere or take the bus) or I would have gotten lots more!!
Marlena Scott says
I try to buy my eggs only in the cardboard cartons. They are great for starting seeds. I use the egg shells also. Poke a hole in the bottom and use either plastic or cardboard cartons. My grandmother showed me this. She dumped her coffee grounds into her flower beds everyday, and she had beautiful flowers.
I like cheap stuff and love free stuff even more. I tried your technique once at Walmart in late spring 2013 when they were throwing pallets of sad looking pack of flowers. I talked to one of the sales people if I could have them at lower price or free (just to save those seedlings) – I was told that they are all for trash that they don’t give it away or sell it at lower price. Whoa! so I found another sales person – this one said the same thing and their reason was that they’ll return it to their supplier so they can get their money back. I was disappointed and was so sorry for those seedlings. I believe my mistake on that episode was not getting their manager. I was disappointed but I still go back there because of their prices.
walmart does mark the plants down a few days before zeroing them out and tossing them in the compactor…if you can get them before they mark them zero, they usually are half price, i see lots of plants go down the compactor, just today they threw away a whole rack of still green plants
mildred lane says
I did buy a pot for my new lemon pot because it is going to sit in the living room and will be a part of the decor but I got it at the dollar store 1/2 price because they were getting rid of them for winter.
Other pots I pick up off the streets, use all kinds of items for pots in my container garden.
Also– Its good to check out any FLORISTS or smaller GARDEN CENTERS [ not stores the size of Lowe’s!]
If these shops sell Annuals, Perennials or Trees/Bushes [ and do the install on them] they have a ton of POTS left over…..
I know, cuz I worked for such places for years!
The Growers don’t want the pots back [ due to fears of disease and/or bugs, etc] and the FLORISTS or GARDEN CENTERS are stuck with them….. and usually throw them out in droves.
I worked for a Florist that used to do custom installs of Annuals and I got more than enough of 3″-4″ [for starting plants or transplanting seedlings], plus got tons of bigger pots to put bigger plants into.
THE IMPORTANT THING TO KEEP IN MIND IS THAT THESE SHOPS WILL BE TOSSING THESE OUT IN LATE SPRING OR EARLY SUMMER [ WHICH IS PASSED THE TIME YOU MAY NEED THEM] SO I ALWAYS GO A GET THEM AND THEN HAVE THEM TO USE FOR THE NEXT YEAR.
This way you have time to sort them, clean them or ‘barter/ trade or give away’ with other Garden Buddies who may need them!
ANOTHER PLACE to get Pots and buckets is GARBAGE DAY for any town around you…….
AGAIN TIMING IS THE KEY.
The same time that most folks are setting out their Annuals, Veggies or Trees & Bushes is when to look.I have gotten sooooo many that way!
And last but not least is to call any Landscaping/ Tree Guys around [ who install Trees and Bushes] and ask is they have any Pots they would like to part with
PS- If any one is near me [ in the Hudson Valley of NY State] I have PLENTY of Posts to share….. I have collected soooo many Pots, Flats and big Containers over the years that it is now time to scale down!
Write me here [ if its OK with Mavis…. ] and we’ll figure some way to get in touch…..OK?
Thanks EVERYONE for all your great Tips… and for sharing in OUR LOVE of Gardens!
Hello, Holly! I love this site for all the (free) helpful information. I live in the Lowerf Hudson Valley also and would love to pick up some pots from you. Interested in seedling flats and larger pots, also. Please email me @ [email protected] Thanks and Happy Gardening!
For my garden paths I pick up the plastic cover sheeting that comes with the bundles of lumber at HD and use it as a weed barrier HD just throws the stuff in the trash. it works as well or better then black plastic or the commercial weed barrier. It will let water through but the weeds dont come through. I used some in my rose garden 10 years ago and it is still working. Best part is it is free!
Another source for 5gal. buckets are school kitchens. Just call the school to find out who is in charge of the kitchens. Then ask them. I used to get several a week from a local high school.
I scored many buckets at the large office complex I work in. They have a cafeteria for the employees and I asked one of the cooks if I could have their pickle buckets. They got rid of 2 buckets with lids twice a week! They are food grade so I did not have to worry about any paint or other hazardous chemicals.
Where did you find the galvanized tub?
Mavis Butterfield says
It is a horse stock tank. Any farm store would have it. I bought mine at Wilco. 🙂
Mike irwin says
Last Spring, a nursery operation that had closed was getting ready to clear the land for construction. My gardening group, Decatur Is Growing Gardeners, (DIGG), was given permission to take what we could carry away before it was trashed. I hauled away three truckloads of plug flats, 2, 4, and 6 inch pots, 3,4,6 and 9 packs and nearly new 12 to 16 foot 2x4s. We have enough equipment to germinate seeds for years, plus give away equipment to our contract gardening partners.
Tsai-Yu Chou says
Thank you so much for the information about HOMEDEPOT “Recycling Program” on used nursery pots. It sure save mea lot of money.
I like the way you think lady!
Freebies are awesome! Lucky you to get that catch! 😀
Over here (Kuwait) I randomly find great stuff near trash piles, aka plant pots and such.
We (hubby and I) just had a conversation about thta yesterday. I told him that except for the plant earth we just bought, I hadn’t spent a dime on any pots, shelves (one’s a discarded rattan shelf and one a pallet) or anything. And except for two plants I bought cheap last summer, even the plants are ‘recycled’ – people who moved and dumped them in the trash, poor things 🙂
Oh and re recycling, I also get Burlap bags from a nearby coffee roaster and he gave me sturdy plastic bags for my grocery shopping. I love that guy 🙂
Debra Anderson says
I need some of those huge pots! I have lilac bushes I want to put in them to give them a good start. May leave them in the container as there’s too much rock in the yard to plant them where I need to plant them. Is that even possible to keep them in large pots?
On another note, I never pay for boxes. Liquor stores have the best sized boxes for using, unless I need bigger boxes. Then I go to grocery stores & Dollar General Stores which break them down & put them in carts in the back of the store. Just ask & you can get all you need.
cut the bottoms out of the pots so the roots will go into the soil from under the pot
To the people asking about removing the labels on buckets. I saw online if you use equal parts baking soda and vegetable oil, make a runny paste, rub the paste over sticky residue and then let it sit for about 10 minutes. Wipe it off with a rag and then wash off the paste. It’s suppose to work on glass jars so it should work on plastic as well
That was suppose to say⤴️. How to remove labels off buckets and jars. Stupid autocorrect!
Just use some googone or rubbing alcohol
LC Campbell says
Try your local cattle rancher or feedlot manager. They’ll have a lot of 50-gallon containers that their feed supplements come in. We’ve grown green beans with great success in them, also tomatoes, and flowers, too. Remember to drill drainage holes in them. Fill the bottom with rocks/sand/other fill to keep from having to waste lots of good garden soil and to provide better drainage. I think these are better than raised beds because they are about 24″ high and you can reach the center without having to bend over or stretch.
Lowes also recycles pots. They have a big banner in the garden department. They are on a cart near the back in our store. The guy in the garden department also suggested looking at the rack with distressed plants that are on clearance – some come in really nice pots. You can either nurse the plant back or toss/compost it and keep the pot. If you have landscaping friends, you might be able to score larger pots from trees like palms, etc.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have a boyfriend who owns his own landscaping business; if only for the black plastic pots LOL !! Seriously he goes through a lot of those 2-3 gallon pots and used to throw them away. That was until I saw what he was doing and very graciously offered to take them off his hands. He doesn’t get many of the 5 gallon containers but when he does I take those to. Now there is also a plant nursery about a mile from me and they used to put those big five gallon or bigger containers out by the dumpster . Now they keep them inside the gate and when I went in and asked they let me pick up what I could find out there , but at the tune of $2.50 and $3.00 bucks a piece. Not a bad price , but free is much better in my world
Loved finding your blog post about free gardening containers at Home Depot. Hoping that I’d find a store not too far away, I called the Greenwood, Indiana store to ask. No luck. They don’t ‘recycle’ gardening containers or allow the customers to take them home. I thought I’d try the Lowes here in Bloomington (as their website says 1700 stores participate in the recyling gardening container program). No luck, either. Phooey. Indiana is not as progressive as I thought.
Don’t forget that ranchers also have large plastic buckets “molasses tubs” that the cattle lick the molasses out of the tubs. There are no chemicals that are harmful in them – the tubs do not have holes – you’ll have to drill out your own holes in the bottom but they work very well with above ground gardening. Most people with cattle are happy to get rid of them.
why pay anything for pots when you can get them free that is if you know someone that has horses or cows. The farmers buy maple oats in big buckets just ask them they might give them to you but you may have to collect them your self. My daughter and son in law gives me theres.
No one gives ANYTHING away in New Zealand! I would gladly pay $10 for a large pot but they are more like $25 here :, (
(sigh) One of the few things I miss about the States
I’ve gotten free pots from new housing developments after the landscaper has finished and left the pots behind with the trash.
You sneaky, crafty, bitch
I started a veggie garden this year and while at my local nursery, I noticed a stack of plastic pots next to their dumpster. Score! Every time I go there I scoop up what they have. I used 10 5-gallon pots to neatly stack all the branches I pruned off my fruit trees, which are now stored neatly in the shed. I’m going to use the branches for kindling this year in the outdoor fireplace on my patio and the indoor fireplace in my living room. I also started potting baby French heirloom plum trees that grow all over my yard because I can’t keep up with the fruit these trees put out every year. Not sure what I’ll do with all of those, but I will be giving some away to friends.
I also noticed a couple of pallets there, and found more on the sidewalk in front of my local feed store. Unfortunately they didn’t fit in my Toyota! They were about a half inch too long to fit in my car. Going to figure something out – maybe empty my trunk so I can put them in there and tie the trunk shut?
Also, NEVER pay for boxes! There are SO many ways to get free boxes. The boxes that Starbucks coffee comes in are on the smallish size, so they’re perfect for packing books, and don’t get too heavy. Also, there is a strip mall near my house where several big retailers have outlet stores. Behind the mall is where they keep their dumpsters/trash, and it’s a box wonderland. The last few times I moved my home and work/office, I got all the boxes I needed there. One day I went to see what Starbucks had near their dumpster, and saw a lady with the Ann Taylor outlet unpacking merchandise in their office near the back door, which was open. The boxes were heavy-duty and on the small size, perfect for heavy stuff like plates or books, so I gladly took those off her hands. I’m using them to repack things I have stored in the basement, which I’ve been cleaning out.
As another posted commented, I’ve heard that construction sites are good places to get leftover lumber, rebar and possibly wire mesh. I’m getting ready to make some trellises out of wire mesh and rebar, but before I spend money on them, I’m going to scope out construction sites and see what I can get for free.
And then there’s always Craigslist. I live in a 100-year old house with a double-lot yard in East Oakland, California, where the whole block was once an orchard. The house is on a hill and already had two raised beds in the yard, one of bricks and the other concrete blocks, which I completed filled with herbs and veggies. But I wanted to keep planting, and needed to add a bed or two in the yard, which is sloped. So my neighbor suggested getting free concrete blocks to build a wall on the sloped side. Checked out Craigslist, and at first, the only concrete blocks I found were for a price. But 2-3 days later I found someone giving away a bunch. I loaded up about 60 in my Toyota and brought them home. A bonus was that they were painted yellow, the same color as my stucco home, so they’re perfect. Built a wall two-block high, and leveled out a new 6×15-ft bed in my yard. Well, not perfectly level, but good enough. The height is 16 inches, so I filled them with soil and planted longer-type carrots there that I can’t plant in the bed, since my soil is heavy with lots of clay. This was a perfectly free solution!
How to Find Free Containers For Your Garden The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure By Mavis Butterfield on April 22, 2012 · 170 Comments Yesterday, I
Using Fabric Grow Bags
Easily one of the most important aspects of growing large healthy plants is choosing the correct container. For more than 30 years fabric grow bags have proven to be one of the best choices for gardeners both commercially and independently. The soft sided aeration containers commonly known as Smart pots, grow bags, fabric pots have been proven and multiple University tests to improve the routing structure of your plants. This improved routing structure results in larger healthier plants with greater yields.
1. Excellent growth environment.These soft sided growing containers are far and away better than there are hard sided plastic counterparts. These plastic nursery pots are inexpensive but do not offer the ideal growing conditions for your plants. Nursery pots do not allow for proper aeration of the soil, holding in heat and offer low amounts of drainage. On warm summer days these plastic pots can easily top temperatures above 130° causing extreme and unnecessary stress. This stress will effectively kill the roots of your plant and inhibit growth. Many gardeners also struggle with watering, both too much and too little. If you are on the heavy side of watering and tend to water too much plastic pots offers very little drainage and can lead to root rot. These fabric grow bags are very porous allowing for excess water to be drained and excessive heat to be dissipated.
2. Cost savings on growing media. The because of this effective adoration in fiber grow bags a gardener can benefit from using a less expensive and heavier growing media. Growing media which is lite and with high drain ability is largely meant to protect from over watering, this lite growing media has many additives such as perlite to improve drainage. These additives cost money and increase the price of your growing substrate. With soft sided fabric pots helping control moisture levels these liter and more expensive growing media’s are less critical.
3. Healthier roots and larger plants. Root pruning is a technique used by many large commercial nurseries which effectively produce larger highly branched routing systems. These rooting systems with more branches allow for more nutrient and water uptake. When your plants are grown in fabric grow bags the roots are trained to branch instead of wrap. Root wrapping happens when plant roots reach a side of a hard sided container and continue to grow in length but do not branch. This is very undesirable as the plant can effectively strangle itself.
4. Lightweight and easy to move. In addition to being better for the rooting system fabric pots are also lightweight and strong. Pots such as ceramic or clay offer a better installation then there plastic counterparts but tend to be large bulky and heavy. If you have any desire to move your plants around then ceramic or Clay pots are not for you. These pots also do not offer aeration and root pruning. Fabric pots are lightweight, durable and much easier to move and ship.
5. Advanced raised beds. Traditional raised bed gardening can be an excellent way to provide a great growing environment for your plants. Typically these raised beds offer great water drainage and cooler soil temperatures than conventional nursery pots. Unfortunately traditional raised beds also require installation labor and increased monetary investment. Large grow bags are essentially an advanced raised bed. Larger fabric growing containers have the ability to grow any type of plant you would typically find in a traditional raised bed garden. Plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, lettuce, celery, carrots, basil and many others thrive in the fabric smart part growing environment. The fabric pots which can be found here are made of an inert fabric and are completely safe for edible plants.
The fabric grow bags which we offer come in a large variety of sizes starting at the 1 gallon size and going all the way up to the special order 1000 gallon Smart pot size. For a complete chart on benefits features and sizes please see our comparison chart section which can be found at the top of the page. Thank you for shopping with us and happy gardening.
Using Fabric Grow Bags Easily one of the most important aspects of growing large healthy plants is choosing the correct container. For more than 30 years fabric grow bags have proven to be one of