As much as I try and deny it I am a hoarder. I can’t help it. My Mum is the same. Her collection of tupperware, old jars, Chinese take away cartons and used margarine boxes is second to none. She keeps everything! Things get used over and over again – it’s the ultimate in recycling. Add to that her passion for collecting things – old bits and pieces of china, glassware, boxes, cutlery, and on occasion the odd piece of furniture – and I grew up surrounded by an eclectic mix of treasures and junk. I am not quite as much of an eco warrior, but I do like to consider if things have a second use and that ethos extends into the garden.

So, if you are on a low budget, why not consider using unusual things to plant up your pelargoniums and pot your petunias?  Just remember to follow a few simple rules:

  • Clean the items thoroughly with hot water and dish washing liquid and rinse well. This avoids any bacterial problems later.
  • Fill pots with fresh peat-free multi-purpose compost or if you’re growing shrubs or long-term plants use a soil-based John Innes compost. There are peat enriched and peat-free versions. Both are easy to re-wet if dry and are heavier than general composts, adding stability to the display.
  • Compost can be improved by adding a few water-retaining crystals. These swell up when the compost is watered and act like mini-reservoirs, providing water when the plant needs it.

  • Controlled-release fertiliser granules mixed into the compost will feed a plant with a balanced supply of nutrients throughout its growing period.
  • Many pots have a single, large drainage hole at their base. To prevent this from becoming blocked with compost, cover with a layer of broken bits of pot (broken bits of polystyrene packaging will work just as well.) When displaying pots on a paved area, such as a patio, raise them off the ground by resting on terracotta feet (or even bricks for very large pots.) This will help water drain freely and prevent a build up of moisture at root level. If your pot doesn’t already have drainage holes in the bottom, it is important to add a few to prevent your plant’s roots from sitting in water, which could be detrimental to its health. Take care to select the right drill bit for the material you are drilling.
  • If you are displaying planted food cans or other steel containers on a decorative surface such as paving or decking, stand them on a saucer or pot stand as rust-stains can be unsightly and difficult to remove.
  • The other important part of junk-planting is to make sure the plants are going to be proportional to your object. A plant that can reach a 6 foot spread won’t flourish in an old tin can!
  •  It’s a little early to plant most seeds outside, but you can get them started in a greenhouse or on a window sill indoors. Stick to 2 or 3 different types of plants in lots of different containers. Trailing plants such as Nasturtiums (the peppery edible leaves and flowers can be used in salad as well) or Ipomoea look great when planted together with something upright, such as Busy Lizzie or even a tomato plant. Herbs are also great planted in this manner.
  • You can use just about anything for the container itself, from old shoes and wellies, to large cooking oil drums and old sinks. If you want to follow a theme try planting up a tea party, with old teapots, cups and saucers etc – you could even set it out on a table.

Plant up old shoes and boots for a floral shoe shop display. Old saucepans, pots and pans would make a great theme planted kitchen, especially if you were able to procure an old dresser to arrange them on.

You could even consider larger items and turn your planted junk into a real feature, such as this giant old ‘flower bed’ or this row of planted toilets. The only limit to your planter possibilities is your imagination…