Making the most of your polytunnel often means using a range of containers to maximise space. Different container options can be used on staging, in corners, stacked vertically or used in vertical garden, hung from crop bars and even placed along the paths in your polytunnel. Using them can make it a lot easier to increase your yield. But you do not need to buy new containers. Often, you can use your imagination and make use of things that are already right there on your property. Here are ten quirky container ideas you might like to consider:
Natural Container Ideas
It is always good to be resourceful, and when we are all at home, many of us are spending more time working in our gardens. One interesting project that you might like to take on is making some natural containers using materials you might be able to find in your garden.
DIY Wicker Containers
Willow or other pliable branches could be used to make your own hanging containers for your polytunnel. Lined with moss or other organic material, these can be suitable for growing a wide range of plants. There are plenty of tutorials and guides to help you get started with making simple baskets. And if you have suitable branches of whips on your property, you can also use the techniques you learn to make a range of other useful things for your home and garden.
Woven Reed/ Grass Containers
You might also be able to make lightweight hanging containers using weaving techniques to create natural fabrics of reed or grass. A reed or grass woven basket could also become a hanging container. It might not last forever, but could be a cheap way to increase your growing space. It could also give you a new hobby to enjoy.
DIY Clay/ Mud Containers
You may also be able to dig natural clay from your garden. If you can, this can be used in a wide range of ways around your polytunnel and elsewhere on your property. Clay/mud can be formed, perhaps along with straw or similar, into sturdy containers to be placed on the ground in your polytunnel. A little like making ‘mud pies’ – this might be an activity that kids would enjoy.
If you are feeling ambitious (and it is suitable/ allowed where you live) you might even consider making lighter clay pots and firing them in a homemade fire pit. Again, there are tutorials online to help you learn how best to do so.
Upcycled Container Ideas
In addition to making use of the natural materials that you can find in your garden, you might also make use of upcycled/ reclaimed materials. The opportunities for repurposing old items in your polytunnel is almost endless, and you will really only be limited by your imagination. Here are a few suggestions for some of the things you might consider using as upcycled containers in your polytunnel:
Plastic Food Packaging
Your first go-to might be your recycling pile. Many of us find that we cannot help but buy food in plastic packaging. Single use plastic obviously comes at a cost to our environment. But it is, of course, also a very useful material.
When we use plastic for a long time (as we do in a polytunnel) its environmental cost is significantly reduced. It might even be more environmentally friendly than other materials over time when all things are considered.
By using plastic packaging as containers, and keeping it for as long as possible, we can reduce its negative impact. From small plastic trays and yogurt pots, to larger tubs and buckets, plastic packaging can make very good containers for your polytunnel.
Old Washing Machine Drums Etc.
When household appliances reach the end of their useful life, we may be able to strip them of some of their parts. Old washing machine drums can be used to make larger planters for use in a polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden, for example.
But it is also worthwhile thinking about how parts of a number of old appliances could be reused around your garden. For example, could you use trays from old dishwashers as alternatives to hanging baskets? Or a freezer drawer as a container? Use your imagination and you may find there are more container options than you imagined.
Metal Computer Casing Container
If you have an old desktop computer, the internal components can often be recycled. But it might be worthwhile also thinking about how you might be able to use the external metal casing as a new container for your polytunnel or garden. The same goes for any other metal casing from old electronic equipment etc. around your home.
Old Pots and Pans
Raid the backs of your kitchen cupboards and you might be able to find a range of further container options. Old pots and pans might also be excellent options in which to grow some plants. Old oven trays etc. might also be used as seed trays. And you might find some old storage tubs or bins that could also be repurposed for use in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden.
Upcycling Wooden Furniture
Even larger items from your home might be used as containers for plants. For example, if you have an old piece of wooden furniture such as a desk, chest of drawers, sideboards, TV tables or bedside tables, the wooden drawers could be repurposed as planters.
Drawers in a chest of drawers might also be left within the existing piece of furniture and used as a type of vertical garden. The bottom drawer should be pulled out furthest, the next up a little less, the next up less still. Then each one can be filled with growing medium and planted up. This could be a great way to make the most of the space you have available.
Upcycling Clothing and Textiles
There are also a range of different ways to upcycle and repurpose old clothing and textiles to make new containers for your polytunnel. People have turned old clothes into a wide range of innovative and quirky containers for their edible gardens. For example, people have made:
Grow bags from old T-shirts etc..
Planters from an old pair of jeans.
Foldable planters from old fabric and wire coat hangers.
Upcycled fabric bags to hang like hanging baskets.
Even bras to make hanging planters.
And those are only a few possible options. If you search through your old clothes and bedding etc., you are sure to find a new old items you could use. Never throw old fabric away! There are so many ways to use this material around your home and garden.
Old Footwear Container
You can use old footwear to plant up individual plants and create quirky containers. Many people may be familiar with the idea of a welly boot garden. But you can also upcycle plenty of old shoes, boots and other footwear in a similar way.
You cannot just epicycle common, everyday footwear. You can also upcycle old sporting equipment, such as ski boots, for example, that can’t be used for their original purpose any longer.
If you find any hollow item, before throwing it away, think about how you might be able to repurpose it in your garden. The above are just a few of the many ideas you might be able to consider.
In these difficult times, those of us who are lucky enough to have a garden have a duty to make as much of it as we can. We can help others by growing food and reducing the strain on the systems around us. We may even be able to grow enough to help others in our communities.
How are you taking steps to use what you have to hand to make the most of the space in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.