Using Antique Boxes As Garden Planters

by Steve McRae (Landscape Consultant & Designer, Entrepreneur)

Using Antique Boxes As Garden Planters

ivy in an old wooden box

Old Wood Box

The writing might be on the box! How about recycling antique wooden boxes, apple crates, shoe crates, tool boxes or even old metal buckets for use as planters or dried flower displays for both indoor and outdoor container gardens. Scour the countryside for antique boxes durning the winter and you’ll have fun while you’re planning your container gardens for the upcoming growing season. There are some great boxes with stamped labels on them that will make some interesting conversation pieces as plant containers. Placing the boxes upside down and using them as plant stands for ceramic pots can add more interest to your container garden.

Old Well Bucket with Plant

Well Bucket

When preparing your antique box for planting it’s a good idea is to seal the inside of the box. (See my note) Purchase EPDM pond liner or 6 ml plastic and line the inside of your box to help contain any dirt or water that might accumulate during rainstorms or watering. If you don’t mind drilling some holes in the bottom of the box that will also help against moisture buildup. You can plant directly into the lined box or you may hide plastic pots inside them. A good idea is to put some crushed stone in the bottom of the liner about 2″ deep, covered with a piece of landscape fabric to prevent soil from filling the drainage stone. (A small drain may be made through the liner and box. Seal the joint where the liner meets the box with waterproof silicone sealer by drilling first, then lifting the liner and running a bead of caulk around the hole, then pressing the liner back into place.) Even if you are placing a pot in the box this is still a good idea.

Old Wooden Toolbox

Old Wood Toolbox

I once made a water feature for a cottage garden that used boxes lined with pond liner and lead flashing which directed the water over the edge of the box into another box and into a pool at the bottom. The boxes do get wet in an outdoor setting such as this, but the wood will last for years if it’s in good shape when you first set it in the garden.

Old Wood Boat

Already A Planter

I’ve had an idea for a long time where I’d use an old wooden dinghy for a planter, either cutting it in half or leaving it whole. It wouldn’t have to be in great shape which would help keep the cost down anyway. A nautical theme with heavy ropes, old stave barrels, a small section of deck to simulate a wharf and the boat tied to the wharf all incorporated into a garden.

If you use a larger sized crate you can put multiple pots inside placing them at different heights or using different sized pots allowing for a variety of growth habits, thus creating more interest in your container garden. As the plants grow they will fill the space and look like they are planted directly into the box.

NOTE: Sealing the wood with a marine varnish or exterior paint will help guard against rapid decay. As a woodworker, I have used a 50/50 linseed oil and paint thinner mix to saturate the wood. 3 or 4 applications will seal the wood extremely well, gives it a natural patina and it won’t peel like varnish or paint. Let the wood completely dry between oil applications.

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