Meg’s Guide to Gardening: How to Make a Planting Container

I once went to a garage sale held by the family of an older woman who was a bit of a hoarder. She collected pottery and her house and garage were apparently stacked to the ceiling with them. I came away with twenty-three pieces for ten bucks and used them to spruce up my greenhouse. You can make a planting container out of almost any container. It can be made out of clay, wood or even metal. As long as it holds soil, you’re good to go. But there are a few modifications you have to make before they’re suitable for planting.

The Right Size
I checked with the experts at the University of West Virginia, and it turns out that most plants need a pot that’s at least 6 inches wide and 8 inches deep. Go any smaller and the plant’s roots will be too cramped. For most plants you can determine the size pot they need by the pot they’re already in. A plant’s new pot should only be two to three inches wider than its old pot. Most plants like snug roots.

Drainage Holes
Drainage holes are what separate regular containers from planting containers. When you water a plant, that water needs somewhere to go or you’ll drown the roots of your plants. Flip the container over so that its bottom faces up. Drill four to six 1/4-inch holes that are evenly spaced from each other and the outer rim of the pot. Any old bit will do for wood containers. You’ll need a carbide bit for ceramic. Carbide works for metal too but drill at a low speed, work slowly and keep the bit and drilling spot well lubricated with oil.

Never put a plant into a container without cleaning it first. This goes double for any containers that held something before your plant took residence. Add two tablespoons of soap and a capful of bleach to a bucket and scrub the inside and outside of the container with it. This will kill any bacteria or other contaminants that would otherwise kill your houseplant soon after planting.

Coffee Filters
The holes you drilled in the bottom of the planting container will also let soil through. To keep the soil in, place a layer of coffee filters at the bottom of the container. They will let water out but keep the soil in.

Potting Soil
Never put garden soil in your planter. It is much too heavy for potted plants and it may contain pathogens that could kill your plant. Potting soil is much better. It’s sterile and better suited for the cramped conditions of the pot.

Planting Tray
Don’t sit your newly-made planting container directly on the floor. You’ll block the drainage holes you went through all that trouble to make. Instead go to your local home and garden center and pick up a planting tray. Fill it with gravel, pebbles or decorative stones. When the container sits on them, the water will drain freely into the planting tray and not on your floor.

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