3 Expert Tomato Growers Share Their Best Tips

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Name: James Worley
Home Digs: Kansas City, MO
Business: KC Tomato Times
Blog: KCTomatoTimes.wordpress.com
Follow on Social Media: KC Tomato Times (Facebook)
Fast Fact: I won the 2017 World Championship Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Claim to Fame: I’ve been growing rare tomato varieties for over a decade and have grown almost 800 types so far. I pride myself on growing the most hearty, tough, and ready-to-plant seedlings available in the area. I also host a tomato tasting each year on the first Saturday in August. This will be our 10th annual event! We’ve had as many as 100 different types of ripe fruit in years past, but always have at least 40–50 types for people to taste and experience the uniqueness of each variety.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Soil building is key. I make my own soil for my raised beds with locally produced compost mixed with peat, perlite, and vermiculite in an 8-1-1-1 ratio. I do not use manures as they tend to be too high in nitrogen. I fertilize with Tomato-tone when I plant and then every 3 weeks throughout the season.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Mulch is your friend. Use some sort of mulch to keep your soil moisture consistent. Also, I prefer silver reflective film, as this keeps the moisture in and the weeds out, and it bounces light under the leaves to drive off insect invaders like aphids and hornworms. It is very shiny and you’ll need sunglasses when working with it, but you can see your garden from outer space!

Favorite Tomato Variety: Carbon is hands down the best I have ever grown. It has deep, complex flavors and a beautiful purple color, and is fairly disease resistant and very productive. I plant at least a dozen Carbon in my gardens every year.

Sharin’ the Love: I’m an educator at heart and in my profession. I make sure that anyone who buys my plants knows the best way to plant them, care for them, and eat them as well. I’m available year-round by e-mail to help gardeners with questions they may have. As for ripe tomatoes, we eat them at home in myriad ways; however, I love to take in a box of ripe tomatoes and other vegetables from my garden to local restaurants and trade them for delicious meals or have the chefs prepare them for me in their own special ways.

Read More: “TGN Talks Tomatoes With Dave Freed, Local Changemaker”


Robin Wyll, Tomatoes

Nominee: Robin Wyll
Home Digs: Woodinville, WA
Business: Robin’s Gourmet Garden (Nursery)
Website: GrowTomatoSauce.com
Follow On Social Media At: Robin’s Gourmet Garden (Facebook)
Fast Fact: Well, besides gardening, my other obsessions are theater and politics, so, of course, I can rap the entire opening number of the musical Hamilton!

Claim to Fame: I grow tomato sauce—125–200 pounds of tomatoes from 36 plants! I roast them, puree, and freeze about 2–3 gallons each year for winter meals. People asked me for help, so I created a website to help inspire others. People also asked me for cuttings, so I started a business raising around 1,800 heirloom tomato plants (nine varieties) and selling them directly to customers as well as supplying five stores. Customers say my varieties are unique in the local market and more robust than industry-grown options.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Test your soil for everything down to the trace elements, and then mineralize accordingly. I started this five years ago after reading Steve Solomon’s book The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food, and it made a world of difference in my tomato production. Also, to get the most flavor out of your tomatoes, do not water the plants during the 24 hours before you pick the fruit. Watering just dilutes the sugars in the tomatoes, thereby diluting the flavor.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Here in the Pacific Northwest, the biggest challenge is wildly fluctuating weather conditions. Sometimes the temperature will drop 20–30 degrees overnight, and we tend to get a lot of rain off and on throughout the summer. My solution is twofold. I select varieties that mature in fewer than 85 days, and I grow them under a protective shelter that can be opened up during good weather for air flow and pollination. The goals are to keep the leaves from getting rained on, which can lead to fungal issues, and to hold in the heat as much as possible. This method allows me to plant tomatoes in April when it’s still pretty cool and wet and extends the harvest into November.

Favorite Tomato Variety: My single favorite tomato variety is Speckled Roman, because my goal is to freeze as much tomato puree as I can—and the Speckled Roman is thick and meaty with few seeds and excellent, rich flavor. Some of the fruit will grow to more than one pound each—and it is so dense that you can grill the slices. My preferred pick for salsa is Black Sea Man, which is a Russian variety that produces lots of beefsteak-type tomatoes that are a beautiful mottled deep green and red with delicious sweet tomato flavor.

Sharin’ the Love: I share my 15 years of tomato-growing experience, failures, and successes via my website; I answer questions and share info related to my plant business on my Facebook page; and I share my expertise live by giving presentations to local garden clubs and, of course, in casual conversation. It seems that successfully growing tomatoes is a subject of great interest in my area. Plus, my tomato sauce gets around—lots of it went to college with my daughter, and I share it with neighbors and friends in the hopes of inspiring more people to try growing tomato sauce.


Leslie Doyle, Tomatoes

Nominee: Leslie Doyle
Home Digs: Las Vegas, NV
Business: Sweet Tomato Test Garden
Website: SweetTomatoTestGarden.com
Follow on Social Media: Leslie R. Doyle (Facebook)
Books Authored: Growing the Tomato in Las Vegas in Terrible Dirt and Desert Heat, self-published (1996); Growing the Tomato in Las Vegas in Terrible Dirt and Desert Heat (2nd edition), self-published (2002); Slam Dunk Easy Desert Gardening, self-published (2009)
Fast Fact: I actually don’t usually eat vegetable greens. I prefer berries; tree fruit; nuts; grilled steak, fish or chicken; and chocolate (yum!).

Claim to Fame: I wrote new directions for growing tomatoes and veggies in the desert—including new ways to irrigate and fertilize the farm or garden, a way to increase light on the plants, and a method to repel insects and avoid disease. I also developed a soil/compost that is very popular and widely used in the desert.

Top Tomato-Production Tip: Help them be all that they can be. You get more reliable results when you grow a variety that is known for prolific production and then give them ample water, nutrients, and sun—and grow them in the right climate.

On Less-Than-Ideal Growing Conditions: Gardening in Las Vegas is very, very different for new residents—and impossible for them without some coaching by a successful gardener. Growing here is actually easy, but there are growing rules. Wherever you live, pay attention to your plants, and learn how to fulfill their needs and diagnose their ailments.

Favorite Tomato Variety: My favorite tomato variety is Hawaiian Tropic for several reasons: It has an 8- to 10-ounce average size, is simply delicious, and is very prolific. It grows extremely well in our hot desert climate and has been disease resistant. Hawaiian Tropic tomato is only available through me at this time. I also like Juliet, a smaller Roma-like tomato. It is easy to grow, delicious, and an All-America Selections winner.

Sharin’ the Love: We sell our harvest here at the Sweet Tomato Test Garden and donate extra fruit to the Lutheran Social Services Food Panty. Some is also shared with friends. Over the years I have written articles and tips for various publications, including Organic Gardening magazine, where I worked for almost 10 years. I publish a subscription-based e-newsletter for desert gardeners, and I have decades of teaching and speaking experience at our Desert Gardening School, the library, our local university, civic events, and nurseries. People are welcome to visit my garden, and I am delighted to answer questions!


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TGN Talks Tomatoes With Dave Freed, Local Changemaker

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Nominee: Dave Freed

Home Digs: Cypress, CA

Blog: GrowTomatoesEasily.blogspot.com

Fast Fact: Known as “Dave, the Tomato Guy,” his motto is, If you don’t have a green thumb, I’ll give you one.

Nominated By: Tirzah S. | Hindsville, AR


Tell us about your background—where you grew up, your education, and what career or life path led to your current role as a Master Gardener, speaker, and tomato enthusiast?

I live in Cypress, California (in Orange County), but I was born and raised in the Midwest in North Central Kansas on a farm with cows, pigs, chickens, corn, wheat—and always a big vegetable garden. We did lots of fishing and hunting, and we lived off the land. I remember hunting with my father for rabbits, squirrels, ducks, pheasants, etc., for our next meal. It was a hard life, but we always had food to eat. I suppose that’s where I got my roots for growing a garden. Eventually, we left Kansas and ended up in California. I have always grown an annual garden and always include tomatoes, as this is the one fruit you cannot buy in the supermarket with a great, homegrown taste.

I worked in the foodservice industry before owning a full-service restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, near the University of Southern California. About 10 years ago, I sold the restaurant and retired, figuring I would relax and enjoy life and probably become very bored within about six months and then get back out into the business world. That never happened, and I’ve never looked back.

I volunteered to become a Master Gardener in Orange County, where we volunteer our hours helping others with their gardens. My heart has always been about growing tomatoes, and I’ve always been a competitor. So, since growing tomatoes easily was always a challenge, I learned how to make it easier, more foolproof, and more simple. People began calling to ask if I would come speak to their group or organization and share my tips on how to grow tomatoes easily in an urban setting. Today, I speak to 15–30 southern California gardening clubs and organizations every year on how to grow tomatoes easily. Last year, I even started a blog. I tell people, “If you don’t have a green thumb, I’ll give you one.”

What do you think makes your techniques so easy to follow? What kind of feedback have you received from your “students”?

My motto may seem rather bold, but it’s really not. You see, if you go on my blog site, I show you pictures of the tomatoes I grow—some plants with more than 100 pounds of tomatoes on them. And I tell you specifically what I do to grow these great tomatoes: which potting mixes, soils, fertilizers, and tomato plants to buy. I explain when to plant and how to water. I give you no room for failure as long as you follow the suggestions. And I have people let me know all the time that they’ve grown tomatoes for years and never had so much success as they do now.

I don’t do everything from scratch. People tend to live in the fast lane and want hassle-free and time-saving methods to grow tomatoes in home gardens. Some people are enthusiastic organic growers, while others are not—I demonstrate how to produce great results either way.

I’ve always said that if I ever write a book, I’ll try to keep it to about eight pages. Short and to the point!

You’ve said you research growing techniques as a backyard farmer before sharing them on your blog and in gardening classes. Can you give us an example of a tip that you found to be a great success? How about one that fell flat?

An idea that was a success was using great potting soil for backyard tomatoes. I detail my steps in the tips below. Basically, use one of the three great potting soils I recommend, then mix in some composted steer manure with compost.

Until this discovery, I was like most others—simply mixing in compost with backyard dirt and planting tomatoes. They never did very well. And you never have to worry about planting in the same spot year after year. If you think you need to change the soil, you dig out the potting soil from the hole and replace it with new potting soil. This is one of the biggest improvements the backyard tomato farmer can make.

An idea that fell flat was grafted tomatoes—attaching a disease-resistant, hearty rootstock to your favorite top, such as the heirloom Brandywine. This was supposed to result in a great root system that produced a huge top with lots of your favorite tomatoes. For several years, I would plant a grafted Brandywine next to a Brandywine with its original roots. Every year, the original Brandywine outperformed the grafted one by a large margin.

You’ve taught others to build self-watering containers. What makes you such a big proponent?

Self-watering containers have been around for a long time. You can find many different designs online. The one thing they all have in common is that they have a water reservoir at the bottom of the container that will hold water for the plants to use as needed.

Remember, a full-grown tomato plant will use 2 to 3 gallons of water every day. Most of the time we do a lousy job of consistently watering our gardens and tomatoes. Self-watering containers help to keep those roots moist—and even more so if you are using great potting soil.

You frequently yield 100+ pounds of tomatoes on a single plant. Can you share some tips for prolific production that are universal across climates and growing regions?

Sunshine. Tomato plants convert sunlight into food and energy. The more sunshine—especially morning sun—the more food and energy your tomato plant has to produce a big top with lots and lots of tomatoes.

Soil. This is probably where the biggest advantage can be gained by the average tomato farmer. I first recommend you dig a hole at least 2 feet deep and 2 feet in diameter. Throw away the dirt, and fill the hole with water to make sure it drains. Then I suggest filling the hole with at least a 15-gallon container of one of the three potting mixes that I mention on my blog, followed by mixing in a little bit of composted steer manure. Plant one tomato plant in the middle of that hole.

Why do I suggest one of these three potting mixes? Because they contain a very large amount of sphagnum peat moss, and 1 pound of sphagnum peat moss can hold up to 25 pounds of water. It’s like surrounding those roots 24/7 with a sponge, which promotes a big root system, which promotes a big top with lots of tomatoes. A small root system gives you a bonsai tomato plant. . . . I know, because I’ve been there.

Schedule. For your city or ZIP code, look up historical weather averages for a guideline on planting tomatoes. They generally need 50- to 55-degree nights to produce pollen—no pollen, no tomatoes. Once temperatures rise to 85 degrees and warmer, tomato plants will generally quit producing pollen. That is your window. (And, yes, there are tomato plants that will produce tomatoes in 90-degree weather.)

Variety. If you plant a lousy variety, you are going to get lousy results. My blog site shows you different varieties that will give you lots of tomatoes—and I mention them in the next question as well. If possible, pick one of those to plant, and buy a live plant.

Watering. A mature tomato plant can easily use up to 3 gallons of water every day. Try to water in the morning, as excess water on the leaves or surface of the soil will evaporate quickly, whereas evening watering leaves the surface soil wet too long and invites disease.

How do you know when to water? Use a moisture meter. You can buy these at your brick-and-mortar stores or online. Stick the probe down into the soil, and the meter will read dry, moist, or wet. If the reading is on the dry/moist side, it’s time to water. Water down deep, slowly, about 18 inches to 2 feet. Using deep watering pipes can help. This water carries all the nutrients from the soil up to the tomatoes and the growing tips of the vines. And then 80 to 90 percent of that water evaporates out through the leaves.

Fertilizer. Tomato plants are very heavy users of fertilizer. If you do not remember anything else, remember to use only a liquid fertilizer that is recommended for tomatoes and/or vegetable gardens.

In liquid form, fertilizer can be taken up by the tomato plant almost immediately. In dry form, it can take weeks or months.

Tomato Cages. You will want to use a heavy-duty tomato cage to keep the tomatoes up off the soil. You can find these at your local nurseries or big-box stores. I like to use concrete-reinforcing wire and make my own approximately 2 feet in diameter and 5- or 6-feet tall, depending on the plant you’re growing. Some of my cages are 3 feet in diameter and 8-feet tall.

Do you have a favorite tomato variety?

There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes. Hybrids, heirlooms, determinants that grow like a bush, and indeterminates that grow like a vine.

  • My favorite hybrids are probably Better Boy, Big Beef, Husky Cherry Red, and Celebrity.
  • Top heirlooms are Pink Brandywine, Red Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple.

For the most part, these are all thin-skinned varieties with great flavor that produce many pounds of tomatoes per plant. Some other varieties produce very few tomatoes even under ideal conditions.

So if you see some of the above for sale in your area of the country, give them a try. No. 1, I recommend that people plant a great tomato each year that will give them lots of tomatoes. After that, try something new.

What do you do with all those tomatoes? Sell them through a farmers’ market, distribute them within the community, do a ton of canning—or give them away to lots of grateful friends?

I love the flavor of homegrown tomatoes, and growing them is a hobby I really enjoy. I do not sell any of my tomatoes. I do not can, freeze, or dry any either. I give away as many as I can to friends, relatives, neighbors, my barber, my dry cleaner, and so on. Sometimes, I just leave a box of fresh tomatoes on someone’s porch . . . and I haven’t had any returned yet!

What do you find most valuable about being part of The Grow Network community?

I come into contact with hundreds of people when I’m teaching. America is probably the most diverse nation on earth, with many differing views on life and politics. Vegetable gardens and homegrown tomatoes . . . turning back to the basics . . . healthy living and healthy eating—all these put us on the same page, and differences are forgotten. The Grow Network offers a forum for all of this, with something there for everyone. When we live life in the fast lane and finally slow down to enjoy a homegrown garden, it’s surprising how rewarding it can be.


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How To Create Perfect Potting Soil For Containers and Hanging Baskets

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If you dream of gorgeous, stunning, and overflowing hanging baskets and potted plants, then make those dreams come true this year by filling your containers with the perfect potting soil! Having the right soil in containers makes all the difference.

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How To Grow Vegetables In Containers – Growing Food In Small Spaces

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With a little preparation, it’s easy to grow vegetables in containers. Whether on a patio, driveway, porch or deck, if you get a little sun, you can grow!  Beyond just space constraints, growing fresh produce in pots, buckets or a couple

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Container Gardening Secrets – 6 Tips For Gorgeous Pots, Containers & Baskets!

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Whether you live on a farm, in the suburbs, or the middle of the city, nearly everyone can experience the joy of container gardening.  Container gardening is a great way to grow your favorite flowers, vegetables, herbs and more. All you need

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Animal Parts Use Image.

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Don’t forget the brains can be used to brain tan animal skins. Bones can be used to make tools, spear & arrow points. Horns for containers; powder horns, tinder horns, grease horns, cups & other vessels. Tendons for bow strings & cordage. The hide for making many leather items & for making hide glue. 

10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

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10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

Swiss chard. Image source: Pixabay.com


Growing vegetables in containers is touted as something you do if you’re an urbanite without space for a “real” garden. People often turn to container gardening when back or knee pain make bending and digging too difficult, or when the soil is so poor that it’s incapable of supporting life.

How about growing vegetables in containers because it’s a rewarding, enjoyable activity? No excuse is required. More and more people are discovering that container gardening is a perfectly viable method for growing vegetable crops.

Container gardening is so popular these days that growers have created dwarf versions of even super-size plants (like watermelons).

In fact, some vegetables actually thrive in smaller accommodations.

1. Tomatoes are a little on the fussy side, and thus, they’re perfectly suited for containers. Growing tomatoes in containers makes it easier to monitor and control soil moisture, and it’s easy to move the plants to take advantage of warmth and sunlight. Cherry or grape varieties are ideal, but most types of tomatoes, including standard sizes, do well in pots measuring a minimum of 22 inches in diameter.

Need Non-GMO Seeds? Get The Best Deals Here!

2. Lettuce has shallow roots and tends to grow best in containers that are not too deep. A small container on a front step is handy for easy snipping, while a larger container can accommodate a seed mix for colorful, flavorful salads. Move the pot to a shady spot on sunny afternoons.

3. Spinach needs rich soil, easy to provide in containers filled with a lightweight, compost-based potting mix. Locate the container where it’s sunny during the day and cool at night, and then harvest the power-packed leaves as needed.

4. Swiss chard is a durable, heat-tolerant plant that grows like crazy in containers. Harvest when the leaves are young and tender for the best flavor.

5. Potatoes are easy to plant and even easier to dig in containers, and you may be surprised how many spuds you can harvest. Try smaller varieties like Yukon gold or red Pontiac.

10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

Eggplant. Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Eggplant is an attractive plant that thrives in containers, but you’ll probably have the best luck with compact varieties like Patio Baby, which produces plenty of mild-flavored, miniature fruit. Little Fingers, with clusters of three to six, long, narrow, deep purple eggplants, is yummy when harvested at finger-size.

7. Carrots do well in containers with a depth of at least 12 inches, or try short, round carrots for shallower pots. Thin the plants as they develop and enjoy the tender, finger-sized carrots. Varieties worth trying include Thumbelina or Short ‘N Sweet.

Seamazing: The Low-Cost Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

8. Cucumbers don’t tolerate cold and should be planted in early summer in most climates. Dwarf plants with compact vines are best suited for containers, but you’ll still need a trellis to support the vines. Consider Arkansas Little Leaf, Spacemaster, Fanfare or Patio King, or try your hand at small “lemon” cucumbers.

9. Radishes, dwarf veggies by their very nature, are easy to grow in containers. Their speedy growth and colorful appearance makes them the perfect vegetable for young gardeners.

10. Summer squash is one of those vegetables that seem ill-suited for containers, but compact varieties like Spacemiser zucchini or Sunburst scalloped squash perform amazingly well in pots.

What vegetables would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

Creative Planters from Upcycled Materials

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Upcycle Old Objects to Make Creative Planters

A pot is a pot is a pot, no?  But of course!  And there are so many objects that can serve as creative planters!  With the warmer weather upon us, here are a few ideas to get you rethinking and upcycling old objects come spring cleaning time and get you ready for some creative planting “a la pot.”


Old boots and shoes make just dandy creative planters and are a great way to repurpose those baby booties and too tight children’s shoes. You can plop them right on your front stairs as a “welcome-come-on-in” gesture. Make sure to drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and if you use waterproof boots, slash the toe area to help with aeration. Fill with soil and you’re good to go.

Cage Those Beasts

Ever had a rodent as a pet, and ended up with an empty cage after the pet passed on? Consider it as the great rat cage planter! If you have a square cage, cut off the top “ceiling” using wire cutters. If you have a domed cage, cut off the part where it curves. Since either of these cages will now have sharp metal bits, overturn the cage and fit the sharp top edges into the plastic bottom.

Drill holes in the bottom for drainage, and then consider prettying it on up: cut a waterproof tablecloth or an old shower curtain to fit, and use a glue gun to glue it in place. Feel free to add some ribbons, stickers, flowers or anything else for extra appeal. Great to grow cukes, tomatoes and peppers.

Other ideas: repurpose rodent plastic and wooden houses (tape to hold together if need be and use mosquito netting over holes to hold soil in place) and carrier cage (drill holes for drainage).

creative planters with rodent cages


Ideas for edible container plants: Balcony Gardening – Big Food Production in Small Spaces

Milk It

Even though they don’t deliver milk anymore, there are stores that still use milk crates, so you might be able to ask around and get some for free. You can also purchase milk crates at some stores, where they market them as storage organizers. You can easily turn these into creative planters by simply adding some mosquito netting or landscaping fabric on the bottom to prevent the potting soil from slipping out.

Another idea is to fit an old cardboard box into the crate and to make holes in the bottom of the cardboard for drainage (the cardboard will deteriorate over time so you will have to replace it). Don’t like the look? Paint the outside of the crates first, or do the wrap and glue method with the shower curtain/tablecloth, as described above. Again, you can pretty up the crates by gluing on ribbons, buttons, decorative flowers, etc.


Tote It On Up

There are lots of videos out there about how to make your own hydroponic and self-watering systems using big plastic totes. If you don’t mind watering, nothing could be easier than drilling some holes in the bottom and adding in potting soil and plants. Again, decorating them with paint or some waterproof material is always nice. Other upcycling ideas in this line of plastic planters: old fishing tackle boxes, garbage pails, storage bins, organizers, and plastic bowls in all shapes and sizes. Drill holes in the bottom for drainage and you’re set.

Airy Inspiration

Colanders are cute items that provide great aeration and can easily be painted pretty. Simply add some mosquito netting to hold the soil in, and you’re done! You could even add a hook and chain and use it as a hanging basket.

Other ideas in this line of creative airy inspiration: any wooden or wire basket will do. Old bread baskets, bamboo hampers, and braided garbage bins are some examples. If you have a lovely wire basket or an old bird cage, fill it with coir fiber before adding in soil and plants.

Hello Sexy!

It’s true: bras and heels are a succulent’s paradise! Too tight stilettos or old heels make for a lovely and interesting decorative piece. Make a drainage hole in the bottom of the shoe and then another small hole in the sole of the foot, where the plant will go.  Add a touch of soil and it’s sweet succulent heaven!

As for bras, bigger space means more room for plants to grow! You’ll need 2 bras to make this planter. Hang a bra from a hanger and then hang the other one in the opposite direction, so that the cups face each other. You can then staple the bras together for a tighter fit, and even stitch a piece of garden netting on the bottom to help hold everything in. Stuff  the cups with coir, add a bit of soil and a few small plants such as petunias or succulents.

Alternatively, you can use a camisole or tank top with a built in shelf bra. Again, stuff with coir, add soil and plants. Hang planters against a fence for additional support. Bring in during heavy rain and windy weather. This is one idea for creative planters that’s sure to be noticed.

Fendi is Trendy

Purses make for some pretty and interesting portable pieces. Hang from a fence or plop down anywhere you like. Good for flowers with shallow roots.  Suitcases are another idea, as are trunks and chests. Make sure you drill holes for drainage.

Heed the Call of Nature

Whether you’ve upgraded to a composting toilet, or the old one just needed to go, continue to share those good times with an old porcelain toilet or bathtub by repurposing it in the garden (painting is highly recommended for this one!). Not only will you be upcycling, but you’ll be making for some interesting future conversation, and isn’t gardening a great way to foster community?

Porcelain is long lasting, and you can also conceal the drainage bit with a small plant in front, or consider using some waterproof material and gluing in place. Throw in an old refrigerator (with the door removed) and the kitchen sink, and you’ve got yourself a bargain deal in your garden! Other items that heed the call of nature include bed pans, urinals, bidets and baby potties.

My Cuppa Tea

An old tea kettle gets savvy when upcycled with a few drainage holes and some pretty flowers or herbs.  Other tin objects include old lunch boxes, tool boxes, and cookie/biscuit tins. Cracked ceramic and glass pots, bowls and mugs are other kitchen ideas. An old bread box works nicely too.

Silver ‘n’ Succulents

Old square or round baking pans make nice shallow creative planters for succulents, while muffin tins can be used to plant seedlings. Other small spaces where succulents can be happy: bricks with holes, seashells, candle holders, ceramic tea cups, and even ties. For that last idea, hang up 4 or 5 ties on a hanger and add in a bit of soil and a succulent in the space at the bottom of the tie.

You’ve Got That Baby Face

Before donating those baby items, you might want to reconsider how they can be used in the garden. For example, take off the soft mat from the changing table and use it as place to put pots or as a potting bench. Other baby creative ideas include upcycling the enamel bathtub (add in drainage holes), high chair (stick in a planter and decorate it on up), baby dresser (any dresser makes for a great growing vertical space; leave drawers partially open, and plant) and baby strollers (Bonus: use the hood to provide shade for plants, such as to help leafy greens from bolting).

Great Gatsby Garden Party

Although you might not have a gardening piece from the 1920s, many gardening pieces from any age can be lovingly reused, including plastic and metal watering cans, old wheelbarrows, wooden toolboxes, bird baths, and gardening barrels. Fallen logs can be hollowed out and filled with soil and plants, as can tree stumps. Tree stumps that are cracked work well too. Jazz music is optional.

More Ideas for Creative Planters

Old kayaks and boats, shopping carts (fill with coir first then add soil and plants), bicycles (add a basket in front and on the back and fill with coir first), children’s toys such as dump trucks and small wagons, old BBQ grills (remove grate first), yoga blocks (cut a hole out and add in soil and succulents), washing machine and dryer drums, cloth shopping bags, toasters, and glass containers such as mason jars and cookie jars (which can also be painted and decorated, but recommended for indoor use due to transparency).

Creative planters from cloth shopping bags

Safety Note: For any planter without drainage holes, simply get a drill bit and make your own. Use a diamond drill bit on ceramic, glass and stone pieces and wear safety glasses when drilling. For plastic planters, avoid using plastics marked with 3, 6 and 7. For wooden ideas, avoid using treated wood. Be mindful of glazed ceramics which may contain lead, and metal containers which may harbor toxic chemicals such as cadmium. If you’re unsure of the safety of your planter – when in doubt, leave it out and don’t use.

Happy planting!

Read more: Patio Farming: Growing Great Edible Gardens in Small Spaces


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