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Creative Container Gardens

OSU Extension Master Gardener Program

OSU Extension Master Gardener Program

Need ideas for creative container gardens?  I just returned from an exciting visit to Oregon State University’s Douglas County Discovery Garden in Roseburg, Oregon.  Whenever I travel and get a chance, I love visiting these for inspiration around my own garden, much like we discussed in an earlier “Block Party” blog post when we visited the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg, California.  We’ll stay short on text this post and hopefully inspire you with some of the many creative ideas they employ using recycled materials, a topic we here at TogetherFarm love.  It’s not too late to get started for late summer and early fall crops.  Also, this is a great time to start building out in anticipation for next year’s garden while it’s nice outside.

Wheelchair Accessible Raised Garden Beds

Wheelchair Accessible Raised Garden Beds

I thought this was a great idea on a couple of levels (no pun intended).  The raised beds make gardening very accessible for those in wheelchairs.  All of the produce is readily available, making watering, weeding and care taking a simple chore.  For those that have difficulty bending over, this is also an great option over traditional garden beds.  Beyond that, I kept thinking to myself that I like the extra storage below the beds I have for buckets, tools and watering containers.  It also prevents one of my least favorite trees, the tree of heaven from pushing up through my crops, thereby gaining a foothold as it runs across the yard.

Raised Beds for Kids

Raised Beds for Kids

Want a way to get a child interested in gardening?  Build them a box they can access at their level.  By doing so they can have their own special spot in the garden where they can learn all about farming, from seed to harvest.

Wine barrel gardeing

Wine barrel gardening

We are using this method of wine barrel gardening for both hops and tomatoes.  It’s a tried and true means of putting together a quick and easy garden.  The above ground nature of these pots keeps the soil warmer and relatively weed free.

Peas in a wine barrel

Peas in a wine barrel

For some reason, I never considered cutting them lengthwise to get even more surface area, as seen here with peas.

Half barrel - strawberries

Half barrel – strawberries

Here again, they used the half barrel for raising strawberries.  In both instances, they’ve used relatively cheap and readily available materials to boost them off the ground … and make sure they don’t tilt over.  You can find wine barrels from a number of sources, including gardening centers, wineries and of course, Craigslist.  I would suggest if possible, contacting a local winery or distiller as you can usually get a good deal on them.  Plus, they smell amazing when you cut them in half.  When building these, make sure to drill holes for drainage before you fill them with soil.

Old crates

Old crates

As we come to the end of what I would consider “traditional” container gardening, note that you can use old crates to raise potatoes!  Open the picture for details, but you can easily harvest potatoes that grow in the straw.  The crates provide for great ventilation as well as keep the spuds cool during hot weather and warm during cold weather.

Birdhouse living garden roof

Birdhouse living garden roof

Now for the fun stuff.  Ever thought of planting an herb garden … on a bird house?

Dog house living roof

Dog house living roof

How about on Fido’s roof?  Both are not only a great way to make use of small spaces but also provide insulation for the house keeping chicks and pups comfortable.  Just make sure you don’t plant something the birds or dogs will either enjoy eating or have the potential to be toxic (hint – hops are not a dog friendly crop).

Stone garden

Stone garden

If you live in Northeast Portland or Southwest Washington and have sunk a shovel into the dirt, undoubtedly you’ve encountered the remains of the Missoula Floods which ripped through the area during the last ice age, depositing vast amounts of river stones.  When we were working on our yard a few years ago we hit river stone, some of them quite big, every time we dug.  Save these as you find them and create beautiful stone planters.

Broken concrete garden

Broken concrete garden

If you don’t have river stone readily available just beneath your soil, consider this.  I’ve often seen broken concrete in the “Free Stuff” section of Craigslist and wondered what the heck anyone would want it.  It seems like pretty unattractive material and somewhat limited in use.  Oregon State University has proven this wrong by recycling old chunks of concrete and creating some really nice looking raised beds.  When doing this, think of not only the produce you’ll grow but potentially some other plants like lavender to soften the hard edges of the planter box.

Bathtub marigolds

Bathtub marigolds

Like the sign says:  “Bathtub.”  Look for these gems at recycling centers near you.

Brake drum planters

Brake drum planters

I’ll leave you with my favorite odd-ball planter that really looks great:  Brake drum planters.  By taking two brake drums you can create a really nice looking planter that rivals many of the faux-Italian plastic and ceramic planters you see at gardening centers.  My only word of warning is to scrub them out well if you plan on using these for produce.

Do you have any creative container gardens stories?  As always, feel free to share your creativity in the comments section.

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