By: Laura Miller
Repurposing wooden crates into rustic looking flower andvegetable planters can add depth to any garden design. Wooden box planters canbe made out of a garage sale crate, a craft store slatted box container, or canbe homemade from scrap wood or a discarded pallet.
Container gardening in a crate is a creative and fun way to add plants to any location, from the patio, deck, or front porch to creative indoor displays.
Read on for more info on growing plants in wooden crates.
Planting in a Slatted Box Container
Growing plants in a wooden crate is easy.
- Line the crate. Select a sturdy, well-made crate with slats less than two inches (5 cm.) apart. Line the crate with plastic, landscape fabric, coir, or burlap to contain the soil. If necessary, drill holes in the crate and poke holes in the liner to provide adequate drainage.
- Fill the crate with a quality potting soil. Add compost, perlite or vermiculite, or slow release fertilizer as needed. As an alternative, use a slatted box container to hold a collection of pots. The individual pots can be taller than the sides of the crate and are easily switched out to keep the planter looking vibrant.
- Add the plants. Choose a bright array of annual flowers with similar growing requirements or use your wooden box planters to grow edibles. Herbs, microgreens, and strawberries are well suited for 8 to 12 inch (20 to 30 cm.) deep boxes. Reserve crates with a depth of 18 inch (46 cm.) for growing deep rooted plants like tomatoes, peppers, or potatoes. These also make great containers for houseplants.
Tips for Growing Plants in a Wooden Crate
Extend the life of the crate with a plastic liner. Withoutprotection from constant contact with moisture, a slatted box can be prone torotting. Use heavy-ply plastic to line the box. Secure the plastic with staplesand poke holes in the bottom for drainage. For a more decorative touch, use alayer of burlap between the box and the plastic liner. Avoid chemical woodsealants when using the box for growingedibles.
Be wary of painted vintage boxes. Although beautiful, thepaint on antique boxes often contains lead. This element is not only a dangerwhen vegetable gardening in a crate, but chips of lead paint can contaminatethe soil around your home and patio.
Avoid older, pressure treated lumber when building homemadecrates. Prior to 2003, arsenic was used in the production of pressure treatedlumber for the consumer market. This compound can leach into the soil and beabsorbed by plants. It’s ill advised to consume any plants growing in slattedboxes made from arsenic treated lumber.
Disinfect wooden box planters to prevent the spread ofdisease. At the end of the growing season, remove any annuals from the container.Dump the potting soil and thoroughly brush out any remaining dirt. Spray thebox with a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water. Scrub theplanter clean, rinse well, and allow to completely dry before storing indoorsfor the winter.
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Read more about Container Gardens
Crate Gardening Instructions
Whether you are working with a small space or simply like the decorative appeal of containers, growing plants in crates can be an effective and attractive gardening method. Crates are versatile and equally suitable to scattering around a patio or clustering in a tiny backyard. Starting your own crate garden requires only a few simple considerations.
How to Plant Orchids in Wooden Boxes
Orchids are a group of flowering perennial plants that are the second largest group of plants in existence. There is estimated to be anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 species of orchids. With the exception of Antarctica, they are found growing in every continent of the world, usually in areas that are the farthest south. Contrary to popular belief, orchids are relatively easy to grow, requiring only minimal care once certain criteria are met.
Purchase a soilless growing media for the orchids. You can buy a potting mix designed for orchids but do not use regular potting or planting mix. A good soilless mix will contain fir bark, tree-fern fibers, coconut fiber or chips, sphagnum peat moss, sifted perlite, osmunda fibers, granular charcoal, rockwool, redwood bark chips or expanded clay pellets as recommended by Orchid Mania.
- Orchids are a group of flowering perennial plants that are the second largest group of plants in existence.
- Contrary to popular belief, orchids are relatively easy to grow, requiring only minimal care once certain criteria are met.
Position the wooden boxes about 12 to 36 inches from a light-filled window. Ideally, from a window that is facing southward, as recommended by the University of Illinois Extension. If you cannot provide such a location, you can also place the wooden boxes 6 inches away from two 24- to 36-inch wide light fixtures that are using two 40 watt florescent light bulbs.
Scoop the growing media into each of the wooden boxes until each is about half full. If you are using your hands to scoop the media, wear latex gloves to prevent any spread of bacteria.
Lay the pot containing the orchid horizontally on a table or potting bench. Use care not to break off any flowers or stems. Use a pair of multipurpose snips that have been sterilized (you can use alcohol or the flame from a lighter to do this) to cut down the sides of the pot carefully. Begin at the rim or drain-hole continue around the perimeter of the pot until you can easily remove the orchid.
- Position the wooden boxes about 12 to 36 inches from a light-filled window.
- Begin at the rim or drain-hole continue around the perimeter of the pot until you can easily remove the orchid.
Remove as much of the old growing media from around the orchid’s root system. Sever any broken, damaged or dried roots using the snips.
Place the orchid on top of the soil in the wooden box. According to Orchid Mania you should plant an orchid so its crown will be sitting just slightly below the rim of planting pot, about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch.
Scoop in growing media around the orchid loosely to create an airy environment for the roots of the orchid. Do not firmly pack the media down around the orchid.
Water the newly planted orchids to moisten the growing media until the water is coming out of the drain-holes.
- Remove as much of the old growing media from around the orchid’s root system.
- Water the newly planted orchids to moisten the growing media until the water is coming out of the drain-holes.
Place a shallow layer, about 1 inch, of decorative gravel into the bottom of a metal or plastic tray. The tray should be larger than the wooden planting box. Set the wooden planting box on top of the gravel. Pour water into the tray until the gravel is about half submerged in water. The evaporating water helps create a humid environment necessary for success in growing orchids.
Provide orchids with daytime temperatures in the 70 degrees Fahrenheit range and no lower than between 55 and 65 F at night. Water the orchids about one time every week. Let the soil dry out slightly in between watering.
Container gardening: your need-to-know guide
Whatever the size of your outside space, there is a container to suit – be it a window box, hanging basket or traditional long tom pots.
Container gardening is exactly as the name implies: planting in pots and containers. Suitable for all garden designs and shapes (whether a small garden, balcony or patio) and most garden plants, it's a great way to create beautiful outdoor displays for seasonal interest, whether you want to brighten up a corner of the garden or make the entrance of your home look welcoming.
Containers can restrict root growth so plants can't tap into moisture as easily as those in the ground, so choosing the right compost, maintaining an even water supply and ensuring good drainage to prevent waterlogging is essential for plants thrive.
It's also important to choose the right type of container. For example, for containers that need to be outside all year, you should choose frost-proof terracotta rather than those labelled frost-resistant, as these can still crack when temperatures fall for long periods, advises the RHS.
The Basics Of Container Planting
• Check that your container has drainage holes and, if not, add some. Next, put a good layer of drainage material, such as bits of broken pots, gravel, or pieces of polystyrene packaging, in the bottom before adding the soil.
• Container planting enables you to grow plants that prefer ericaceous compost, such as pieris and azaleas, but multi-purpose compost will work for most plants. If you’re aiming to create more 'permanent' displays, such as shrubs or trees, it’s a good idea to use actual soil or a soil-based compost to give them a secure hold and the right nutrients.
• Leave a gap of at least 5cm at the top of the container, so the compost doesn’t overflow when you water the plant.
• Use the correct feed for the type of plant you’ve chosen and ensure you apply it at least once a month during the growing season in spring and summer.
• Never let your pots dry out or become waterlogged, which is why drainage is key. You’ll need to water them every day during the summer. Aim for the base of the plant rather than over flowers and foliage. Saucers under pots are useful for conserving water in summer, but should be removed come winter. To be extra safe, invest in some pot feet to lift planters off the ground, allowing for better drainage during the wetter months.
• Add a layer of mulch on top of the soil. Use either organic matter, such as bark or compost, or hard materials such as slate chips or gravel. Mulching a container will help retain moisture, as well as keep weeds at bay.
The RHS advises the following:
CLAY OR TERRACOTTA
Looks attractive but tends to dry out more quickly than plastic, plus are prone to cracking caused by frost. Opt for frost-proof pots or stand pots on 'feet'.
Plastic pots are lighter than clay and don't dry out as much as clay or terracotta.
Frost-proof and won't dry out like clay, however, they heat up quickly in summer and likewise, are very cold in winter. Another potential problem is corrosion.
Wood is problematic in that it rots. You can extend the lifespan of a wooden container by lining it with plastic sheeting with holes in the bottom and painting the wood with a preserver.
From old pots to jars and tins, repurposing and upcycling home items to use as quirky containers is a resourceful way to make container gardening a success.
What Plant For Which Container?
Claudia de Yong, landscape/garden designer, gives her expert advice:
• Either keep it simple and fill with only one variety, such as trailing verbena, petunias or fuchsias, or go for dramatic combinations – try deep purple Verbena ‘Royale Plum Wine’, blowsy Petunia ‘Flamingo’ and the dainty trailing white Bacopa ‘Snowstorm’.
TROUGHS OR WINDOW BOXES
• Pair the tall fern-like scented Lavender ‘Spanish Eyes’ with another scented plant, such as Heliotrope ‘Midnight Sky’. Add some Phlox ‘21st CenturyBlue’ F1, which is great for attracting bees.
• For a bold display, try Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’ with purple Salvia ‘Amistad’ and an airy grass such as Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’. Use Erigeron ‘Karvinskianus’ around the edges and add Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ for drama.
• Another option is to team chocolate-scented Cosmos atrosanguineus with Nicotiana alata ‘Grandiflora’, which has a wonderful night scent. Add the soft grey foliage of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and the tall feathery bronze fennel, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’.
TALL POTS (AKA LONG TOMS)
• Verbena bonariensis is a great plant for tall pots, with long-lasting clusters of purple that look good alone or can be under-planted with delicate star-shaped Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’, adding dark purple Sedum telephium ‘Purple Emperor’ around the base.