Crafty by Nature

Crafty by Nature

Recycle Your Tin Cans into Mini-Planters!

comments (16) April 5th, 2009     

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susanstars Susan Beal, contributor
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These cans hold baby kale and sugar snap pea seedlings, ready to grow just a little more before I put them into our raised beds!
I love the whole row of them; they look so cheerful on our front porch.
A layer of pebbles in the bottom of each can helps the soil drain well.
These cans hold baby kale and sugar snap pea seedlings, ready to grow just a little more before I put them into our raised beds!

These cans hold baby kale and sugar snap pea seedlings, ready to grow just a little more before I put them into our raised beds!

Photo: Susan Beal

I'll admit it -- I'm a total amateur when it comes to gardening. Embroidery, beading, sewing, and gocco printing are all much more my speed! But this year, my husband Andrew and I are planning a little raised-bed garden on the south side of our yard. We're starting small with some herbs and vegetables, and I'm excited (and hopeful) to see how it all works out!

I love these bright, pretty El Pato cans—every time we go through another can of the super-delicous sauce, I save them thinking I'll do something fun with them one day. I have kept seven out of the recycling bin over the last couple of months and decided it was time to turn them into mini-planters for nurturing seedlings from our nursery—although you could also start from seed with these if you prefer. After seeing more than our fair share of hail and chilly nights this "spring" so far, the option to bring our little guys into the house or garage if need be was a nice bonus. In the meantime, they can live on our front porch, soaking up some morning sun and getting just a little bigger before they go into the dirt.

What you'll need:

  • Clean, empty recycled cans
  • Hammer and nail
  • Pebbles
  • Seedlings (or seeds and soil if you're starting from scratch)

1. Wash your chosen cans and make sure there are no sharp edges or rough spots. I used cans with the bright label printed right on the metal, but if yours are plain, you might want to paint or decorate them for fun!

Make several holes in the bottom of each can with a hammer and nail.

2. Use a hammer and nail to make several small holes in the bottom of each can. I did three or four on each of mine.

Fill the bottom of each one with pebbles.

3. Fill the bottom of each can with small pebbles, just one layer deep, to help the soil drain well.

4. Gently transplant your seedlings into the planters. (If starting from seed, fill the planters with soil and plant your seeds now.) Water and care for them as suggested, depending on what you're planting. I chose Red Russian kale and Sugar Star snap peas, both of which like full sun.

The kale and sugar snap pea seedlings like living on our porch so far!

5. Put them somewhere special so you'll see the cheerful plants every day! I put ours on our front porch all in a happy green row. Remember, with the holes in the bottom, they may leak when you water them, so if they're inside make sure they're on saucers or dish towels to catch any spills.

These plants will get plenty of sun to grow nicely here, but I can bring them in if it hails or gets too cold. Once they've gotten a bit bigger and hardier, they'll go right into our raised beds.

6. Transplant the seedlings to your garden when they're ready and the weather cooperates!

Variation: If you're more of an indoor-crafts type, you might like to try my Recycle Your Tin Cans into Simple, Stylish Craft Storage project!

Note from the editors: For more great gardening ideas head to CraftStylish's new sister site,

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posted in: easy, recycled, crafty by nature, gardening, plants, cans, tin can planters, seedlings

Comments (16)

Moptop27 writes: Use the cans for planting also and then I made a can man,used different sizes for arms and feet and so on,every year I repaint him and hang in the garden
Posted: 5:30 pm on April 5th
21centurydressmaker writes: Excellent! A really beautiful way to re-cycle in the home. So many household containers have beautifully designed graphics, like all the containers you choose, and it is delightful to continue to enjoy their colors, patterns and textures in new and unexpected ways! Thanks for sharing and the inspiration.
Posted: 4:27 am on June 4th
Rooty_Tooty writes: This is an old idea that I remember from when I was little but very much worth reviving. Good for the environment & easy on the wallet -- and yummy fresh veggies, too!
Posted: 7:02 pm on April 25th
debthereb writes: I don't have photos but I have a related craft. Ya know bout those famous things they sell now for growing tomatos on the down side? I made my own from a 3+lbs plastic coffee container and a pretty macrame hanger. I have huge plants almost ready to fruit. In only three weeks.

I cut 2 inch holes on the sides (not the bottom because of the macrame knot) planted tomatos and marconi peppers from the sides. (three on each one for balance and looks). I cut a hole in the black cover for watering and placed it back on top. WORKS LIKE A DREAM! Now I have the best part of waking up in my cup and on my patio! Can't wait for Salad & Salsa!

Keep the ideas coming, I love this site!
Posted: 1:47 pm on April 15th
eveh writes: I love this look. I have a tendency to save nice looking cans or bottles. I think I will start some herbs in my cans. Maybe some tyhme, chives, lemon balm or even parsley should grow well in cans. Thanks for the idea.
Posted: 1:52 pm on April 11th
Sloper writes: Great Idea! If you really like the label, shelac it or use a decoupage glue to preserve the colour.
Posted: 7:38 am on April 11th
csheffield writes: I love this idea! I was looking for new ways to recycle my large cans, and this is perfect.
Posted: 1:33 pm on April 10th
Stacey_Folsom writes: I love the idea of using cans for the start of this year's salsa garden seedlings. In Michigan it is still too early to plant outdoors and this would look perfect in my sunny kitchen window.
Posted: 9:55 pm on April 8th
susanstars writes: oh, thanks so much everyone! I love seeing these on my porch every morning... I will definitely use them every year just as you said, Diane!
Posted: 4:18 pm on April 8th
CalPatch writes: love the cans! i am such a jar and can lover, i am always choosing my groceries based on future plans for the containers ;n)
Posted: 7:12 pm on April 7th
sarahbcraw writes: That's really cute! Great idea.
Posted: 1:32 pm on April 7th
Sister_Diane writes: I love how these look! And the best part is, you'll be able to start new seedlings in them each year.

This totally makes me want to go to the big Asian market here in PDX and snap up all the interesting cans I always ogle there.
Posted: 12:08 pm on April 7th
alohagal writes: Cute, simple, green--love it!!!
Posted: 1:41 pm on April 6th
Khaidee writes: Sweet! I love these El Pato cans...we have the yellow cans at our house. I think I might just make a little herb garden with mine. Thanks for the inspiration!
Posted: 9:49 pm on April 5th
PamHarris writes: I can see why you saved these cans with their labels in tact! Who could toss them away. Love the seedlings in them. I think I will try this for my kitchen window house plants.

I remember my Great Grandmother using tin cans (usually tomato juice cans) to protect tomato seedlings once they were moved to the garden.
Posted: 12:34 pm on April 5th
croqzine writes: These look so cute in front of your house! I used those BIG (5 lb?) cans to pot geraniums. I just had to freeze part of the contents of the cans because we couldn't use it all in one day! :)
Posted: 11:29 am on April 5th
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