Using Plastic Containers in the Garden

Seedlings in a recycled plastic container.
All sorts of plastic containers, tubs, and bottles have a place in your gardening activities. Use recycled bottles to add lightweight bulk to planters. Tubs and containers are useful for starting seedlings and as planters in their own right. Learn more about using plastic containers in the garden on this page.

5 Questions

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December 31, 2008

Would someone kindly explain to me about plastics in gardening? I would like to use the bottoms of vinegar bottles as starter pots for u-name-its. I'm just worrying if they are outside, in the sun, if anything could taint veggies and herbs grown in them. How do I know when the vessel's life is over?

How about same thing with those kitty litter buckets (some are opaque yellow, pickle buckets are green), and light unrecyclable restaurant takeout clam shells. Anything definitive out there? We thank you very much!

Jane from Baltimore, Maryland


December 31, 20081 found this helpful

Most of the info I could find has to do with food/water containers.There's a triangle/recycle symbol on the bottom of plactic containers, with a number in the middle.


#1,#2,#4,#5 are considered safest, according to this
...but there is a note at the end of the article, concerning heating of plastic leaching chemicals.
I have started seeds in plastic containers such as yogurt,
cottage cheese, pudding cups, even some 'ensure' containers.
Larger plastic containers will last a couple of years.
Down here in Louisiana, the hot sun will dry out the plastic, and it will become brittle and break apart,...most
likely while your carring it! :)
Garden center's sell seed starting trays, and some of those
are plastic, I never thought about looking to see if 'they'
print the plastic codes on them. They should be hitting the
shelves soon though.
Hope this helps....

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December 31, 20081 found this helpful

I live in Seattle so we don't get a lot of hot sunshine (unfortunately!) But I cut the bottoms off of large 2 liter plastic pop bottles with a pair of old scissors then poke a hole or 2 in the bottom for drainage for starting plants. They work for me. Of course whenever you put plastic in the sun or in any heat, you can get dioxin which is a nasty chemical. But I figure my plants are only in these containers for a short time just while the roots are forming.


I also use the same pop-bottle bottoms for giving my cuttings a good watering (just like a vase of water) before I put rooting powder on them & stick them in sand. I'd not worry about flowers or plants for decoration at all & as long as you're not going to keep your seed starts in the containers for very long (like over 3 months) & as long as they aren't in the hot sun all day... (Like in Arizona in the peak of summer) then I'd not worry about using any plastic. You'll know if there's a problem because the tips of leaves on your plant will start to die. Just make sure you have adequate drainage. Just be sure to transplant them before to long into some good clean soil.

Buy, I may think twice about leaving veggies in these containers for very long. You'll be okay in the springtime, You'll only have to worry about the toxins when the days start getting really hot. If the containers sit underground or you put tin foil around them to reflect the sun, I bet that would also help. That will keep them out of direct & super-hot sun. But, I'm wondering if it gets very hot in Maryland anyway?


Last year I made a mistake & killed all my cuttings (I'm planting an English-Laurel hedge) I usually use potting soil mixed with playground sand half & half to root my cuttings, but last year they were out of playground sand so I bought regular sand (not pavement sand, it has chemicals to kill plants in it, this stuff actually said "for the garden" on the front!) & I added some type of fancy peat-moss to the sand to loosen it up.

Anyway, my little cuttings (I must have had over 100 of them) all died within days of planting them in this new mixture... All that hard work for nothing! So I know you have to be super-careful with baby plants.

*each one is different:


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By soyzicks (Guest Post)
January 8, 20090 found this helpful

I agree with the person saying about the recycle number that you have to worry about. I live in Hawaii and my kids drink gallon milk like it is from the tap. So i wanted to put the milk containers to use since I had so many of them. I put up a iron rod bed frame from a bunk bed that had broken on my lanai to plant vertically.

I then cut out certain parts of the milk jug so that the handle of the jug became an "S" hook and I hooked it over the rods. I then cut out the front portion of the jug making a hanging bucket. So now imagine a whole bunch of milk jugs hanging on this vertical columns of rods with flower pots (3") in them


What I end up having after some length of time is crumbling milk jug hanging buckets due to the SUV rays breaking down the plastic to make flakes.

so do make sure that the plastic is safe for your food and is safe from long use in direct sunlight

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By gardenway (Guest Post)
January 9, 20091 found this helpful

I do winter sowing and use plastic bottles cut down to size for starting seeds/seedlings. Then transplant to garden, so the "cut downs" aren't used long term. Have never had any ill effects to the plants and have re-used the containers to start more seeds. I've used mostly milk containers, sometimes water bottles, once or twice a vinegar bottle (rinsed out very well), yogurt containers and so on. I never gave much thought to chemicals leaching - sounds like it would involve heat and long time use. Now I'm wondering about plastic flower pots - I do have them sitting in the sun all during the summer.

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Share on ThriftyFunCheck out these photos. Click at right to share your own photo in this page.

October 29, 2019
Recycle Plastic Tubs to Hold Cuttings - small plastic pots containing plant cuttings inside a plastic tub

Photo Description
I recycle margarine and ice cream tubs and use them to put my cuttings in. They will hold around four or five small pots. They are easy to transport and catch the drips when watering.

Photo Location
Cosby, Leicester UK

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August 3, 2017

To save money on filler dirt for you potted plants, use plastic bottles to fill up the extra space. This is a page about filling planters with plastic bottles.

Place Empty Bottles in Garden Pot - planter with plastic bottles in bottom

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March 15, 2017

Many plastic containers work quite well for starting your seeds prior to spring planting. This is a page about reuse plastic containers for seedlings.

Reuse Plastic Containers for Seedlings

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October 19, 2017

By adding drainage holes to kitty litter tubs you can make several large, shallow planters inexpensively. This is a page about use kitty litter tubs as garden planters.

Blue Kitty Litter Tub

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