Winter Gardening In Car Top Luggage Carriers

A friend of mine with a truck who makes a fair living recycling curb-side cast offs began finding older heavy plastic (fiberglass?) car-top luggage carriers. These were mostly from Sears, about 5' x 5' and 20" inches deep. He has been selling them to me for cheap, for various uses. I am preparing them for cold frames now, with winter gardening coming up, then spring seedlings.


Many plants, that do not grow too tall have needs for only about 6" of root area so those can remain longer, if needed. The wonderful design of these carriers in recycling them is that most, if not already damaged in some significant way, have metal hinges that will hold in the 3/4 open position. They also have removable hinges/tops should a person have need to remove the top. If done right, moisture is preserved inside, and pests are not so easily able to get into their design. (If somehow, one should become contaminated by anything, it can be easily isolated from all other garden areas and decontaminated accordingly).

I drill small holes in the bottom, covering each hole with 1/3 of a coffee filter. I then line the gently sloping side walls with rubber cemented 1" sheets of recycled Styrofoam packing material prior to filling with soil, adding just the right amount of ingredients for each type of plant's soil needs. This gives great versatility and better success. It's always wise to add a layer of gravel beneath the soil for good drainage in any growing medium. Inspect daily, or several times a week, for any sign of damage or need for adjustments in moisture, sun, pests, invasion, etc. Adding a few red wiggler fishing worms is always a good idea as well. (Keep the soil's heavy plastic bags for later *tip*).

As the seedlings begin to sprout their leaflets and the winter winds begin to blow against the back of the hinged top of the carrier, they can be turned against the wind. The top can safely be closed for a day or two, or more, should a light or heavy frost blow in, with good results because the color is always gray on bottom of the carrier and white on top, allowing for lots of temporary light and warmth.

Should a gardener be fortunate to have heating coils designed for cold frames, you can place them along the many ribs of the design in the bottom before adding soil, since the coils do not get red hot, making a larger, higher hole for the cord. Note that holes should be really necessary because it compromises the integrity of the use for luggage and leak free storage. It could, however, be well patched/taped over after gardening use, then reopened for later gardening re-use. Even if coils used over the season discolor or damage the medium grey thick plastic slightly, the carrier bottom does not show when used for luggage.

I am considering adding ordinary but electrically "grounded" light bulbs, perhaps at each corner, since I have no small children, and since I do NOT have heating coils. Small plastic bottles with a small hole in bottom can be placed throughout to water/feed plants, if necessary when not freezing. The carrier has a nice large overlapping fitted "lip" all around the edge of top and bottom that mate together nicely.

Come summer, after using in the garden as a greenhouse, the carrier can be emptied of soil (* Tip: replace soil back into original bags and reuse another season, if uncontaminated, adding a small amount of crushed charcoal if you have it to keep soil smelling better), whole carrier scrubbed and bleached or sanitized, and used for the original purpose of luggage carrier, outside camping equipment storage, etc.

(Note: the few bolts need additional washers to prevent any water leakage for any outside storage items of cloth, tents, or perhaps garage sale items you may be accumulating.)

For water plant lovers, I can see how a few water lilies can be rooted and grown if a recirculating pump can be installed much like the heating coils. They prefer a "tank of their own" and lots of sun, I understand. Remember to add mosquito-eating minnows/fish to the water and/or mosquito bait. This carrier would also make an excellent vermiculture home as well, except the holes might need to be sealed.

These may be the best ideas I've come up with yet for the carriers. I now have five carriers. For my purposes, they are as helpful as a tool shed. I'm going to add a little more sand to one and try to keep my herbs healthy throughout winter. They also make excellent covered sand boxes, shallow wading pools (but have multiple ribs in the bottom that may cause tiny ones to fall) since the lids are totally removable. They can also become compost storage (will stain, if left too long or compost is too wet), garden supply bins, pet homes, pool equipment/cushion storage, and even, if corner damaged, the carrier can store firewood and keep garbage away from most roaming domestic pets/rodents until garbage day pickup.

I would NOT store chemicals, paint, or flammables in them because they might become combustible unless stored on a much wider concrete pad inside a non-flammable fence and in the shade at all times. Check with the local fire marshal. They would make excellent multiple garden tool and/or hose storage, too. Remove any canvas/straps that may be attached for car-top carrying. Also remove the black rubber pads on the bottom before using in the garden, later re-gluing them back onto carrier with rubber cement for the original car-top uses. Do not leave open during threat of high wind to prevent obvious risk of damage.

Do not let children climb on top because the corners seem vulnerable to damage and may be thinner at the curves. These are too useful to allow children to damage the tops of them. Encourage 4-6 yr. olds to store their outside toys in them, if you want, but set boundaries and describe warnings and cautions. Although a very small child could theoretically become trapped inside, they do not appear to be airtight like appliances. Do not use a damaged one for children's toy storage, sand box, or wading pool because the edges of any damage/cracks may be sharp. Just use common sense as with anything.

They can be stacked on top of one another for long time outside storage, are not heavy when empty, (may slide off one another if pads have been removed and if they are jolted hard or left open for any reason during high wind). They can be locked at their two outside hinges, can help in moving, and age quite well. Most are uniform in size, with few variations, so, although "different" when used "outside the box", they certainly deserve recycling! Any additional use ideas are appreciated. God Bless you in your efforts.

By Lynda from Richardson, TX

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By Lynda (Guest Post)
August 31, 20060 found this helpful

UPDATE NEWS! Several friends/neighbors are saving eggshells/shredded paper/organic grass clippings for adding to MY compost, and I will allow them to share in any surplus produce my gardens yield. I love the
community garden ideas, but was sort of concerned about the "liability" should anything happen on my
property if I offered it for such a project. This way I
have full control, know exactly what and when anything went into the compost, regulate the moisture and timing, judge the finished product, etc., and can ask for labor help should I need it
or need to leave for any short trip.

Instead of letting the rain water run into the ground, I not only caught it in a clean wheeled garbage can, but I was able to wheel it over to the larger trees that need MORE water than the rain brought them.

Also, rather than using the compost right away, I am
allowing it to really build up and break down well, in
hopes that it will be "well done" as soon as I get the extra money, perhaps from a garage sale in a few
weeks, for the soil, peat, vermiculite to mix and add
the compost to.

While waiting for the seeds to sprout in the Covered
Carriers, I hope to make a Solar dehydrator and a
Solar Oven from old wooden drawers being tossed, and see just how well I can perfect these
two, as well.

I have harvested the last of the Lemon
Balm (for soothing organic tea), which hung upside down one week to dry, sharing with others. My Society Garlic is now in gorgeous full white bloom and will next produce seed. It is perhaps the easiest, least picky, lovely and most delightful reseeding plant to eat that we've raised so far. Light, tasty and sweet garlic chives.

I'll likely have plenty to trade on the seed exchange
of Thrifty Fun. I felt all this was necessary to help
others who might be able to do the same by making compost, and watching and recycling/using Cartop Carriers. God Bless you .

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By Lynda (Guest Post)
August 31, 20060 found this helpful

UPDATE: Friends, neighbors joining in by saving egg shells, shredded paper, organic grass clippings, banana peelings for my compost, and I hope to have plenty of things to share with them when the
produce begins, in Winter and/or next Spring.

I will likely have lovely, tasty sweet Society Garlic Chive seeds to share on Thrifty Fun Seed Exchange.

If you only find ONE Cartop Carrier, grab it and begin to plan with it. If you have no compost, begin
to make one and by Spring, you should have a
great one. I even found a big 3'x3' compost bin
someone grew tired of, or likely didn't do homework
for. I've added to it daily, and it's full, awaiting a
wooded framed one I also found which must be Thompson Water Sealed (found that too at the Recycling Center, where it wasn't supposed to be dropped off), where I will attempt to redesign slightly and expand as I get the Carriers going for the Winter crop I hope to produce. Since the Summer was so sizzling and extreme, the Winter could be the other extreme OR quite mild. Won't know until it comes, but am preparing anyway.

God Bless.

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By Ragteller (Guest Post)
September 1, 20060 found this helpful

I would love to see a picture of these...what a great idea you have!

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By Nancy (Guest Post)
September 11, 20060 found this helpful

I would love to see a picture of this also. I just moved into my own place and I am trying to think of affordable ways to dress up my little yard area. Thanks and keep reclaiming, remaking and reusing everybody! Nancy

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By PA in Massachusetts (Guest Post)
May 27, 20080 found this helpful

Hi, I have been recycling car carriers to hold my garden plants, and this spring, a friend stopped by and asked me if I knew what kind of plastic they were made from. She said that certain kinds can leach chemicals into my vegetables. Has anyone thought of that, and does anyone know what kind of plastics are used. I have a black one, and two cream colored ones. The black one is fairly pliant, but the cream colored ones are fairly hard (and stuff grows better in them). I did pretty much the same thing, drilled holes in the bottoms and filled with organic soils...I hope I didn't poison myself anyway

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By Cheryl (Guest Post)
January 19, 20090 found this helpful

Hi Lynda, what a great idea.
I do have one question. I have one of these carriers from Sears in which I gave to my Mother-In-Law, the problem is I have one broken latch on mine. I too reside in Texas and was wondering if it is possible that you would have an extra latch that I could purchase from you? I have asked Sears and they say you can not get parts for these carriers. Thank You for your time.

Cheryl/ aka Stormy Seas

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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