Decorating Your Recycled Container Garden

Posted on Jun 6 2011 - 2:32am by Mike Lieberman

People (haters) often bust my balls about how ugly my balcony garden is. They say that it’s beaten up and used 5-gallon containers and not very pretty.

I’ve decided to take the challenge of the haters and decorate my self-watering containers. One of my containers was decorated by my girlfriend, Anita, who did a much better job than I could ever do. Since I’m not nearly that artistic I got some inspiration from Life on the Balcony. Her finished containers are more stylish than mine, but I’m working on it.

This would be a great project to do with your kids and get them involved.

I removed the reservoir containers and painted them a solid color for now. I’ve been contemplating creating stencils for them, but am undecided at this point.

What do you think of the new look containers? Should I leave them solid colors or decorate them a bit more? If so, what should I put on them?

  • Russell Franke

    I kind of agree with those haters….sorry.  I like the garden to be nice looking as well (of course, that was the demand of my wife if I was going to mess with her landscaped backyard, LOL).  The link you shared showed some amazing pots.  
    I think your new, painted pots, look awesome.  Personally, I like your colors, earthy but colorful.  I would use some type of stencil or painted design.  How about spelling out what grows in each pot?  This way you won’t confuse the chard for the bell peppers!  

  • T R

    I love having things look clean and neat so my vote is to keep the painted buckets the way they are and let the plants be the decoration!  (This from a person who has ALL green plastic pots for her container garden….heehee!)  Fern has some lovely containers but they seem too feminine for you, Mike.

  • Summer Hodgman

    Who cares what other people think?  If you like them plain, leave them:)  I’d probably decorate them further, but only cause I like the process more than the end result.  you could always go with magazine cutouts and decoupage:D 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hahaha. That’s the thing Russell…”looking nice” is such a subjective thing. Some would stay it still looks tacky. 

    I’ve been thinking stencils, but haven’t taken that step yet.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hahaha. Yea her stuff is gorgeous, but definitely not my style.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Personally I don’t care what the haters think. If they have problems, that’s their problems not mine. 

    I might paint them some more as time allows, but leave as is for now.

    Decoupage…I learned a new word today. Thanks!

  • Jan1965

    oh, dear…mine’re all beaten up and tacky-looking…and y’know, I just really don’t care!!!  LOL…I’m gonna spend my time planting more stuff, rather than prettifying the stuff in the buckets!!!  my ‘taters are gonna taste just as good, whether the buckets are painted or not…

  • Jan1965

    oh, dear…mine’re all beaten up and tacky-looking…and y’know, I just really don’t care!!!  LOL…I’m gonna spend my time planting more stuff, rather than prettifying the stuff in the buckets!!!  my ‘taters are gonna taste just as good, whether the buckets are painted or not…

  • CathleenB

    I like them a lot better painted. Imagining walking by on the sidewalk the “at a glance” look is nicer. With that said, it should be what YOU want, not anyone else.

  • CathleenB

    I like them a lot better painted. Imagining walking by on the sidewalk the “at a glance” look is nicer. With that said, it should be what YOU want, not anyone else.

  • Cherise

    As an artist and someone who is very visual by nature, I like my garden to look nice. However, I’m also a realist so I know that not every container I plant in is going to be “pretty.” I bought all my containers at yard sales, usually for a dollar or less. I try to stick with natural colors and metal. Love metal buckets! They’re timeless and nice to look at. This year I planted in an old metal horse trough (4′ x 2′ x 30″ high). I love the new look and colors of your buckets. I agree that it’s no one else’s business by yours. Especially if it’s kept neat and clean. Neat, clean and producing food always trumps aesthetic appeal.

  • http://www.North100.com/ North100

    My vote is to leave them as solids. The brush strokes add texture and the stacking, leaving a white edge, serve as a “stripe.” I like. Nice Mike!

  • Egwyatt

    Ok..I think it’s a great idea for using them as planters but, I have two questions…are you using Earth-friendly paint and does that type of plastic leach into the soil?

  • Ali_moran

    I  love them!!!  Although I think they looked fine before too.  I just planted my first two self-watering buckets with lettuce and carrots.  My question is, I understand that the water will be sucked up from the bottom, but do I need to still water a little on the top so the top stays moist?
    Thanks so much!  
    Alison in  Tacoma, WA

  • JessicaCRB

    I really love the solids of different colors next to one another for a sort of rainbow effect.  If you were going to use stencils it would be fun to stencil on what was in each container, but that would limit your container options for next year. 

  • Yart

    I think that they look really nice…. And your right this is going to be a great project to do with the kids. 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks. Me gusta too.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I thought the same thing.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    If you are starting from seed, water from top until it’s about 3-5″ tall.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    It’s paint that was laying around the house..acrylic I believe. And they are #5 containers, which aren’t known to leach into water.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks Lo.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Exactly. Thanks.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    True. True.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hahaha. YOu should do an experiment to see which ones taste better?!!?

  • Rose Kodis

    Okay…I am not a HATER..let’s get that right.  Now, I applaud you for sharing your information with us…but I don’t think that your containers have to look ugly.  I just have a set of esthetics…and your containers were ..mmmm…bland.  Those who commented were saying the same thing.  Why not display your bounty in an attractive way…just saying.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I got it right. When someone talks negatively about something..they are hatin on it. I hate on Monsanto, chemically sprayed foods, Usher, etc…Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

    You are also getting into something that is very subjective. What is aesthetically pleasing to one is an eyesore to another. Not everyone has an issue with the plain containers, but some do. To me, it’s not about the container, but what’s inside of it that matters most.

    I display my bounty in a very attractive way…on my plate.

  • http://marysgardeningendeavors.blogspot.com Mary C.

    They look very contemporary and stylish as they are really. I’d leave them like this. If you later decide to do more, it would be cool to make potato stamps. Or ask friends if they have stencils you can borrow so you don’t have to buy any for a one-time thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/GeekNeko Kitty Price

     Lol! I saw how you snuck Usher in there.  I think I’m torn in agreement with you and Rose… I looove the painted ones (and Anita is quite talented!), but I didn’t see anything inherently wrong with the plain buckets… to each his own? :)

  • http://nycgardening.blogspot.com/ Meemsnyc

    I like the color.  Looks good!

  • Ivette

    I guess I have to be a HATER, then – but that doesn’t mean I hate what’s going on IN your buckets! As someone who tries to make food growing ornamental as well as functional, I think aesthetics are important – but it doesn’t have to be important to everyone! And you are right, what is attractive is SUPER subjective! So I’ll go on the record saying that I don’t really like the look of the buckets – BUT… if you are TRULY interested in my opinion …

    I think the plain white buckets are fine – but they have to be clean (which is really hard to keep up, obviously!). The paint looks messier to me. I think to make a bucket garden look really dialed-in, one might want to get a bunch of buckets in one solid color – like orange or blue, and use those. I think it could look really slick, modern, and dramatic. I have a friend who got a bunch of orange Ikea plastic wastepaper bins on sale and turned them into containers for her bamboo – they look amazing and ended up being $1.99 a piece! 
    But, I don’t think the way the buckets look are important to you. I think you are more interested in making this garden work for very little $$$, and that is cool. BUT (again) I wonder about the yield you are getting for your use of space – you could plant more in a long rectangular trough than you can in a series of smaller round containers, and you can associate your plants in a way that they help each other grow more vigorously. I think you have ingenuity – I wonder if you could build/repurpose a different growing system. BUT (yet again!) I know alot of people grow out of buckets and if it works for them, then that is great. I’d much rather people grow beautiful food in ugly buckets than not grow anything at all!

    So maybe you can just consider me a mini-hater… and in the end, who cares? Some people don’t like the look of my raised beds, and I couldn’t care less! I love them, I grow alot of awesome food in them, and that is the most important thing to me. So go on with your bad ass bucket self!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hahah. Yes to each his/her own. The world will be a much better place that way.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Good call on that.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I love how you just had an entire conversation with yourself. I wish I could do that! Totally jealous.

  • Elaine

    Coil trash-picked rope around them, like at the docks.

  • Ali_moran

    Ah dang!  I did already add the water in the bottom….should I just let that run dry then?  I’m not good at the whole gardening thing…but I’m trying!  (And I can’t believe how much people can care about what your buckets look like!! I mean…really???!!!!!  

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Nice. Good call.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    No worries. I change out the water in the reservoir container like once a week.

  • http://chickadeegarden.blogspot.com/ Diana

    I think bright Mexican colors, with free hand painted stripes, spots or squiggles are nice.  No need to go to the trouble of stencils (imo).

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Yea I was gonna go stencils, but decided against that headache.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacqueline.delia Jacqueline D’Elia

    Paint pretty vines and daisy flowers on them. :)

  • http://groovygreenlivin.com/ Lori Alper

    Solids…love ‘em. Like the color combo you chose. Not a stencil fan-but you gotta do what works for you.

  • Happy

    Whatever pleases you best is what you should use.  But I’ll mention anyway that I liked your original  containers, all white as I recall, with focus on your thriving plants.  Simple and effective.  But the painted pots are cheerful and will be attractive with plants growing in them.  Fussy details on painted pots don’t seem appropriate for what you are accomplishing.  If you took pleasure in creating works of art for containers, that would be fine.  But you seem most interested in growing and harvesting your plants in a simple and healthful manner.   Keep it simple.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Totally my style ;-)

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Word. The stencils that I’d find funny woul be hard to find though.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Simple is how I do.

  • Lfond

    Oh what the heck! Design it.  Have fun with it. 

  • Mrskey1860

    We cover our buckets/pails in burlap and tie twine around the burlap to make them look rustic with our rustic Milwaukee decor….cheap…and fun. CA calls for color and fun but… Meh, I say do what you think is what YOU want.  Don’t need curb appeal for your own CA balcony.  

  • Mrskey1860

    I agree…simple is more appealing.  This world has too much “busy” in it.  Keep ‘em simple.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I think I’ve exhausted my design skills.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I like that idea.

  • http://www.twitter.com/NaturallyMariam NaturallyMariam

    Color is great Mike.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Just a lil bit.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Just a lil bit.

  • Faeriewhale

    you could paint the names of the plants on there with funky letters.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thought about that, but then I’d have to repaint with each planting. Or plant things in containers with other names. Don’t want to give them complexes now ;-)

  • Garden Hoe

    My raised bed is a little crowded and I added three 5 gallon buckets to grow my prized heirloom tomatoes.  All women find my buckets ugly and say I should invest in real container because the buckets attract attention more than the plants themselves. All men (even my landlord) like the buckets and the extra space…Should I conclude men find “the look” less important than the result.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hahhaa. It’s your garden. Do what you want. 

    Also depends on your goal. My goal is to grow food. I save the being pretty to my looks, not my garden ;-)

  • Jllessard

    Chalk board paint !
    It comes in all kinds of colors not just black then you could write which plant was in there at the time. Genius I know

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Yes that is genius.

  • Farmerfanny

    I say grow thyme or other low growers like lettuce  in smaller pots around the buckets so the plants cover them up and works for companion planting to keep bugs away. I prefer plain you don’t need all the bling on the pots.  Who knows it may make your food dizzy and fall off the balcony.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hahaha. I don’t need to give people another reason to complain about em ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/cindy.homegrownmom Cindy Rajhel

    We’re using recycled jute coffee sacks to grow potatoes. Maybe you could slip one over a bucket and see how it looks.  We’re on Facebook/homegrownfun

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Ohhh…that just might work. Thanks for the idea.

  • Laurel Rose

    Haha!  I’m one of those people who commented about the containers before~ but I’m not a hater!  I think you’ve made a huge improvement!  I love the colors!  Instead of stenciling, you can use a hot glue gun and glue on some of those shiny glass pebbles they sell at the dollar store around the border.  And what about a mosaic?  That might be a fun project for a crafty type. 

  • Laurel Rose

    Can’t help it!  I love blingy baubles and shiny bright colors that pop!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    hahaha. See I’d find that unattractive. Hater ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/SassafrasNA Sassafras

    What kind of paint did you use?  Has it held up to the weather?

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I dunno. Whatever paint my girlfriend had in the house. It’s held up pretty well to the weather. Not many scratches.

  • Peapeagreen36

    I just purchased my 5 gallon containers online in a variety of colors. It cost a little more than going down to the home depot, or buying one color in bulk, but I think it produced a very nice esthetically pleasing result :)

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Nice!

  • Natjenn

    Since you are into recycling, glue on broken ceramic pieces for the mosaic instead of buying stones etc.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Word. I like that!

  • TracyG

    I think I’m going to wrap my containers in rope or paint them then wrap them with chain or use reed or bamboo (vertically placed and wrapped at top/bottom to hold the reed on).  Could get heavy.. have to try it.  Yours look great!