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Plastic or metal containers better for growing vegetables?

June 19, 2014 at 3:48 PM

If you are looking to create a garden that’s truly unique, a great way to start is by planting in repurposed items. By foregoing the traditional terracotta flowerpots, you can turn a drab, uninspiring patio in to a space bursting with character. And you don’t have to own a huge garden to do it. Even the smallest area can be transformed in to something beautiful.

garden_vegetables.jpgThere are many weird and wonderful things you can plant your flowers in, from old computer monitors to wellington boots. However, when deciding what to use, there are a few things to take in to consideration. Perhaps the most important is the type of material the container is made of. Plastic can perish, wood can warp and metal can rust, so making the right choice can make all the difference, especially if you are growing plants to eat.  

There are many types of old household items either made of metal or with metal parts that make great flowerpots. Old hi-fis, computers and kettles can all be repurposed. But older household and garden items made of metal may contain lead or asbestos, and that can do some serious damage to your plants. Before the 1970s, most paints contained a high proportion of lead. Back in 1950, some even contained more than 50%. If possible, you should find out the age of the item before you start planting in it. If you are buying items from an antiques market, most stall owners will know a little about the history of the item. Depending on the material and what the item has been used for, it could potentially have absorbed poisonous substances in the past, so it always pays to ask.

Old metal window frames make quirky dividers for your flowerbeds or vegetable patch and are great for climbing plants like beans. However, you should do your best to find out the age of the house the frame came from. If you’re buying from a salvage yard, they should be able to tell you the rough period, and if it’s pre 1950, it’s best avoided. Items like metal or plastic barrels also make great vegetable planters. But if you are buying them second hand, make sure they didn’t previously contain agricultural or industrial chemicals as these can be hard to clean off and may even make the food you grow toxic.

Food grade plastic buckets are safest

By far the safest items to use are ones made of plastic. Most second-hand plastic containers will have the recyclable sign on the bottom. More often than not, if you see this sign then the container is safe to plant in. Even so, make sure wash the item out thoroughly before you start planting in it. Plastic buckets and barrels used in the food industry are ideal. But if the container comes from a factory that manufactures chemicals or has been used to carry medical waste, then steer well clear. Check the recycle number on the base and avoid any numbered 3, 6 and 7.

 When all’s said and done, it’s best to listen to common sense. If you are growing food, you should feel comfortable enough to eat your dinner off the container. If not, then look for something else.


Tags: food grade plastic garden tips
Category: plastic food containers

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