Toilet Bowl Tomatoes and Bathtub Basil

Before heading out to the local garden center for garden design ideas, look around your own home for new garden containers. Repurpose unique or common containers — bathtubs and toilet planters, for instance.

| Spring 2016

In big agriculture’s fields, where house-sized tractors plow long rows and machine-harvesting rules, diversity is as unlikely in planting style as it is in crop selection. However, in our home gardens we are the final arbitrators of design — no matter how frivolous our preferences may seem to others, and we can choose what we like.

As extensions of living space, gardens are as personal as the choice of home furnishings or a favorite t-shirt. Obviously, they provide food when thoughtfully designed, but they are really at their best when they offer relaxation, interest, usefulness, and beauty, as well. This means not only throwing in a few well-placed lounge chairs or even a sittin’ stump or two, but filling the garden with fun, repurposed containers that might otherwise take up valuable space in landfills, to make a garden that is both unique and kind to our planet at the same time.

Alas any container will hold something — even a teacup can be home to a tiny violet, a succulent or a bit of moss. That may be something to remember when you find you can’t bear to throw out one of Grandma’s best china cups that you accidentally cracked so that it no longer holds liquid. Of course, some containers seem made for gardens right from the start — take an old bathtub for example.

Bathtubs are no-brainer container choices for the garden because they make instant raised beds with built-in drainage. They offer comfortable seating for weeding along with extreme durability, especially vintage cast-iron and porcelain models, but they appear less dubious as garden décor than other furnishings from the bathroom, such as toilets. Any bathtub holds an enormous amount of soil for that extra-deep growing space so perfect for root crops like carrots, turnips or sweet potatoes, but a vintage claw-foot tub makes an especially pretty mixed planter for herbs, flowers and vines, too. If it shows the “patina of time” in too many spots, planting a ground cover like thyme, sweet woodruff or a low flower border around the base will help to blend it softly into the garden, and no one will think it less lovely than any other raised bed.

And as long as you’re redoing the bathroom and taking advantage of that old tub, you may as well go whole-hog and use the sink and toilet too.

Putting a toilet in the garden may sound a bit quirky, but when you think about how perfectly a toilet is designed for planting, it suddenly makes all the sense in the world. The entire toilet is made of durable, non-toxic, earth-based material that may last for centuries. Certainly no plastic or metal container can say that. The bowl is a large porcelain pot capable of holding as much as 5 gallons of soil. The tank also holds 3.5 to 5 gallons of water to release as needed for watering your plants, or you can use it as an upper tier for a second planting. You can even remove the tank and make it a stand-alone planter, or line several up together for a narrow planter wall. If it still seems a bit seedy for your taste, dress it up with mosaic tiles or porcelain paints as one-of-a-kind garden art.

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