When you’re looking for recycled containers for your balcony container garden, you may decide that you want a sturdy plant container that will last more than one season. Many recycled containers, such as 2-liter soda bottles and old plastic storage bins, will break down after being exposed to sun and water for long periods of time, but there is one type of container that you can use for many years without having to worry about replacing it.
If you have or can find a used Styrofoam (polystyrene) container that is large enough, it may just be perfect for your long-term recycled garden. Polystyrene products can withstand the elements and last for many years. The best part about using Styrofoam containers in the balcony container garden is that you can keep this garbage out of landfills. It is not known exactly how long it takes polystyrene products to break down – it could be 100 years, 1,000 years or forever. There are many conflicting reports – but no matter the exact amount of time, Styrofoam is here to stay for quite a while, so why not repurpose the material and make a stunning recycled container plant garden?
At the “experimental greenhouses” in Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park, horticulturists display a recycled container garden created out of old Styrofoam coolers. These coolers can be found for several dollars at your local Target, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc., and they often only get used once or twice during summer barbecues. Then where do they go? The landfill. Instead of throwing away these coolers, the horticulturists at Epcot show how this recycled plant container may be stacked in such a way so gardeners can save space and grow vertically. (The Epcot Styrofoam container garden is stacked quite high, but the containers are stabilized with poles – make sure you don’t stack yours so high that they might blow over or be knocked over.) This works with square coolers (not the longer rectangular ones) that are stacked so that plants can grow out of the corners of the containers. Roots have plenty of room to grow in the Styrofoam coolers (for root health, make sure that you add drainage holes to each container). If you plant cascading plants out of the Styrofoam coolers, they may grow so that you eventually barely even see the Styrofoam. You can also paint or spray paint the coolers so they are not white and won’t look like recycled plant containers.
Other great benefits to using recycled Styrofoam containers for the plants in your balcony garden are that they are lightweight, sturdy and well-insulated. If you choose to grow vertically and the containers are stacked, the potting soil is even more insulated. Because the container on the top prevents a lot of water from evaporating out of the soil and into the air, balcony container gardeners can use less water in their gardens. Water is another precious resource that is worth conserving.