The Miniature Garden Shed Project
We wanted an aged look for this miniature garden idea so we used weathered wood to build it. We put screen-mesh down on the bottom to help keep the soil from draining out the seams and the drainage holes.

Miniature Gardening in Recycled Containers, Part II

~ This is a continuation from last week’s blog, Part I, where we covered planting in suitcases, drawers, wheelbarrows, metal cans, wood crates and trugs. Today, we’re covering shoes, boots, broken pots, baskets, teacups, bowls and dishes. Find unusual con

Recall Grandma’s words, “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.” As gardeners, we are natural stewards of the earth and I feel that we have an unspoken mandate to do what is best for the environment above and beyond what’s trendy or cute. Let me know what you think out this statement in the comments below – are we obligated to take into consideration the rules of reduce, reuse and recycle, first and foremost?

Miniature Boot Pot
A boot pot in miniature. The original idea was to extend the life of an old shoe, for sentimental reasons or to keep it out of the landfill for as long as possible. Not to take perfectly good shoes and basically ruin them by adding soil and water.
Find wee lil’ pots, boots and containers up in our online store at We are indeed America’s Favorite Miniature Garden Center store, established in 2001.

Planting in Shoes and Boots

Shoes and boots make a great whimsical container for small plants but you are speeding up their trip to the landfill if you choose to plant up a decent pair of shoes that can be used by someone else. The idea behind the shoe-pot was to plant up an old, worn-out shoe to prolong its life and keep it out of the landfill. Pick a pair of shoes that you have saved from the garbage bin instead of plucking it straight out of your closet that will be better sent to Goodwill and reused by someone else. Try painting them if you want to do create something really unique.

The Broken Pot Garden

This idea has been circulating like mad on Pinterest and Facebook. If you use a broken pot to nest your miniature world in it, will be a temporary world. First of all, a lot of the pots used are terracotta which will add to the failure rate dramatically. Terracotta is very porous and wicks the moisture out of the soil and away from the plant’s roots. Secondly, not having a complete pot surrounding the soil will allow the moisture in the soil to evaporate very quickly. Once that soil dries out completely, the result will be dead plants – and a broken pot.

CAVEAT EMPTOR (means “Buyer beware”) – If you do enjoy this broken pot idea, please don’t buy a broken pot. I have heard of garden centers selling broken pots for this idea and, I’m sorry, that just tightens my jaw. Know that any store is going to throw out the pot anyway, you are doing them a favor by carting it away – for free. And use plants that can take the dryness too, like Sedums and Hens and Chicks.

UPDATE: Find out how to break your own pot in our second book, Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop. Now you don’t have to settle for any broken pot, you can use whatever pot you want. See the book here.

Planting in Baskets

Baskets lined in moss are for temporary arrangements. The moss does not keep the moisture in the soil, the basket dries out very quickly, the moss turns yellow and it becomes a big, dead mess. (Moss needs humidity because it absorbs water through its leaves.) This idea comes from the floral industry and can be a pretty display that lasts if it is done right. Place the whole pot and saucer, or a combination of small pots with saucers, in the basket and hide those plastic pots with moss. Find a good selection of different sized saucers at your local nursery or garden center.

Plastic-lined baskets don’t let the moisture out of the soil, the water doesn’t not let the air into the soil, the plant’s roots rot and it’s a slippery slope to certain plant death. Use this kind of basket the same way as above, and place the whole potted plant in the basket – because it’s lined in plastic, you may not need the saucer. Always be wary of placing that planted basket or any pot on any surface, the moisture will damage wood surfaces quite quickly.

The wicker that the baskets are made of needs to stay dry to keep its rigidity, strength and shape. When baskets are made, the wicker is soaked in water to stay plyable while it is woven. Once the weaving is done, the basket is left to dry and it is really not supposed to be wet again. With the constant watering that your potted basket will need, the wicker will loosen up, the integrity of the weave will be compromized and lead to – you guessed it – landfill.

A big miniature tea cup garden
The miniature garden planted in a big teacup will need very careful monitoring – it doesn’t have a drainage hole so there is little room for error in watering.

Gardens in Teacups, Bowls, Dishes

Miniature Patriot Garden
The Patriot Cup – A tiny mugo pine planted in a cup. I drilled a drainage hole in the bottom first. This will last about 2 years in such a tiny cup, perhaps 3, then it will need re-potting. Note that metal containers heat-up in the hot sun and will dry out the roots faster. Place metal containers in a shaded spot if needed.

I know, a miniature garden can be really cute planted in a teacup or china-bowl. But without a drainage hole, you’ll have to be very attentive to the watering almost every day. If you over water it then you have a stressed out plant until the soil can dry out a bit. I have very little luck with containers that don’t have a drainage hole, life gets busy, Steve waters, then I water it again – and we end up with a little rotted mess. Then Steve backs off on the watering, I back-off thinking Steve is watering – and we end up with a dry-crispy mess. Fun, huh?

However, if you must go forth with this idea because it is a cute one, borrow the trick from last week’s blog and monitor the dampness of the soil by using a wood skewer tucked in the back of the garden. If the wood is damp, hold off on watering, if it’s dry, then water. UPDATE: If you are interested in dish gardening, be sure to check out our ebook, Simple Creative Ways to Create Awesome Little Dish Gardens, by Yours Truly.

Miniature Garden Containers
This pumpkin made a fun temporary garden. It lasted about three weeks before it turned to mush.
Miniature Garden Containers
Spooky! Before it turned to mush… ;o)

Planting in Miscellaneous

Lastly, as a catchall, you can plant in almost anything. Just be aware that:

(a) you might ruin whatever you are planting in.

(b) you might kill whatever you are planting.

and (c) you might make a big ol’ mess and have to deal with the clean up and disposal of it all. Which really means you might not be recycling per se – you’re just kicking the landfill down the road a bit.

But by being aware of what to expect, you’ll lessen any disappointment and you might be able appreciate “it” while it happens and have fun while it lasts. Life is short, after all.

Like this? Then you’ll love our Mini Garden Gazette, a monthly newsletter sent around the world to Fellow MGs everywhere. Be sure to look for the FREE pdf you will receive after you confirm your subscription through our email. Join us here.

Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop Book
More unusual container ideas, custom container ideas, and how to break your own pot for a broken pot garden are in this book.

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