Turn a Cat Litter Pail into a Planter

Sometimes it works out perfectly that something that might otherwise be considered a piece of garbage will actually solve a lingering problem.

Such is the case with these cat litter pails. They're made out of hard plastic, and normally I keep them out in the garage pending some use before I throw them away after a few months. But in this case, I had an immediate use for these buckets, so they went straight to the back porch where we have our container garden.

This is my poor catnip plant. Usually when I buy a catnip plant the cats get to it and eat it before it has a chance. This one has lasted for 4 years now and has spread into any pot where I might have reused the dirt elsewhere. Last spring I had combine the bulk of the spreading plant into a 1.5 or 2 gallon pot where it grew happily and kept the cats stoned all summer. This year, though, it has outgrown its pot and looks sad every morning as displayed in the picture above. Not only is it pot-bound, but this thirsty bugger just isn't getting enough water.

The same holds true for Lobelia. I got her just this year, but I'm unfamiliar with growing this flower so I put her in too small of a pot. She gets very thirsty and there just isn't enough volume in the pot to hold enough water.

I got a trimming of this plant from my mom who got a trimming of this plant from her dad. My mom calls it a sedum, but even when Googling sedum I can't find a picture match. If anyone knows exactly what this is please feel free to comment any info. Apparently, this plant wasn't doing well in Wisconsin where my grandparents are, or they had a storm that knock it out or something. Well, it's flourishing here in Tennessee. It was a sick little 2-root trimming when my mom gave it to me, and now it's getting bigger than the pot I put it in.

I have some leftover spray-paint cans in the garage, so rather than look at cat litter labels I decided Jen told me to paint the buckets so they at least they didn't say SHIT ROCKS on the side.

3 buckets - I had green, light blue, and red spray paint. These only took a few hours to fully dry.

I used a 1/2 inch drill bit and drilled drainage holes into the bottom. When planting, I tend not to put rocks over the holes at the bottom because it tends to block drainage, and I've never had an issue of soil loss. I used a pliers to remove any bits of plastic still clinging around the holes.

I started with the catnip plant by filling the bucket up only quarter way full of dirt because of the size of the root structure of the catnip plant. I want to leave at least a one inch rim at the top of the bucket for proper watering.

This thing was so pot-bound it was said. Some small black ants were also using it as a home and food source, so I gave it a good spray with Pyrethrin based insecticide as well. Needless to say I won't be giving any nip to the cats within the next couple of weeks not only because of the poison but to give the plant enough time to recover from shock.

I centered the root ball in the center of the bucket and filled in the sides with dirt. As I was filling, I was reaching my hand in to make sure dirt was getting deep around the root ball so there were no air pockets. I then filled the rest of the bucket up with dirt until there was about an inch or so rim remaining.

The sedum's root ball wasn't as large as the catnip so I had to use more fill dirt. At the rate this thing is growing, though, I'm sure all of that extra dirt will be put to good use. I didn't fill this one up nearly as full with dirt, but I will as it grows.

Next up was the Lobelia. Unfortunately, I was running out of potting soil so I planted this a little deeper than I would have liked.

Lobelia is very delicate and I was a little rough packing the dirt in around the roots. I'm sure after proper watering and a day of sun she'll perk right up.

So there we have it. Happier and thriving plants and I didn't have to spend a dime on new pots.

In fact, I have 3 empty pots now for something new!

Let's not forget the sleepy garden gnome who gets a brand new napping spot. Although he doesn't protect against ants very well, he seems to be a good luck charm for the catnip.


  1. Great "reuse"!!! Love it!
    And yes that is sedum - Probably autumn glory - if any every breaks off, just stick it in the ground anywhere, it will grow and grow and grow, it can really take some abuse. Once it gets a little mature you'll sometimes need to stake them when the flowers come, they get pretty top heavy and are less then attractive when they flop over.

    Great container garden! :)

  2. Hi Tammy - thanks for the info about the sedum. It's starting to look like it's going to flower. I think before the end of the season I'll need to find a place for it in the ground.


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