Spring Planting in Cardboard


The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

Last year I started experimenting with planting in cardboard even though nearly everyone around thought I was crazy. Well, not one of them was shy when the time came to harvest our cherry tomatoes…

This fall I made a simpler kind of planter utilizing the planter hangers that I have, and torn pieces of scrap corrugated cardboard tucked and layered inside. They over-wintered well, and to freshen the boxes up in the Spring, I just added new cardboard to the outside edges and removed some of the inner layers.

Spinach, salad greens, cilantro and nasturtiums…we can’t wait for our little sprouts to start popping up! And we’re curious to see how our experiment with the glass case (Used for displaying traditional Japanese dolls- there are always tons of these at the recycling shop) works for our tomato starts. We’re hoping to transform it into a home for adopted caterpillars……



Pop-Up Cardboard Garden

UPDATE: Our first big harvest! That little cucumber grew up!

Electra has had her cardboard garden for over a month and a half now, and seeing that the cardboard is still in great shape after 6 weeks of rain, watering and sunshine, I thought it was OK to officially let it be known that our pop-up cardboard garden is a keeper.

When I was on a cardboard finding expedition at my local grocery store, the produce manager asked me if I was interested in any of the watermelon boxes they had out behind the store. Watermelon boxes, I thought, why didn’t I think of that before?

Watermelon boxes are made of triple-walled cardboard with a slight waxy finish, and they are super sturdy, even when exposed to rain. This garden isn’t intended to last for more than a summer season, but the cardboard should easily last that long. After we finish picking our tomatoes the plan is to distribute the soil onto the other needy beds in our front yard,  and pack up our watermelon box for curbside recycling.

I used a serrated bread knife that I got from a nearby thrift shop to cut the box down to 12.5″ high. Then I just positioned the box in a bright and sunny area of our front yard.

My husband kindly screened several wheelbarrow loads of compost from our backyard and added it to the garden. The last step was cutting off the little triangles of cardboard on the sides that center the watermelon box onto pallets for shipping.

We decided this would be the perfect first garden for Electra so I let her pick out all of her own plants at the local greenhouse. I encouraged her to choose a variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs. She chose cucumbers, tomatoes, chives, basil, cilantro, rosemary, zinnias and her favorite, geraniums.

She LOVED handling and smelling her plants and breaking up their roots to get them ready for planting.

Here she is watering the new crop, and facing a few skeptic neighbors who were sure we were preparing for failure.

We watered the garden as needed trying to let it dry out as much as possible to encourage deep root growth and preserve the box. I notice after one month of watering the box is starting to break down a little where the bottom  seam is touching the soil. It looks like it’s not to much of a problem at this point, so I’m leaving well enough alone.

After a big rain the cardboard gets a little damp and softens. It will harden up as it dries out, so try not to disturb the cardboard too much when it’s wet. I’m not promising invincibility here folks, but this IS a means of getting a few more cherry tomatoes into your little ones hands, and a great way to kindle a budding love of gardening.

Isn’t this tiny cucumber the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? Seeing it all nestled up next to the side of the triple wall cardboard just about breaks my heart.

Urban Gardening with Cardboard Planters

I made the cardboard planters by cutting a pineapple box to the desired size through both layers and then inverting the inner box. I also used a few strips of washi tape to brighten things up a bit and make the planter more secure.

I used the same concept to make the cardboard steps. I had to cut a second box to fit inside the top step for more support, but it does the job for Electra’s small time guerrilla gardening project in our stair well.

I’ve learned after a few years of living in Japan that you can get away with anything that is super cute / Kawaii (rhymes with Hawaii).

……Like a little girl growing a morning-glory in cardboard pot.

Flip it over and it’s a custom sized box or planter…

The planter on the right is what sparked the idea for making cardboard planters in the first place. They’re called Wonderpots, and they’re made from 100% recycled material. I’ve used them for the last 4 years and they work great. They last about two years before decomposing to the point that they need replacing.

My recent discovery of the waxy cardboard fruit boxes has got me thinking in a million directions. And the cardboard planter experiment will be the ultimate test of their strength.

I didn’t even glue or tape this planter together. I just set it in the planter holder. The only thing I did was poke a few holes in the bottom of the planter to provide drainage.

So far we’ve got a young crop of edamame and edible-pod peas going strong. We’ll see how our cardboard planter experiment holds up after a summer of growth and watering.

What about you, have you ever tried planting your annuals in cardboard?