Eco-Saturday: Tin-can planters

One of the little gardening tricks I learned from my parents, which they picked up God knows where (probably either Organic Gardening or Mother Earth News sometime in the ’70s), was to recycle tin cans into seed-starting planters for tomatoes.

For this project, you will need:

A can opener
Aluminum foil
Empty tin cans, rinsed well
Potting mix
Tomato seeds
Some kind of drip tray


Step 1: Use a can opener to cut the bottoms out of the cans. NOTE: Cans that are rounded on the bottom for easy stacking won’t work for our purposes, because you can’t cut out the bottoms. You want the old-fashioned kind with an identical top and bottom. Ro-Tel tomatoes come in such cans (hence the plethora of Vegan Friday recipes involving Ro-Tel lately), as do enchilada sauce and most brands of black olives.


Step 2: Set the can in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil and drop the bottom back into it, making sure any barbed edges are facing up, not touching the foil.


Step 3: Wrap the foil up around the bottom to keep everything together.


Step 4: Fill the can with the planting medium of your choice (compost, potting soil, planting mix, whatever), tuck in a seed or two, set them on some kind of tray to catch drips, and water them.

The advantage of these little planters is twofold: First, there’s something about the metal that seems to stimulate growth in tomato plants, so your seedlings will be good and healthy, and second, when it’s time to transplant your seedlings in April, you can simply peel off the foil and use two fingers to push the plant up out of the can without disturbing the roots.

This is a project you’ll want to do a couple of months ahead of your last frost date so your plants will have time to sprout and grow.

Happy gardening!