You’re possibly thinking of starting a tin can veggie garden. For those of us inclined to recycle, this seems like a great way to get another use from cans that held our vegetable, fruits, soups, and meats. Add a drainage hole and some soil and you’re all set to grow vegetables in tin cans, right?
Problems with Using Tin Can Planters
There are a few things to consider if growing edibles in metal cans. When a tin can is opened and the inner layer is exposed to oxygen, it begins to break down. If using an older can, make sure there is no rust. This may still be present when you plant into the can (even after washing) and can affect your veggie plant.
Some tin cans have an inner plastic coating which can include BPA, and may also cause problems with planting food in them.
Another point to consider is that many cans are no longer made from tin, but from aluminum.
So is it safe to grow food in aluminum containers? We’ll look at these questions and answer them here.
Growing Veggies in Aluminum Cans
Considering the potential problems mentioned above, use tin cans for a limited time when growing veggies – such as for starting veggie seeds or growing small ornamentals that you’ll later transplant. The size of the standard tin can prohibit full growth of a sizeable plant anyway, even when planting in coffee cans.
Tin draws heat and cold quickly and is not kind to the root system of plants. Aluminum conducts heat more efficiently than tin for this purpose. Growing veggies in aluminum cans is more practical than using tin. Most cans are a combination of both metals.
You might consider planting in coffee cans that are larger. The larger coffee cans will accommodate a bigger plant. If you’re using tin cans to save money, give them a coating of chalk paint or hot glue some burlap and tie a jute twine for decoration. More than one coat of paint helps them look good longer.
There are numerous tutorials online for decorating your tin cans before planting. Always remember to add a few drainage holes with a drill or hammer and nails.
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Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.
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