This post updated: Aug 17, 2016 @ 3:17 pm

instructions for turning a 5 gallon bucket into a cheap outdoor planter using burlap

I love container gardening, but the prices for big planters can be painful! This spring I decided to repurpose some basic 5 gallon buckets I had lying around into these cheap, charming planters.

Step 1.
Pick your buckets & drill holes in the bottom for drainage My buckets had giant holes due to being previously used for a failed upside-down-tomato-growing experiment. Your drainage holes don’t need to be bigger than 1/4″ in diameter- just large enough for water to drain.

Step 2. 
Measure your bucket. A standard 5 gallon bucket measures 25 in tall and 38″ in circumference at the widest part. Assuming you are using a standard 5 gallon bucket, cut a rectangle of burlap that is 41″ wide by 35″ tall. (or, outside circumference +3″ x height +8-10″) 

Step 3.

Sew a simple channel along the bottom of the fabric and place a cord or trim of some type into the channel and extending out either side. (we’ll use it like a drawstring to gather fabric) Next, fold rectangle in half and sew a seam from top to bottom- but don’t sew over your drawstrings! (you might want to double up and stitch another line parallel right next to it- since burlap can be a fickle fabric) Burlap will unravel extremely easily so make sure leave a large seam allowance and add a second line of stitching if you have any doubt.

instructions for turning a 5 gallon bucket into a cheap outdoor planter using burlap


I whipped two out in 5 minutes. Sewing is fast and fun when the seams won’t show!

instructions for turning a 5 gallon bucket into a cheap outdoor planter using burlap


Step 4.
Turn your newly sewn bag inside out, gather the draw string just a little, and slip the bucket into the bag. Adjust your drawstring until it gathers just enough to secure the fabric hidden underneath the bucket. 

instructions for turning a 5 gallon bucket into a cheap outdoor planter using burlap

instructions for turning a 5 gallon bucket into a cheap outdoor planter using burlap

You can remove the handle of your bucket with pliers at this point, but I left mine on!

Step 5.

Tie a belt of jute, twine, or even ribbon or raffia around the upper rim and you’re done! At this point you can either dump soil in and plant, or take an extra step and, using hot glue, glue the burlap down on the inside of the bucket. (Be VERY careful using hot glue with burlap! Because the weave is so loose it’s easier to burn yourself hot gluing burlap than it is with other fabrics)

instructions for turning a 5 gallon bucket into a cheap outdoor planter using burlap

Time will tell if my burlap covered planters last more than just one season, but at a cost of under $5 ($3 for the buckets at the farm store + $1.50 for 1 1/8 yard of burlap with a coupon at Hobby Lobby) and time invested under 10 minutes each, I don’t mind repeating again next year!

UPDATE: August 2016:

These burlap planter sleeves generally last about 1 season. I’ve made them a few springs, and by October they have begun to age and are ready to be torn away from the bucket and composted. They’ve been fun and easy to make, and the 5 gallon bucket provides an interesting shape for pairing with more traditional shaped planters.

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