I love container gardening, but the prices for big planters can be painful- especially when you plant as much each spring as I do! Last spring I decided to repurpose some basic 5-gallon buckets I had lying around into these cheap, charming planters.
Supplies Needed to Make these Burlap Planters
- a bucket
- burlap fabric
- string or twine to make a drawstring (chunky jute twine looks best)
- and a sewing machine.
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.
Measure your bucket – knowing the height of your bucket is essential for cutting fabric right the first time. A standard 5-gallon bucket measures 25 inches tall and 38″ in circumference at the widest part. Assuming you are using a standard 5-gallon bucket, you”ll need to cut a rectangle of burlap that is 41″ wide by 35″ tall.
If you are using a non-standard bucket, cut your fabric to the following measurements: (bucket’s outside circumference + 3 inches) x (height of the bucket + 8-10″ inches)
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.
I whipped two out in 5 minutes. Sewing is fast and fun when the seams won’t show!
Turn your newly sewn bag inside out, gather the drawstring 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.
You can remove the handle of your bucket with pliers at this point, but I left mine on!
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 the 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 open it’s easy to burn yourself when hot gluing 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!
Growing a Bucket Container Garden
Many successful kitchen gardens have been grown in 5-gallon buckets. 5-gallon buckets make the perfect planters for an inexpensive container garden. 5-gallon buckets hold enough soil to grow vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini and are also perfect for growing flowers. The only problem with a container garden made up of 5-gallon buckets is that these brightly colored and often printed buckets are more than a bit of an eyesore – especially when grouped together. A raised container garden made up of 5-gallon buckets can make the loveliest garden or lawn look a bit neglected and unkept.
Upgrading a Bucket Container
A good container garden with enough fresh vegetables to support a family of two or three requires at least 10 to 15 containers. For beginning gardeners, however, the cost of getting started with container gardens can be an obstacle: with most sturdy garden planters ringing up at $20-$30 apiece, the cost of starting a container garden can easily run into the hundreds of dollars on planters alone.
My solution for upgrading 5 gallon buckets makes starting a vegetable container garden affordable and accessible for anyone- and with this easy, attractive, bucket cover you won’t risk the ire of your homeowner’s association or the irritation of neighbors as you set out your container garden made of 5 gallon buckets.
Although in these photos, I demonstrate using this bucket cover on a single bucket that I pair with more traditional planters, this method can easily be used to create an entire garden filled with burlap covered 5 gallon buckets. With the natural and organic burlap to mask the bright colors of plastic buckets, a burlap-covered bucket container garden creates a visually peaceful space that’s easy to blend into almost any landscape, lawn, or garden.
5-gallon Bucket Gardens and Accessibility
Raised bed gardens and container gardens are preferred by many gardeners because they are easier to access. Unlike a traditional garden in the ground – which requires a gardener to kneel to work the soil – container gardens are raised up off the ground by 1-2 feet. This elevation makes it easier to work the soil, plant plants, tend to the garden, and harvest fruits and vegetables. One advantage that 5 gallon bucket gardens have over both raised beds and traditional containers is that 5 gallon buckets are about 6 inches taller than the average garden planter. These extra 6 inches (although they may take a bit of extra soil to fill) help give bucket containers an extra boost in height to make it even easier for individuals with disabilities or physical limitations to enjoy the benefits of gardening.
UPDATE: August 2019:
These burlap planter sleeves generally last about 1 season. I’ve made them a few springs, and by each October, they’ve begun aging and it’s time to tear them away from the bucket and compost the burlap covers. They’ve been fun and easy to make, and the 5-gallon bucket provides an interesting shape for pairing with more traditional shaped planters.
Lindsayanne is a professional artist, writer, and serial-DIY-er with a knack for solving problems creatively at home, in the studio, out in the garden, and even online. Learn more about Lindsay, her training, and her background here.