Skip to main content
Supported by WWF

Get growing with recycled planters

You don’t need a garden to get growing – make some recycled planters to turn even the smallest space green.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • A4 paper
  • Rope
  • Scissors
  • Sticky labels
  • Coloured pens or pencils
  • Seeds
  • Gardening gloves
  • Compost
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Garden fork
  • A sharp implement (like a screwdriver)
  • Watering can
  • Gravel or stones
  • Yoghurt pot
  • Kitchen roll
  • Cress seeds
  • Wood nails (optional)
  • Breathable membrane (optional)
  • Items to use as recycled planters such as old wellies, shoes, trainers, bags, old or punctured balls, pallets and so on
WWF what is biodiversity
PDF – 1.6MB
WWF food for thought
PDF – 1.0MB
A line drawing of the items needed to create a plant pot inside a wellington boot.

Before you begin

  • Make sure you’ve risk assessed your meeting, and also have a COVID-19 safe risk assessment that’s been agreed by your line manager. You can check out more detailed guidance here
  • Ask people to bring their own recycled planters to use. If they don’t have wellies, footballs, or pallets then they could use yoghurt pots or other items of clean recycling. 
  • Use peat-free compost.
  • Choose plants that are native to the UK and pesticide and peat-free. Choose seeds that are organically grown and not genetically modified. 
  • Different plants have different needs, so think about the seeds or plants that will work best for you. For example, tomatoes need a long, flat, stable container, while potatoes need a deep space for the tubers to grow. Courgettes, marrows and squashes need lots of ground surface around the planting area while raspberries and cherry tomatoes need space to grow tall and some canes to support them.
  • If you don’t want to get messy with compost, we’ve included instructions for making cress heads out of yoghurt pots and kitchen roll.

Safety checklist

Use the Safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include: 

  • Set up a hand washing station that you can use throughout the session.
  • You’ll need enough equipment for everyone so people don’t have to share. You could ask people to bring in their own containers to turn into planters. 
  • Think about how you’ll hand equipment out – it won’t work for everyone to help themselves from one big pile.
  • Think about how you’ll supervise people if they make their own drainage holes – you won’t be able to get close to them. You may decide to make the drainage holes before people begin. 

Get ready to plant

  1. Everyone should find their own space that’s two metres away from everyone else.
  2. Everyone should chat about what plants need to grow: light, water, and nutrients (usually from soil).
  3. The person leading the activity should explain that you don’t need acres of green space to grow things. It’s easy to ransack the recycling and turn it into interesting and practical planters.
  4. Everyone should hold up the item of recycling they’ll turn into a planter. They should look around the room and see the variety of different items people will use.
  5. The person leading the activity should help everyone make holes for drainage.  
  1. Everyone should line the bottom of their planter with gravel or stones to help it drain. 
  2. Everyone should fill their planter with peat-free compost. 
  3. The person leading the activity should give everyone some plants or seeds to add to their planter.
  4. Everyone should make the finishing touches: they could add labels to tell people what they’ve planted, stand their planter on a tray or plate to catch water, or figure out a way to hang their planter.
  5. Everyone should take their planters home and take care of the plants by watering them every few days when the soil begins to dry out.

Shoes, trainers and wellies

Pull ripped shoes or trainers from your cupboards or fetch the hole-riddled wellies collecting water outside. They’ve got a new life as a planter waiting for them. You could also use old cloth bags or even old handbags – just make sure the owner agrees first!

  1. If you’re using a shoe, remove the laces and pull out the tongue to get as much potting space as you can.
  2. Make sure there’s drainage so extra water can escape. You may need to make holes in the soles with a sharp screwdriver or sharp nail – put a block of wood on the other side so the sharp end goes into the wood. An adult should help with this. 
  1. Line the bottom of the shoe, welly, or bag with gravel or stones.
  2. Add some peat-free compost then put in your plants (or sow seeds). 
  1. Label your planter so you know what’s inside and continue to add water every few days when the soil begins to dry out.
  2. Decide how you’ll display the planter. You could stand it on the ground outside or use nails or tacks to fix it to a wall or fence.

Football or basketballs

You may not be able to play with punctured balls – but there’s no need to throw them away. Give them a new purpose and give a plant a new home.

  1. Use sharp scissors or a craft knife to cut out a section of ball about two thirds of the way up so you can see (and plant) inside the ball. An adult should help with this.
  1. Unless there are already holes in the base of the ball, stand the ball on a block of wood and use a screwdriver or large nail to make some holes for drainage. An adult should help with this.
  2. Create a loop for hanging by make four holes equally spaced around the ball, about three centimetres below the rim. Thread strong twine or thin rope through to meet at the top and tie a knot.
  1. Decide whether you’ll cut some slits in the sides of the ball so plants can poke out from all angles.
  2. Line the bottom of the ball with gravel or stones.
  3. Add some peat-free compost then put in your plants (or sow seeds). 
  4. Label your planter so you know what’s inside and continue to add water every few days when the soil begins to dry out.
  5. Display your planter for everyone to enjoy.

Pallets

A pallet on its side makes a great vertical planter for trailing plants such as aubrietia or campanula. They don’t take up too much space on the ground so they work well in small areas – just make sure the pallet is solid with no loose slats and check for loose staples or nails before you begin. 

  1. Line one side and the bottom with a breathable membrane. 
  2. Secure the pallet to the wall carefully. An adult should help with this.
  1. Line the bottom of the pallet with gravel or stones.
  2. Add some peat-free compost then put in your plants (or sow seeds). 
  3. Label your planter so you know what’s inside and continue to add water every few days when the soil begins to dry out.
  4. Display your planter for everyone to enjoy.

Cress heads

Don’t worry if you haven’t got soil or compost. You can turn a yoghurt pot (or similar item of recycling) into a planter for some tasty cress.

  1. Remove the label and draw a funny face on the yoghurt pot.
  2. Put some wet kitchen roll in the bottom of the pot. Put some damp cotton wool on top of the kitchen roll.
  3. Evenly spread cress seeds on top of the cotton wool and gently press them down.
  4. Put the pot in a warm place that gets some sunlight (a windowsill is perfect).
  5. Watch the cress grow. Be patient: it’ll take about seven days.
  6. Take a photo of your cress head and share it with your group.

This activity helps contribute towards some of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Find out more about the SDGs, and how Scouts across the world are getting involved.

Reflection

This activity was all about valuing the outdoors and helping the community. Did people enjoy getting stuck in to planting seeds or plants? Do people think they’ll be able to take good care of the plants in their recycled planters? How will the planter help their local environment? People could think about encouraging wildlife (including bugs) to the area and making it a greener place for everyone to enjoy. Was anyone surprised by the items that could be reused as planters? How else could they help their local environment, encourage wildlife, or reuse things so they’re not thrown away?

Safety

Scissors

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Animals and insects

Be aware of the risks before interacting with animals. Be aware of anyone with allergies, and make alternative arrangements for them.

Gardening and nature

Everyone must wash their hands after the activity has finished. Wear gloves if needed. Explain how to safely use equipment and set clear boundaries so everyone knows what’s allowed.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Glue and solvents

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions which could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

PPE

Before completing this activity make sure you have suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). This could include eye or ear protection, gloves, and anything else you need to protect yourself. You’ll know what you need as a result of completing the risk assessment for the activity.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.