At some point near the middle of March, I always decide that I’m “done” with winter. The sweaters and jackets get pushed to the back of the closet, the flip flops come out, and I inevitably freeze my butt off for several weeks until the weather catches up with my warm-weather state of mind. Likewise, my cravings for fresh herbs and veggies are always a little ahead of the season.
Growing your own herbs is a great way to save money and avoid buying too much at a time and letting most of it go to waste. If it’s still too cold to plant outside where you are (or if you’re short on space!) this hanging herb garden is the perfect project to get you in gear for spring.
What you’ll need: Tin containers with snap-on plastic lids (tea, cocoa, and coffee cans are a good bet), coat hangers, pliers, scissors, herbs (I bought basil, rosemary, dill, and cilantro for about $2.50 each), masking tape, coffee filters, a nail, a hammer, X-acto knife, scrap fabric or paper, and glue or spray adhesive.
After you’ve emptied and cleaned your cans, remove the bottom of the can with a can opener. Using the hammer and nail, punch 10-15 holes near the center.
Slide the bottom inside the can, holding it up from inside. Tape the bottom in place about an inch from the outer edge of the can. (You could also use a hot glue gun.) After you’ve got it good and stuck, punch two holes on opposite sides of the can about a quarter inch from the edge. These are the holes for the handle.
Flip the can over. Gently press the plant into the can. This part can get a little messy, so you might want to do it over the sink or outside.
Once you’ve got the herb in the can, take your coffee filter and cut a small diamond in the center, with a slit extending to the edge on one side.
Fold the coffee filter around the herb and tape the edges together. Tape it to the can so that the top of the filter is tight. This will help prevent leaking and soil from falling out when you turn the can over.
Using your x-acto knife, cut a hole about 1-2 inches in diameter in the center of the plastic lid. The size of the hole really depends on the size of the plant. Too big and it will leak, too small and you might not be able to get the plant through it. When in doubt, go smaller.
This part is tricky: Carefully feed the plant through the hole in the plastic lid. The best way I’ve found to do this is to grasp the center of the plant, gathering all the leaves together, and gently twist it until it’s in a rope-like shape and isn’t poking out everywhere.
Once you’ve got the lid snapped on, you can glue or tape it in place if the plant is especially big or heavy. Mine wasn’t, so I just left it snapped. Next, cut your fabric or paper into strips long enough to wrap around the can completely with a little overlap. Cut it wide enough so that there’s about a half inch extra around the top of the can (what used to be the bottom). You should probably have a cat hold the fabric in place for you.
Hold the fabric so one edge is even with the bottom of the can, where the plant is poking out. Tape or glue the vertical edge of the fabric to the can, then wrap the fabric tightly around the can. You can use spray adhesive, glue, or clear tape to secure the fabric. Next, fold the extra half inch of fabric or paper inside the top of the can and glue or tape it in place. Be careful not to cover the holes for watering!
To make the handles, use your pliers to cut about 6 inches of wire from the hangers. Bend it into a curve, then use the pliers to bend about 1/4-1/2 inch off the end into a right angle. Poke the ends through the holes you hammered out earlier, then use the pliers to squeeze the ends upward to secure it. I also made hooks for mine to make it easier to get them down for watering.
You can hang your plants from curtain rods, hooks in the ceiling, or just about anywhere that gets plenty of light. I hung my herbs over the sink in my kitchen so they would be within easy reach while I was cooking. So far I haven’t had any problems with leaking, but you may want to avoid hanging your plants over hardwood floors or other surfaces that don’t take kindly to being dripped on.
This project could be tweaked in hundreds of ways. I originally planned to cover my cans in wood veneer and stain them for a more natural look, but had a hard time finding it locally. Sheet metal, wallpaper, wrapping paper, collage, or paint would also be great materials to use on these. And of course, you don’t have to grow herbs: you could also use these to grow hanging vines, flowers, tomatoes, peppers… the options are endless.