Upcycle Final Report 2020 : Garden Planter

For my upcycle project I started with looking at making some sort of clothing out of other clothing that I no longer wear. This idea led me to the internet where I started looking at other upcycle projects. This is where I stumbled upon people making planter boxes out of old household items, so I took a look around and decided I have a drawer I no longer use that would make the perfect planter. The drawer is perfect because it no longer has a use to me, and its old and made of plastic so it would likely just be sent to a landfill if I decided to get rid of it. The drawer I plan on using is shown below. To fit an aesthetic, I have decided to try and get a rustic aesthetic, which is shown below the plastic drawer. This ultimately may be difficult given that the plastic drawers do not resemble anything rustic at all to start with. My plan is to line the plastic with wood so that it becomes more natural looking.

Plastic Drawer & Rustic Aesthetic

Some initial designs I looked at upcycled things like old tires that had been painted such as in the photo below. Other people used a wide variety of things ranging from old tin cans, old shoes, to a variety of kitchen utensils.

I also love plants and gardens and know how tedious it can be to water them every day, so this inspired me to attempt to incorporate a sort of irrigation system that would allow you to fill a bowl of water that would drain into the plants over time. For this, I plan on using old kitchen Tupperware that I no longer use, this way all material that goes into this piece will all be recycled and repurposed.

Moving forward into my garden plant box, I took my initial idea and did a few hand sketches to fully figure out what I was planning on doing.  I then acquired my materials from Resource located in boulder. I was able to purchase all of my wood for 8 dollars and 50 cents. I was then able to cut the wood into the sizes needed for my design. My initial concept sketch was transformed to an online sketch done in InDesign shown below.

Preliminary Sketch

InDesign Sketch

Since that concept design, I have taken it into reality. With all the materials I needed I began fabricating the final design. With all the wood cut into the desired lengths (which depended on the plastic drawers), I was able to paint them. The paint I chose was called Espresso Brown, which I chose to affirm my natural aesthetic. I hope to complete this project with the final artifact giving a natural feeling. The painted wood can be seen below.

Wood bought and cut to length

Painted Wood

The next step was applying the wood to the plastic drawer. I was able to screw in a few of the pieces which set the pace for the overall design. The initial frame can be seen below.

Initial Frame

From here, I needed a way to get the drawers to stay open, in a cascading way. To achieve this, I put cross bars perpendicular to the drawers that wedged them open and held them in place. I then applied an adhesive to get them to stay. After this I needed to add support to the overall frame so that it would be able to carry a heavy load of plants. I cut two long bars at an angle and drilled those into the cross bars to fully secure everything. These steps can be seen below.

Finished Frame

The next step was creating the plant pots themselves, for this I used old Tupperware that I had lying around in my kitchen. I drilled out holes into the bottom of these so that the water would be able to filter through, I also drilled holes in the bottom of the plastic drawers themselves so that they would nor fill with water. I was able to fit two pots in each drawer, allowing for six total different plants.

From here, I decided to paint all of the remaining grey plastic on the frame to complete the aesthetic. I decided to leave the drawers themselves clear because of a suggestion made in an earlier post, that it would be cool to be able to see roots growing when the planter is implemented.

Painted Base design

The last step was attempting to incorporate the self-watering feature. For this, I cut out a line of acrylic tubing and ran it through the entire planter in and out of each drawer. I cut little holes into the tubing so that when water passed through, it would spray out into the plants. However, with initial testing, the water never had enough pressure to leak into the plant pots, so no water was ever actually going into the plants. Because of this, I removed that feature and left it as it is, although I do plan on adding it in the future around summertime when I can plant real plants in it. To implement I would use a small water pump that are used for garden fountains to drive the water pressure up and actually water the plants.


The end result came out way better than I had originally expected, even though it differed from the initial concept sketches I had done. These major differences occurred because the wood that I was able to find had a certain thickness and width that I could not control, so I was only able to cut different lengths to achieve my aesthetic. Overall, this will make a wonderful present to my parents, especially knowing it is made of recycled materials.

Empty, and Ready for Plants

Fully Loaded with Fake Flowers

Here is the link to my in class presentation, enjoy!




• lemonbeansandthings.blogspot.com
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9 Comments. Leave new

  • Benjamin Chang
    February 12, 2020 3:40 pm

    I thought this project was really great and simple, I enjoyed the fun play on shape you led with the angular structure. In the end you are left with an awesome piece of gardening potential. My only critique and suggestion would be utilizing all the space you created, whether intended for use or not. I mentioned in class about using the back portion for storage, which can then add to the features of this static piece.

  • Ryan Weatherbee
    February 12, 2020 11:22 am

    I was very impressed that you were able to make an aesthetically pleasing item using wood and plastic. Those two materials don’t usually play well together, but you made your planter look very nice!

  • Benjamin Robles
    February 12, 2020 11:20 am

    Statement of meaning: I love the way you arranged the structure to support the weight of heavy plants with a cross beam for each one of them. -Benjamin Robles

  • Jason Fontillas
    February 12, 2020 11:19 am

    I like that you decided to keep the plastic visible in the final design. It fits the “Upcycling” idea of reusing old material to create a new and functional artifact. The paint finish almost looks professionally done as well. Overall great job and I love the arrangement of the flowers.

  • I thought your project was really cool. In the future, is there anything you would do to make the plastic bins fit your aesthetic more? The plastic really stands out and kind of distracts from the rest of the project and the aesthetic overall.

  • Patrick Bodine-Ellison
    February 12, 2020 11:16 am

    I really liked your automatic watering system idea, it might be good to use an Arduino with a pH/water sensor. Often times plants can get over-watered and get root rot which leads to death. A system like that could control the water levels and make sure that you end up with health plants without needing the maintenance.

  • One statement of meaning for me is how you used something plastic, which is typically associated with waste and nonrenewable materials, to provide the means for new growth. To me, this is the definition of upcycling: using otherwise unusable, non-recyclable materials to provide new growth for the future. Great job, I really think you achieved your desired aesthetic.

  • Kensue Kiatoukaysy
    February 12, 2020 11:14 am

    I thought this was a very nice project and the end results of the project looked really good. The end results was aesthetically pleasing for either indoors or outdoor use. For The self watering system a suggestion I have would be to have a single port where water is filled and then have that feed through three separate lines that will feed each once individually.

  • This looks nice I like how you stained it. I think it will be great when you have live plants in it.


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