If you have gardened with containers, you know that they can be a nice addition in spaces where you want to add a few cheery plants. You likely also know how expensive, limited and high maintenance container gardening can be. If you're an avid gardener, it is possible to become overwhelmed with the number of containers and the more constant attention they need compared to garden plants. Clay pots are delicate, while plastic containers break easily. You may not be able to find containers with the appearance or size that fits your need.
Raised beds are a good intermediate step between container gardening and creating a garden space in the yard. Temporary beds can be constructed over areas where the soil is less than ideal. After a few seasons of use, the material used to hold the soil in place can be removed and the dirt tilled in or allowed to sit atop the previous layer of ground. Permanent beds allow you to plant more of your favorites without having to juggle and maintain numerous containers. The greater soil depth and surface area allows you to grow plants that require more than a few scant inches of space.
Bag of Soil
In places where appearance is not a priority, one of the best and most low-maintenance options for growing plants is the humble bag of soil. Simply cut open the top and roll down the spare plastic, then punch a few holes in the bottom of the bag for drainage. If left in place, the bags can usually survive a full growing season. The dirt can then be scattered and the bag remnants discarded.
Old household objects can be recycled into container alternatives. When choosing your planter, keep the plant's needs in mind. An old decorative cup may be sufficient for a shallow-rooted plant. A boot would be a good home for a plant with a taproot that needs depth, but doesn't have a spreading root system.
Larger items can be decorative, interesting and functional as substitutes for containers. Antique or modern metal washtubs, old farm machinery and tools, any item with an area capable of sufficiently holding soil can serve as a planter. Such systems are a good choice for growing any plant known to be invasive or separating out varieties that need special care or a particular soil type for best results.