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How to Use Milk Crates As Planters

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

Growing in planters, whether vegetables or ornamental flowers, allows you to garden even if you have very little suitable space. Buying enough containers for all your plants can get expensive, especially if you need larger sized ones. Milk crates are inexpensive if purchased and free if you have access to the stock from a closed dairy. You can use the actual heavy duty milk crates or the ones sold as storage cubes at home and department stores.

Wash used milk crates in soapy dish washer then rinse of the soap residue. Mix one part bleach to nine parts water and rinse the crates in this solution to sterilize them after washing.

Cut a piece of black plastic mulch long enough to line the crate with 3 to 4 inches of overhang. Push it into the crate and fold the overhang over the rim. Secure the plastic in place by wrapping a bungee cord around the rim or by clipping it to the rim with binder clips from an office supply store.

Poke six holes in the bottom of the plastic, spacing them equally apart. This supplies drainage for the planter.

Fill the lined milk crate with soil-less potting mixture to within 2 inches of the rim. Make your own by mixing one part peat moss, one part sterilized compost and one part vermiculite. Add any slow-release fertilizers to the potting mix that are recommended for the type of plants you are growing—generally ½ cup of a balanced granular fertilizer.

Water the potting mix until the water drips from the bottom drainage holes to ensure it is evenly moist throughout. Plant into the milk crate your transplants, planting them at the same depth they are at in their nursery pots.


Things You Will Need

  • Milk crate
  • Plastic mulch
  • Bungee cord
  • Binder clips
  • Peat moss
  • Vermiculite
  • Compost
  • Fertilizer


  • Container plants dry out more quickly than those in the ground. Check them once daily for moisture and water if the soil surface feels dry.


  • The plastic may cause soggy soil. Stick your finger all the way in to the soil; if soil clumps to it allow the plant to dry out for a few days.
  • Always ask before taking milk crates from beside dumpsters. Some businesses leave them there for the dairies to pick up, not because they are trash.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.