Upcycling Milk Cartons into Indoor Planters
Growing your own indoor plants can be a rewarding hobby, but buying plastic pots and planters for all your cuttings and seedlings can get expensive. Instead of throwing away empty milk and juice cartons, why not upcycle them into cute DIY planters? It’s easy, inexpensive, and eco-friendly.
Why Upcycle Milk Cartons?
Milk cartons are typically made of paperboard coated with polyethylene and aluminum. Every year, millions of these cartons are discarded and end up in landfills. Upcycling them into indoor planters keeps them out of landfills a bit longer and gives them a second life. Here are some of the benefits of upcycling milk cartons:
- Sustainable: Repurposing items that would otherwise be trash is a sustainable habit. Upcycling reduces waste.
- Inexpensive: Milk cartons are free and require little work to transform into planters.
- Customizable: You can paint and decorate milk carton planters to match your home’s style.
- Good for Seedlings: Their short, squat shape provides enough depth for roots but not too much space.
- Fun Project: Making DIY planters is an enjoyable weekend activity for the whole family.
So if you’re looking for an easy, cheap way to get more green into your home, read on to learn how to upcycle milk cartons into indoor planters!
Selecting and Preparing Milk Cartons for Upcycling
The first step is collecting and preparing your empty milk and juice cartons. Here are some tips:
- Choose cartons made from paper/paperboard, not pure plastic jugs. The paper ones are easier to cut and manipulate.
- Opt for larger 1 quart or 1/2 gallon cartons as these will give you more space for planting. The small single serving sizes are a bit trickier to work with.
- Rinse thoroughly and allow to fully dry before upcycling. You want to remove any remnants that could rot and cause odors.
- Remove any plastic spouts or caps. Recycle these if possible.
- Unfold flat and iron to flatten. This makes it easier to visualize your design.
Inspect your cartons and set any with tears, holes, or damage aside. Focus on upcycling cartons that are structurally sound so they hold soil and water without leaking.
Tools and Materials Needed
Upcycling milk cartons into planters is simple and requires few materials:
- Clean and dried milk or juice cartons
- Craft knife or scissors to cut cartons
- Ruler and pencil to measure and trace lines
- Low-temp hot glue gun and glue sticks
- (Optional) Acrylic paints, brushes, and sealant for decoration
- (Optional) Twine or rope to create handles
- Drainage: Perlite, pebbles, small stones
- Potting soil and seeds or seedlings
And that’s it! The basic materials for transforming a milk carton into a planter likely can be sourced from your recycling bin and craft stash.
Cutting Milk Cartons and Creating Shape
Once you’ve collected and prepped your cartons, it’s time to cut them into a shape. Here are some popular ways to form milk carton planters:
This is the easiest shape. Simply cut the carton in half horizontally to create a rectangular pot. If desired, cut away one of the shorter sides to open it up for visibility.
Cut vertically down the sides of the carton, then horizontally across to form a square or cube shape. Make sure to cut equal lengths.
Cut off each corner of the carton in triangles. Then slice halfway down the long sides of the carton to form eight equal sides.
Carefully cut the carton in a wrapped circle, mimicking a can shape. Overlap the edges and glue into place.
Cut wave-like scalloped edges around the sides of the carton. Each scallop should be an equal size.
Get creative with shapes – hexagons, stars, and triangles also work great!
Creating Drainage and Holes
Proper drainage is key for any indoor planter. Here are some tips for milk carton planters:
- Poke several holes in the bottom with a skewer for drainage.
- Line the bottom with pebbles or stones to keep soil from leaking out.
- Fill 1/4 way with perlite for added drainage.
- Drill or cut a few vertical slits part way up the sides for ventilation and excess water to escape.
Don’t skip this step or you risk overwatering and root rot!
Decorating and Painting the Exterior
Now comes the fun part – decorating the outside of your upcycled milk carton planter! Here are some ideas:
- Paint or spray paint the exterior in any color you like. Let dry fully before planting.
- Decoupage with scrapbook paper, napkins, newsprint, or magazine clippings for a collage effect.
- Glue on buttons, googly eyes, or other small embellishments.
- Wrap twine or rope around the planter to create a handle.
- Use washi tape to add striped patterns.
- Let kids go wild with stickers or their own artwork.
Customize your milk carton planter to match your home’s style, your child’s interests, or your plants’ needs.
Planting Your Milk Carton
The final step is planting your upcycled milk carton planter. Follow these tips:
- Fill 2/3rds full with potting soil. Don’t pack too densely.
- Nestle in your seedling or plant. Check it’s planted at the same level as before.
- Top with more soil, leaving 1 inch below the rim so you can water easily.
- Water thoroughly once planted, allowing excess to drain from holes.
- Place in a bright spot but avoid direct hot sun, which can overheat the carton.
- For seeds, follow planting depth and thinning guidelines on the seed packet.
- Fertilize every 2-3 weeks to nourishment your plants.
- Reuse cartons for new plants once others expire. Enjoy!
It’s satisfying to see your homemade milk carton planter transform from trash to a useful item that brings life to your indoor space. Get the whole family involved in collecting cartons, decorating, and choosing which seeds or plants to grow. Upcycling milk cartons into planters is a simple, eco-friendly craft project that also looks great and saves money.