Read any book on container gardening and you’ll see anything that can hold soil will pass for a container. This makes container gardening a wide-open territory, and it encompasses everything from hen-and-chicks growing in a worn-out boot, to elaborate systems of raised beds. They’re all containers.

Containers also range from the commercially available kind, such as EarthBoxes, to homemade devices of every sort.

This year, for me, is a year of starting new gardens in a new place. It became immediately clear that my best choice was to go the raised-bed route, and to also put as much in containers as possible. While exploring what to use, I encountered several great ideas, some conventional and some absolutely unconventional.

The most unusual, practical and eye-catching idea came from Russ Arnold, who used his chainsaw to hollow out a long log for planting. This resembles a dugout canoe, but it isn’t designed for water, but rather for flowers.

Russ and his wife, Deb, made use of materials on hand to construct attractive, one-of-a-kind planters. In addition to the dugout canoe-style, an antique wooden crate sits on their front deck, and it brims with plants.

These containers and others represent the best use of available materials, and while we all may not have access to antique crates, anyone skilled with a chainsaw can hollow out a log to make an attractive planter.

Mobile greenhouse

While not strictly containers, my friend Ed Leonard has devised a greenhouse-on-wheels for seedlings. Namely, Ed has transformed the back seat of his car into a greenhouse. There, he placed several large, wooden flats, filled with soil and planted with different kinds of flowers.

Tarpaulins on the seat prevent water damage. Even so, Ed says he sprinkles the flats with water rather than just pouring it on, so it won’t run out.

The reason for this unconventional “greenhouse” is that even on cool days, as long as the sun shines, the interior of a car can reach very warm temperatures. Ed keeps a thermometer handy and refers to it, in order to monitor conditions in his greenhouse-on-wheels.

Talk about Yankee ingenuity.

Prefab kit

As per my own initial effort, my friend Tony Wieman came to the front with his own version of a prefabricated raised bed. After getting measurements from me to know how long and wide I wanted my bed (I chose 12 foot long by 4-foot wide and 2-inch thick by 8-inch high), Tony bought the lumber and had it cut to specifications.

This was hemlock lumber. Hemlock lasts for years in the ground, making it a prime choice as raised-bed material. Also, Tony bought brass lag screws to fasten the boards together. These won’t loosen or rust.

All these materials went into the back of Tony’s pickup truck, along with a roll of landscape cloth to line the bottom of the bed to keep weeds from growing.

Then one day Tony showed up at my place and in not much more time than it took me to write about it, my new raised bed was complete. The only thing lacking was soil, so I ordered 1 1/2 yards of topsoil mixed with compost, a rich, weed-free blend. So now I have an “instant” raised bed. In time, I’ll need some more, but at least this marks a great start.

Square footers

For some time during my travels, I passed by a roadside outlet that sold pre-made raised beds and trellises. These were two-foot by two-foot square and it never occurred to me that these could be at all practical. But then it came to me that not only were these diminutive containers practical, they opened a whole new world of possibilities.

I reasoned that I usually only grow a limited amount of certain vegetables and in my mental computations, it appeared that certain plants such as slicing cucumbers took up no more than a two-foot by two-foot space in my garden.

Certainly, then, these pre-made boxes would serve the same purpose and would have the benefit of easy access. I bought two of these contraptions.

Like Tony’s raised bed, these were made of hemlock. I would beware the pine raised beds some people offer, since pine rots quickly when exposed to damp earth. The hemlock ones I bought ought to last for many years.

As to what to plant in them, one holds my strawberries and the one with the trellis is for cucumbers.

So when considering container gardening just remember anything goes. Be creative, use whatever materials are available and enjoy the fruits of your labor.