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Creative Garden Uses for Terracotta Pots

Cover of Handmade Garden Projects by Lorene

This week's gardening tip is excerpted from Handmade Garden Projects (Timber Press, 2011) by Lorene Edwards Forkner.

My collection of hundreds of small terracotta pots once belonged to a friend and next door neighbor. Gordon was a nursery man of the old-school variety; raising his stock from seeds and cuttings, patiently tending them to a marketable size. One of my earliest gardening mentors, his was an encouraging voice when I was thinking about starting my own nursery.

Gordon is gone but his beautiful horticultural legacy lives on in the many trees and shrubs that populate the large lot adjacent to ours. The property is slated for development, so I appreciate every day I still get to gaze out at the mature cedars, pines and false cypress. Towering rhododendrons and flowering trees are overgrown with weeds and brambles, but continue to bloom year in and year out. Gordon's Garden, as it will forever be known to me, is a neighborhood treasure.

Mountains of terracotta pots from Gordon's nursery were fated for the landfill before my husband rescued them for me. The very fact that many of these pots are decades old speaks to their resourcefulness and sustainability- something which surely cannot be said of the countless disposable plastic pots churned out by today's horticultural industry. Unfortunately, save for the occasional hardy succulent, I can't keep anything growing in such a small porous container. But over the years, I've found other ways to put my inherited terracotta collection to work in the garden.

  • Cover drainage holes in container plantings with terracotta shards to prevent the soil from washing away.
  • Mark vegetable plantings by writing crop names in chalk on a large shard of terracotta or whole pot.
  • Outline and define the herb garden with a row of upended terracotta pots for a casual border; or place them right side up and plant with a colorful border of chives.
  • Infill nooks and crannies with stacks of mossy pots adding a decorative finishing touch to overlooked spaces that ordinarily would just spout weeds.
  • Mulch pink and bronze container plantings with broken up terracotta to create a warm monochromatic color palette as you conserve soil moisture and control weeds.
  • Work terracotta bits into garden mosaics and custom pavers.


Learn how to utilize other recycled materials in the garden with Small Budget Gardener.

Discover other ways to live "eco-friendly' in 356 Ways to Live Green. 

In Horticulture Smart Gardening Techniques: Garden Projects, you'll find step-by-step guides and illustrations for a variety of homemade garden projects.

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