Milk Crate "Air-Pot" Urban Container Gardening





Introduction: Milk Crate "Air-Pot" Urban Container Gardening

So, my wife and I moved to a 2nd floor front Chicago greystone with no greenspace but it does have faux balcony over the front entry that can only be accessed by climbing through a window.  We decided that this space must be utilized as urban gardening space.

While looking around for container garden solutions, we came across the not so affordable UK "air-pot" design that encourages better root growth than traditional container gardening. Intrigued and still wanting an affordable solution, milk crates came to mind with some sort of liner. Milk Crates seem to be laying around all over the place until you actually start searching for them. Fortunately, we found an inside connection to "borrow" them from for the growing season.

To stay true to the "air-pot" concept we needed the liner to be breathable; landscaping fabric was the obvious choice.  A  $10 roll of landscaping fabric commonly comes in a 3' x 50' roll which is enough to make 24 milk crate liners. How's that for affordable?

Step 1: Required Tools and Materials

24 - milk crates (washed and sanitized)
1 - roll 50' x 3' landscape fabric
1 - spool all-purpose polyester thread

Measuring Device - Tape / Ruler
Sewing Machine or (Needle, Thread and Patience)

Give extra liners to friends so they can grow on their balconies and then share the bounty!

Step 2: Measure Your Milk Crate

The inside dimensions of a standard crate should be approximately 11" deep by 12" square.

If your crate is a different sized adjust the size of your fabric cuts accordingly. The fabric cut dimensions are 1" greater that width and circumference of the crate.

Step 3: Cut Landscaping Fabric

For six milk crates with the least waste.

3 - 13" x 36" pieces vertically from the fabric
2 - 49" x 36 pieces vertically from the fabric

Now cut each:

13" x 36" piece into two 13" x 13" bottoms
49" x 36" piece into three 49" x 12" sides

You should now have an even 6 bottoms and 6 sides ready to be sewn together.

Step 4: Sew Liners

- place the bottom 13 x 13" piece on top of the sides 49 x 12" piece
- line up edges and corner.
- sew along the long edge
- stop 3/4" before end of the bottom piece's edge
- lift the pressure foot and rotate
- continue around  remaining three edges
- finally sew the side edge seam


Step 5: Insert Liner

Line up seam on side and stretch over edges of the crate.

Step 6: Add Dirt and Plants ... Wait ... Eat!


Water transplants well and fertilize regularly.



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     GREAT STUFF- I've done container gardening like this for years.  Don't have to live in an apt though.  I've done it in both my apt and now my house.  It keeps "things" under a bit more control (not being a control freak though).  The concern about drying out is a real issue.  I learned to mix a very light soil mix of 50-50 potting soil and mulch.  Yes P/soil already has mulch in it but here, more is better.  When living in a 4th floor walk-up dragging things up those stairs lighter is better.
    I also learned that where space is an issue, you can plant like others would never think of.  I've planted root crops (beets and carrots) under my pepper plants.  I've planted Corn to shade my delicate herbs.  Corn only grows just so high in a container- experiment with it.
    This is great though-I never thought of landscape fabric.  I've used 5 gal buckets with holes near the bottom.  I've used empty cans and bottles to keep the weight down and promote drainage too.  miracle grow was also a big boost as well.
    Happy Harvest! 


    How in the world do you plant root crops UNDER other vegetables? I plant on my deck, small space and would love to know in detail how to make this work!

    Same pot. the carrots and beets (for example) grow down while the jalapeño's grow into a bush. the greens mix and they don't really seem to care, the roots grow around or past each other so that's cool too. One new issue is that I've found you can over-winter pepper plants so you don't need to grow the roots and branches again. I've saved ONE pepper plant from last year in a dry cool area and so far it looks good. Just waiting for warmer weather to put it out again. So in this case, you wouldn't want to be pulling beets out of the dirt and ruining the roots of the pepper plant. Remind me to post on the overwintered plant as I go along this summer. I don't do too much with instructables anymore as I became weary of the moron commentaries so if you remind me now and again I'll do it - Deal? 8-D

    I like your use of the sewing machine seems like a lot easier than using a hot glue gun, which is what I did. Now, to make life easier what do you think of putting a trash bag in the milk crate underneath, adding some wicks to the bottom of the other milk crate and letting the little buggers water themselves?

    For those who need these milk crates, you can find them here:

    What soil mixture do you use?

    Nice idea and excellent to recycle milk cartons as planters instead of letting that balcony storage space go to clutter and junk!

    Such a great idea! I was thinking what to use on my balcony to have a small garden and this is perfect! I have a place where i can collect a lot of this boxes. Ah, this came to me in the perfect timing!

    Thank you!!!