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Raised Bed Alternative | Preparing Totes for Growing Food | Storage Container Gardening



Many people who don't have a yard large enough for a traditional garden are discouraged to even start one. Although it may not be possible to grow a full scale garden, growing in portable raised beds (totes) will allow you to grow enough variety of produce for at least a season long.


Is growing food in plastic totes safe?


The short answer to this question is, YES!! Think about if for a moment. When you go to your local plant stores, the majority of them are in plastic pots. Generally speaking, the darker and thicker the plastic, the better it will be for your plants. You also want to look at the number found inside of the triangular shaped arrows on the plastic that you are using whether it be a tote, or regular plastic pot.


Here is an example below:








We typically use plastic totes that we get from our local hardware store, or local super centers. They cost around $5 with the lid, and they will withstand the heat really well.


Plastic Totes VS Raised Garden Bed from Wood


We typically say that if you have the space, then you should invest in a raised garden bed made of naturally rot resistant wood such as Cedar. However, as of this writing, the price of wood in this current post pandemic climate is astronomically high. Some local hardware stores are selling wood for 2-4 times the original cost prior to the pandemic. If you have the extra money to spend, then feel free to go ahead and get yourself set up. However, If it is not in your budget to pay such high prices for wood and other lumber related materials, then consider getting and setting up a raised garden bed made from totes. It is the most cost effecting method of growing food in this current climate.

You also have the benefit of plant Isolation. By this I mean that if you run into a situation where you have some kind of bug infestation, you can simply move the tote, and isolate that problem until you get it resolved. This actually brings me to another big advantage of growing plants in totes as opposed to wooden raised beds. You get a lot of mobility with your garden. If you arrange that plants a certain way and you decided that you do not like the set up, simply rearrange, until you are satisfied with the outcome. Wooden raised beds usually stay where you put them.


Looking For the Right Tote


We typically go for plastic totes that are food safe, and chemical free. below is a chart that shows you what number to look for when purchasing your tote.




We normally look for a number 5 inside the triangles because this number is commonly found in bottle caps, straws, syrup bottles, medicine bottles, and other food containers. This type of plastic also has a high melting point.


If you are unable to find a #5 tote, then you can replace them with other totes that are chemical free. Please see the chart and familiarize yourself with the numbers. Finding this type of tote should not be a problem though because they are usually available at many stores.


Lets Get Started

Once you have your tote, it is time to prep it for planting.


Tot Prep


1) Cut holes in the tote to allow good water drainage.

We live in South Florida and it gets really hot here in the summer time. We also do not have a lot of time to spend in the garden as we would like to do. For these reasons, we cut our holes on the sides of the tote about 2-3 inches off of the ground. This way the plants can retain some of the water and wick up as necessary from the water reserve stored in the bottom of the tote. If you are in a colder climate, you may want to place your holes on the bottom of the tote so that the water can freely drain out.



2) Fill


We typically fill our totes with branches, shrubs, and other plant matter that we find laying around the garden. We also use some food scraps when available. We fill up the tote about 3/4 of the way with these food and plant materials from the largest pieces being on the bottom, to the smallest pieces being on the top.


We typically fill our totes with branches, shrubs, and other plant matter that we find laying around the garden. We also use some food scraps when available. We fill up the tote about 3/4 of the way with these food and plant materials from the largest pieces being on the bottom, to the smallest pieces being on the top.









The higher you go, the smaller and more broken down, the plant matter should be.

We are using a soil mixture that we found at a farmers market in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. We dug up some native soil and added this organic garden soil mix to it. We did a ratio of 1 to 1 with this mixture.









It took a while to mix thoroughly with the garden tool that I was using but I wanted to get a good mix. This is not necessary and if you do not want to, or do not have the time to mix, then do not worry about it. Just follow the method of stacking from sticks and shrubs to your potting soil layer at the top. However, if you do decide to do it this way, it is best that you mix the native soil and the potting mix in a separate container and then add it to your tote after has been thoroughly mixed as seen below.








After this native soil/potting mix combo has been added to the tote, we then add another layer of potting mix on top and mix the surface area by hand.

Once this is done, then you are ready to plant and water. For this tote, we are planning to add some sprouted turmeric rhizomes. We try to grow the thinks that we tend to use the most, and ginger and turmeric are high on that list.


If you feel that this post was helpful and someone that you know may benefit from the information, then please share this with them. We wish you all a happy planting season and a bountiful harvest. Until next time, peace and love.


Here is the accompanying video to this blog that will show you step by step how to prep you tote for planting food.













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2 Comments


What kind of drill bit is that? Sorry, probably a silly question, but I honestly don't know! Thanks for posting this! We're going to try it this week!

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Lynette Lo
Lynette Lo
Jun 30, 2022

How would you use, Epsom salt, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar to enhance growing process and protect from

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