Milk Crate Gardening: How To

Milk Crate Garden Installation 8

By Karen Dewhirst
Museum Experience Manager – Science/Exhibits

When the opportunity arose to add another rooftop teaching garden at the Creative Discovery Museum, I wanted to do something unusual. Of course, milk crates came to mind! I had seen them used on a cooking show to create a rooftop garden and tucked the idea away. Milk crates are light, easily available in large quantities, portable, inexpensive and stackable. You can create your own milk crate garden to suit any space you have available. Here’s how:

  1. Plot out your garden on graph paper. Our milk crates are roughly 12” x 12” x 12”. One square on the graph paper equaled on milk crate. Count the number of crates you will need.
  2. Decide if you want to elevate some or all of the milk crates by stacking them to create layers and height in your garden. Multiply the number of crates needed to outline the garden in step 1 by the number of crates in each stack.
  3. Order or purchase milk crates, landscape fabric, staple gun and staples, and potting soil from a retail source.
  4. Line the top milk crate with landscape fabric; stapling it in place. Be sure to overlap the fabric in the corners to keep the potting soil from coming out. Each of our milk crates needed a 3’ x 3’ square of landscape fabric.
  5. Fill the lined milk crate with potting soil up to the rim to allow for settling. I like to use “moisture control” potting soil to keep the watering down to once per day. Slow release fertilizer in the potting soil is also handy. Each of our milk crates holds 1 cubic foot of potting soil.
  6. Plant seeds or ornamentals that are appropriate for the sun exposure in your chosen location. I planted all kinds of edible fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
  7. Each milk crate is fairly small; about 1 cubic foot. Keep in mind the final size of the plants you choose when deciding how many to put in each milk crate. A good resource is Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew.
  8. Water daily and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

For inspiration, come check out our new milk crate “Secret” garden located on the Rooftop Fun Factory!

Milk Crate Garden Installation 6

Volunteers from the Hamilton County Master Gardeners worked with Karen (far right) to install the milk crate “Secret” garden on the Rooftop Fun Factory.

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