Tobacco-cans for container gardening (Greet VYVEY / Willem Van Cotthem)

Message received from Greet VYVEY (Belgium):

“I try to grow some vegetables aboard of my river vessel.  Your container gardening method seems very appealing.  Thanks for the suggestions on your blog.  As I am not using PET bottles, I suppose that I can use other containers too.

I intend to use empty tobacco cans.  These are light and generally thrown in the waste bin.  Inside they have a shiny coating.

A friend wondered what the effect of this coating could be on the potting soil and on edible plants.

I suppose the cans contain aluminum, but that is also the case for some cooking pots and tableware.  I was reading online that aluminum is possibly harmful at lower pH (below 6.5), so I presume that the coating will reduce the effect to almost zero.  What’s your opinion about this ?

In attachment you will find some photos of my “hanging” garden.”

2010-04 - Hanging garden inside Greet VYVEY's river vessel (Photo G. VYVEY).
2010-04 - A row of hanging tobacco bins to be used for container gardening (Photo G. VYVEY).
2010-04 - The system used by Greet VYVEY to hang her tobacco cans on the wall in the river vessel (Photo G. VYVEY).


Dear Greet,

I suppose you are completely right about the protective effect of the coating inside the tobacco cans.  I do not see how this could harm the quality of vegetables grown inside the cans.

Let me recommend to perforate the wall of each can at the front side (the side towards you !) by pinching 1 small hole some 3 cm above the bottom of the can. This hole will be very useful to evacuate all surplus of water that could be standing in the cans after watering them.  Standing water would acidify the substrate and finally kill the roots.  Below the small hole, a bit of water will be kept in each can to keep the substrate humid for a certain time.

The only ensuing difficulty for you will be to collect the drops of water dripping from the cans if you water them too much, but I suppose this will be a matter of experience.

I wish you a lot of success with your original idea.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.