Farm Lessons: No new plastic buckets!

Posted on Aug 7, 2011 | 3 comments

No plastic buckets!! That’s my personal version of the infamous “No wire hangers!” Luckily, my verision is usually silent,  to myself at the store, standing among the tempting rows buckets in pretty candy colors. On a farm, a plastic bucket, or plastic anything, is often just trash waiting to happen.

I hated plastic buckets long before my friends Diana & Elizabeth brought my attention to oxidation. Now, like a bad pop song, oxidation— in this case the weakening of plastic by sunlight—is stuck in my head. Don’t let the cowboy hat fool you, Diana takes care of her garden tools like a classic English gardener of yore. There is a paintbrush for specifically for brushing away grass from the mower deck as she demonstrates in the photo below. Oil and sandpaper make wooden tool handles glow. Things are hung in their place. She’s a shero of mine for this.

Tool maintenance was one of my garden resolutions this year. Thanks to Diana’s influence, and Mendy’s friendly reminders, I don’t blatantly leave my tools out in the rain all season anymore. Keeping tools dry has been an easy resolution since there’s been no rain to speak of during our two and half month bone-dry dustbowl. That was preceded by flooding during which it was too wet to dig anything and the tools were idled (but dry) in the shed.   (Don’t get me started on the weather…)

Last time I visited Diana & Elizabeth’s garden, Elizabeth drew my attention to putting plastic things out of the sun because the oxidation weakens the plastic. The next thing that happens is they end up in the trash bin faster than ever because let’s just say you cannot recycle most of this stuff.

So now I’m also obsessed with oxidation and the plastic I still have is often sitting out in the sun somewhere. Previously, I just hated plastic buckets because they bust at the first sign of ice and crack when it gets any age on it. By age I mean about twenty minutes it seems. No new plastic!

There are exceptions, of course. Like my wonderful heated chicken bucket for winter, which I bought  not knowing then the heaters are available for metal buckets too.  There are also the darned handy 5-gallon buckets from your friend the painter or dry-waller. Recycled and near-indestructible—barring dinner guests backing over them in their car—those still have a part to play on most every farm…  (If you have goats, remove the handles or they will get them stuck on their heads. Take it from me that is far more distressing than comical!)

Oh, and my beloved tree-watering plastic storage bins….I haven’t figured out a reasonable replacement for those yet and they’ve been the key to survival of every fruit tree at Larrapin this year….

As for farm buckets, make mine metal. Next time I buy a watering can, it’s going to be the old fashioned metal kind. Metal farm buckets look nice and blend into the farm landscape without any glaring plastic colors or without looking like you left your mop bucket out in the yard. No worries with oxidation or lack of recycling of plastic. They last years and years (even with the occational ice) without rust or holes and when they do get them, no problem—you have a lovely vintage planter you made yourself instead of having to buy it at that antique store!

And finally, if it’s beyond all use, you can always recycle metal! And while the upfront cost is much more, I can’t help but think it’s pays for itself quickly with long functional use and a use even after it’s not functional to hold water…So I’ll keep saying to mayself when faced with alluring colors: no new plastic buckets!

—A Larrapin Garden
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  1. Good, good stuff. Thank you dear sister. Will try to implement on my farm. Excellent FireHouseSubs recycled buckets comment, for those of us that need indoor, large dog watering buckets. Xo

  2. :<) i always enjoy your blog! i hear ya about the plastic buckets but they're useful and especially if you've recycled them from a restaurant/painter especially. i will try to remember to bring themout of the sun. thou i do collect rainwater in them——–whenever that luxury happens.

  3. Another exception is the red 5-gallon pickle buckets from Fire House Subs. The couple of dollars they charge goes to their Public Safety Foundation to help equip first responders.

    And after a series of broken plastic watering cans, I now have a galvanized one from the farm supply store. It makes me smile every time I use it!