The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

Fish boxes recycled


There has been recent interest in the fish box make over photo I posted last year. Here is some more information about them. I have put details of how to do the makeover in answer to one of the comments received so will not repeat the instructions. The first photo shows that boxes come in different depths and sizes. Because they are light to move I find the small but deeper box best. If you can definitely leave the boxes insitu then the large size will extend the range of plants which can be grown but they may break if you try to move filled ones.

I chose this sedum to fill the boxes because I know it will spill over and cover the sides eventually.It has the advantage of being a quick growing plant.

In the photo below the difference in only a few months is wonderful. Already some of the sedums are starting to tumble over the edge.

The largerboxes now house some day lilies. There are some flower buds starting to appear.

Our wall is inside our garden. We built it to keep out invasive weeds from next door. When I realised we were going to be overlooked as badly as I feared when we protested against the decision to allow a bungalow to be replaced with this 8.6m high house I planted 2 eucalyptus trees in our garden.One inside and one outside the wall but still in our garden. Then they put in a leylandii hedge on our south border. Then they were given permission to build an extension which is a another problem. I am trying hard to make something we can live with as I pursue other avenues of redress. I can’t discuss those it upsets me too much.
The last photo shows the corner at 8am on a bright sunny morning. The yellow flowers brighten it up when the sun goes round.

We took a wire brush and roughened the outer surface of the sides of the box, remember to take it up over the lip and down past where the soil level will be. Then it is just a case of painting it with the masonry paint. If there is writing on the box and you do not get it all off then you may need to give that side a few extra coats. We only used 2 coats. Cut a couple of holes in the floor of the box, put broken crocks in the bottom for drainage, fill with compost, general purpose is fine with some extra grit added and you are ready to plant up. We did the work above over two lessons – one preparing and painting and on the 2nd we filled and planted up the dry boxes. The paint goes off quickly at this time of year and you can do a 2nd coat of paint if you leave them then for a week to dry thoroughly. Unfortunately I ran over one of the boxes above and then my husband picked up the second and dropped it so neither have survived very long but I have lots more. We painted them on a production line basis taking turns to wire brush and paint them. I want a living top for the garden wall so I have some done. They are filled with bright yellow flowering sedums. I managed to get some of the larger size fish boxes and I have day lilies in them on top of the wall.

More blog posts by scotsgran

Previous post: Are plants more expensive than they were 30 years ago?

Next post: Kailzie (Kay-lee) Garden near Peebles.



thanks for this! with the information on the photo, it's pretty much a complete how-to

14 Jul, 2011


I have managed to copy the instructions in the photo and paste in at the end of this blog. I look forward to seeing your finished boxes.

14 Jul, 2011


bless you! many thanks, that'll save me changing screens.

*s* don't hold your breath, though - I really should work on "needs to be done" in rotation before I start going off at tandents - it's because I've done so much of that that I've got so many things that "need to be done" now!

14 Jul, 2011


You are not alone.LOL.

14 Jul, 2011


That is largely how we make our fish box troughs, Scotsgran, don't they look good. You have an impressive number of polystyrene boxes in the pictures, where do you get them from. We used to get from the Tesco fish counter but they now use hard plastic which cleaned and re-used.

14 Jul, 2011


I scrounged two from the pile of rubbish outside our local mini-supermarket.

I was trying to find a way to use them as moulds, and re-use them; then I could make as many as I needed or wanted.

The only "recipes" I've found are to put chicken wire around the outside for strength, then put Hypertufa inside and out.

I was wondering if I could put the box in a plastic sack, mould the chicken wire and Hytertufa the outside, then remove the box (probably leaving the sack behind) and then do the inside.

I've never done anything like this before, so I'm not too sure about it - all the "recipes" call for Portland cement, which has several safety notes attached to it. I don't know why Portland cement rather than any other type. I've seen packs of ready-mix, just-add-water concrete, but don't know if they'd be any good.

*s* probably only one way for me to find out, unless someone in GoY is a concrete expert (which wouldn't surprise me, GoYers cover the whole spectrum of practical skills)

15 Jul, 2011


There is another way of using fish boxes to make hyper-tufa troughs but it won't preserve your box. Instead of the wire netting make a large number of medium sized holes in all four walls and the base of the fish box and apply your cement so that it connects the inside and outside walls of the trough.

15 Jul, 2011


ok, ta. hmm, I have some plastic trays, actually cat-litter boxes that I've been using to stand plants in. I can practice on them - they're easy enough to buy!

15 Jul, 2011


Do you go in to Elgin BB or Inverness, Asda do still use the polystyrene boxes. Local fishmongers, even hotels will probably get their fish in polystyrene boxes and they have to pay to get rid of them. What about fish and chip shops. Up your way they will not be using frozen fish. I get mine from the cash and carry but I know there is not one near you.

17 Jul, 2011 will sell you new boxes. Have a look at the link above. This is another link but they do not quote prices.

18 Jul, 2011


I found a couple more boxes that I'd forgotten about - I save all the polystyrene boxes that some goods come packed in. fpr "one day it'll come in handy". lol don't often go to the back of the top shelf in the cupboard!

Some of these have contoured interiors, bowl-shaped or stepped; think I was thinking of using them as moulds to make plaster casts. But I suppose I can [carefully!] hollow them out and they'll do for mini-beds

lol Scotsgran, old principle: if you have to ask the price you can't afford it! I've saved both links, thanks for them, doubt I'll have space for the minimum they sell, but it can go under "one day etc"

hmm, might it be worth asking if they have seconds? slight defects that mean they can't be used for the intended purpose, but still ok for ours?

18 Jul, 2011


Thanks for the hint about Asda, Scotsgran. I will check them out next time we are in Elgin.

18 Jul, 2011


Franl you can only ask but I would think it wouldbe more hassle than it would be worth for them. The first quoted link are offering boxes from £!3 for 10 but as I did not try to order it may be plus vat and plus postage. If that is all they cost it would be worth buying new as there would be no fishy smells. BB make sure you always carry black bin bags with you to put any boxes in as they can be a bit whiffy even if they have been washed out by the shop. Might be worth phoning ahead of a visit. Sainsburys were happy to let me have what they had but I could have had more if I had known when their deliveries were due in and when they were most likely to have boxes available. Our shop said Wednesday am but I was never in the shop on a Wednesday and too far to make a special trip.

18 Jul, 2011


Sainsburys as well? We have a new one opening in August and its only five miles away. At last - a decent supermarket, supermarket price petrol and fish boxes as a bonus :-)

18 Jul, 2011


Well done on making adaptations to your garden while you are under stress from the unwelcome building work.
The boxes are fascinating :o)

Added this blog to Privacy Ideas and Sedums.

18 Jul, 2011


and the bought bpxes come with the option of drainage holes already. saves some work there!

18 Jul, 2011


You look like you could be on to a winner Bb. You will have heard of sedum living roofs Terra, this is just a variation on the theme. I was not aware of the bought boxes coming with ready made drainage holes Franl. Which site was that on?

18 Jul, 2011


I checked the first site you gave, Scotsgran - the one that showed the prices, lol - and flicked thorugh various sections, then went back to "polystyrrene boxes" and got the main page, all measurements, and I think it said there that they came with or without perforations.

just grabbed your link again and had another look; yep! under the clickable categories is a list of all, and between the two is the "holey" option

18 Jul, 2011


Thanks for that. Some of the ones I get do come with holes along the bottom of the short sides but I still put a couple of holes in the floor. I also rest the boxes on pieces of slate to allow excess water to drain away but not high enough to get caught by the wind. I'm looking forward to seeing lots more recycled fish boxes around in future.

19 Jul, 2011


I was thinking, that if I ever got round to trying Hypertufa, of putting some ridges on the bottom so that hte box wouldn't stand slightly proud of the surface and not sit in a puddle.

I've got my tubs standing on gravel in trays, but, wtih the amount of rain we've had here recently, I've had to go and bale them out, so I need to rethink that - or at least get trays that I can fill to the brim with gravel so the pots will stand above the water level

19 Jul, 2011

Add a comment

Featured on

Recent posts by scotsgran

Members who like this blog

  • Gardening with friends since
    9 Jun, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    18 Sep, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    8 Apr, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    14 Aug, 2008

Garden centre