Can You Plant Vegetables In A Rusty Container?

Are you a creative gardener who likes to try out new ways to plant your vegetables but are unsure whether it will benefit them? No gardener wants their vegetable harvest to be unsuccessful, and you would be surprised to hear all about planting your vegetables in rusty containers and what you must look out for!

Rust from metal containers will not harm your vegetables as long as the rust doesn’t come from metal with toxic materials, such as dissolving agents, oil, or paint. Vegetables grown in rusty containers are 100% safe to consume. Rust can benefit your vegetables by providing iron through the soil. 

Metal containers can look tasteful and is a wonderful way to spice up your vegetable garden! Keep reading to find out how planting your vegetables in rusty containers could affect them!

Is It Safe To Plant Vegetables In A Rusty Container?

There are times when rusty containers seem to be the best option for growing your plants. It is not only cost-effective, but it could just give your garden the vintage aesthetic you may be looking for. It will be very common to see rust on your plant containers, especially when growing them outdoors.

However, since rust is often equated with decay and tetanus, there are a few concerns about health and safety. Many gardeners even ask if a rusty planter is safe for growing their plants and vegetables.

Vegetables will not just grow but thrive in rusty containers, and they are safe to eat. This is because the plants absorb the rust released into the soil and turn it into iron. The only possible exception is when rust occurs in a very acidic type of soil where the iron becomes too much for the plants and could negatively affect them. 

The Pros And Cons Of Metal Containers

As aforementioned, what is so great about metal planters is that they offer functionality with affordability, but metal is also an extremely common material. Metal is also very diverse, making it easy to turn this material into just about anything if you are creative, of course!

The Pros

  • Durable

The only thing that will cause your metal containers to show weakness is water. Other than this, metal has very few weaknesses. Metal is the ultimate champion in the material world, which means it is super durable. 

Because of metal’s durability, a metal pot and container are a smart choice to use for planting purposes. Because a common gardener’s vegetable plants are outdoors, the pots are subjected to all the harsh elements. These are things like heatwaves, rainstorms, and severe winds.

 Obviously, you as a gardener will need to choose containers that will withstand all these different encounters without being broken or cracked, harming the vegetables. You are in luck because metal pots can be just that for you!

  • Easily Used In Gardening

Metal is one of the most common materials in the world, and when you look around in a rural area, it could be next to impossible to spot an area that doesn’t make use of some form of metal. However, if you are new to growing vegetables, you might wonder why you would need metal in your home.

You might have all your favorite vegetables, but we tend to forget the one vegetable that is always in high demand: tomatoes. Tomatoes are different from other vegetables, as they don’t spread out on a flat surface like cucumbers and squash, but they grow upwards like a vine.

For tomatoes to grow successfully, they need support, and this is where metal could come in handy. You could easily attach a metal tomato cage to your metal container with just a few screws. If you were to get a cage that was galvanized, it would still be highly beneficial and would be able to withstand months of harsh weather and rain without getting rusty.

The Cons

  • Extreme Heat And Insulation

Although metal may be the strongest in the element world, it definitely has some disadvantages that could come into play when using it as a container to grow your vegetables. One of the biggest disadvantages you will notice when planting in metal containers would be its capacity to conduct heat.

All plants require sunlight to grow to their fullest potential, and vegetables are no exception. If you have vegetables that need an abundance of sunlight, it goes without saying that you will need to set your pot in an area that has maximum sun exposure.

If you planted in a metal container, the direct sun it gets throughout the day could heat up the soil and heat the roots. Once the roots have been heated up for longer periods, they could completely dry out and die. 

Metal is also poor for any insulation and, therefore, will not be able to protect your vegetables from varying temperatures.

  • Rust

You already know that rust is generally not at all harmful to your plants. Even though it may not be the demise of your vegetable garden’s harvest and success, it can still take its toll on the visual aspect of your potting area.

If you are using a metal container that is not galvanized, the likeliness of rust occurring over time is definite and unstoppable. Because of the rust, your once shiny and pretty container may become streaked or completely red and brown, tainting and changing the overall aesthetic of your space.

Some gardeners may not be bothered by the appearance of rust at all, and it is nothing but a personal preference. If you do not prefer rusty containers, ungalvanized metal is something you should steer clear of.

  • Metal Is Non-Porous

Of course, all living things need water to survive. Water is essential and is a primary source of life for your vegetable garden, big or small. But, water could also mean the death of your vegetables if given too much too often.

When watered, your vegetable plants will need to be able to drain off the water when potted. Metal is non-porous, meaning it cannot assist in water absorption if your plants are given too much.

If you buy a metal container and overwater your plants, the water will begin to pool at the bottom of the container. This will not only speed up the rusting process, but it will cause your plants’ roots to mold and eventually rot.

To avoid this problem, be sure to purchase a metal container with drain holes in the bottom, assuring that any excess water can escape through them. If you have a metal container already in use without drainage holes, simply grab a drill and make your own drainage holes!

How To Prevent Your Metal Containers From Rusting

No gardener dreams of rust on their favorite metal containers, but as said, it is next to impossible to prevent it from happening. Is there a way to keep your metal containers from getting rusty over time?

Untreated metal containers made up out of iron will inevitably rust over a certain period when continuously exposed to oxygen and water. The combination of exposure to water and oxygen is deadly to iron because both of these components have opposite charges, creating a fatal attraction. 

When oxygen and water are combined, the iron atom will lose three electrons, and the oxygen atom gains two. The loss of electrons from iron forms a ferric oxide, known as your everyday, common rust. 

To fight this reaction, zinc can be put on your metal containers to create galvanized steel. Galvanized steel containers are a smart option for planting your vegetables as they will keep from rusting and have a longer life, even when exposed to harsh elements.


Vegetables in metal containers can look fabulous. You can use anything from feeding troughs and steel boxes to simple, household tin cans. You can achieve hundreds of looks and styles by using metal containers without breaking the bank. 

To sum it all up, if your types of vegetable plants love acidic soil, you can be assures that they will grow well in rusty containers, well being safe to eat in your homemade meals! Unless your containers hold any toxic chemicals, the rust will not affect any of your plants. Remember always to be sure that your metal containers are toxic-free!

After reading all the information, you can rest assured and get creative with your vegetable garden while reaping all the best benefits of growing your own fresh produce.


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