Vintage sinks are ready-made planters that even have a built-in drain. They’re great for growing vegetables, flowers, and creating mini-ponds, and look beautiful too. This piece includes tips on where to find them and how to plant them up as vintage sink planters.
A couple of years ago I noticed a beat-up old Belfast sink at our allotment garden. There’s a path that leads from the car park to the field and someone had left the sink just off to the side. It was as if they’d unloaded it and were going to move it onto their plot. It sat there for six months before I decided to take it home and give it new life.
Stoneware sinks of all kinds are perfect for growing veg or flowers. It’s kind of a no-brainer since they have a built-in drain and the thickness of the stone can protect plant roots and bulbs from extreme temperatures. In fact, I’ve planted my Belfast sink up with a bulb lasagne and the bulbs lasted two years before I replanted them. They’re also built to last so a Belfast sink will become a shabby-chic garden feature that outlives all your other planters.
Ideas for Vintage Sink Planters
I was incredibly excited to take the abandoned sink home. It looks good and I knew from other gardeners that stoneware sinks are incredibly versatile planters. You can plant them with all manner of greens and flowers or even use one to create a mini-pond. Not only are they practical but their crisp white lines are a contrast to the living green that pours from them. They add so much character to the garden, no matter how you have them planted. Here are some ideas:
- Create an alpine garden
- Plant them with spring bulbs using the bulb lasagne method
- Grow culinary herbs like coriander (cilantro), basil, and thyme
- Fill them with water to create a water feature
- Pack them with succulent plants like hen and chicks
- Insert a trellis in them and grow sweet peas
Finding Vintage Belfast Sinks
I actually damaged my car getting the thing home and probably hurt my back a little in the process. It doesn’t look that big but it weighs a ton. A little less actually, 47 kilograms (103 pounds) of dead weight to be exact. I managed to get it into the passenger side of my little car, scraping the inner part of the door frame in the process. Moral of the story: when you find your own planter, make sure you ask someone to help you move it.
Here on the Isle of Man I’ve seen quite a few vintage stoneware sinks being used to feed and water livestock. If I were looking for another one locally I’d probably ask a farmer or go to a Buy-and-Sell group on Facebook. On a small island like ours, it’s amazing how things can come out of the woodwork if you just ask if anyone had one for sale. As for price, I’ve seen old ones like my own for £5-30 being sold online. In the UK, check Gumtree, eBay, and reclamation sites.
Across the pond, Belfast and butler sinks are more difficult to pick up. I’ve just done a quick search on Craigslist for ‘vintage sink’ though and there are plenty of listings. eBay is the same and my search just now turned up some pretty funky pink, blue, and green retro sinks.
How to plant Vintage Sink Planters
The trick to a successful vintage sink planter is to make sure the drain isn’t plugged up with soil. Placing gravel, crocks, shells, and pebbles in the bottom can help excess water to escape. On top of that place your compost, then whatever you’re growing. Finally, a layer of grit or gravel on top to keep the compost from drying out and eroding. Plants have no problem pushing through.
- Place the sink in its final position before planting. It will be back-breaking to move afterward
- It will help drainage if you can place the sink on bricks or wooden blocks
- Fill the bottom of the sink with 1-2″ of gravel, crocks, shells, pebbles, or small rocks
- Fill the sink with compost up to 1″ from the top or overflow drain that might be on the side
- Sow with seeds or dig in your plants
- Top dress with grit or gravel and then water