Hello! I saw an idea online for making a raised container garden out of a...

Asked April 8, 2019, 1:45 PM EDT

Hello! I saw an idea online for making a raised container garden out of a metal file cabinet by removing the drawers and turning it on it’s back. My question is whether or not it would be safe to eat veggies grown in such a container. One suggestion was to paint it inside and out with non-toxic paint. Another was to put plastic containers inside, and plant in the containers. Wondering about the safest method. Thanks!

Cuyahoga County Ohio container vegetable gardening vegetable safety

1 Response

Hello and thanks for using Ask a Master Gardener with your question about container gardening. While the thought of recycling containers is appealing, care should be taken as you have ask.

I reviewed what I found online about the idea of using a metal file cabinet for a raised garden bed. While it may seem like a safe idea, there may be concerns with using such an item.

The main source of concern is the metal itself. In looking through the research based materials about containers, the use of galvanized metal caught my attention. Here is a quote from a fact sheet that I have posted below:

"Galvanized steel tubs or pots are sometimes used as containers for gardening. The primary component of galvanizing is zinc, which is applied to steel to prevent corrosion (American Galvanizers Association, 2008). Many manufactured products with zinc-plating or galvanized metal containers are potential sources of cadmium (Hodel and Chang, 2009), and both zinc and cadmium are potentially-harmful contaminants at high levels of exposure (Intawongse and Dean, 2006)."

The entire fact sheet is found here:

https://louisville.edu/cepm/pg-28

Cadmium can be absorbed by leafy green vegetables.

Other sources of contamination can come from your choice of soil or soilless mix to plant into. If you placed plastic container inside the file cabinet and grew within the container with no contact with the galvanized metal, there should not be a source of contamination.

Other research information I could find will be in these links:

https://extension.illinois.edu/containergardening/choosing_material.cfm

https://www.extension.iastate.edu/smallfarms/toxicity-concerns-about-raised-bed-construction-materia...

I hope that this helps you with your decision on recycling your containers to grow food. Thanks for the question.