93 Year Old Dumpster Diving Urban Gardener

May 30, 2011 by

93 year-old Robert Horton, Jr., on his downtown Greenwich, CT patio.

My 93 year-old father-in-law is a dumpster diver. During one of his recent expeditions into the trash at a neighboring elementary school, he discovered some metal file cabinets whose perfectly good castors he plucked to use on the base of the dolly he made for his Smart Pot #3, 10 Inch – 3 Gallon Container – 5 Pack “>Smart Pot, below.

Smart Pot gets rolling with DIY dolly.

“The town dump doesn’t allow residents to take things, but I have a deal with the guy there, so he lets me grab things,” the nonagenarian confided to me. “I recently found a practically new bicycle whose handle bar was a little bent. I fixed it and gave to my neighbor whose kid wanted a bike.”

Cold frame made from old storm windows.

For his lettuces, above, Horton constructed a cold frame from old storm windows and scrap wood, then upcycled the seats from discarded beach chairs to cover his crops at night. He grows tomatoes and lettuce on the patio of his downtown apartment, and has invited me to cultivate a bunch of new things with him, turning his patio into a quasi community garden.

He loves his Smart Pot #3, 10 Inch – 3 Gallon Container – 5 Pack “>Smart Pot because it is lightweight and easy to move. By placing the container on his homemade dolly, he is able to wheel it into the sun at various times of the day, making the most of his small garden space.

Horton, a lifelong avid gardener who served in WWII with The Army Core of Engineers, has been tinkering with DIY projects for decades. Over the years, he’s designed and built furniture, carved wood whales and birds, constructed miniature villages, and once built a 12 1/2 foot Blue Jay sailboat in his basement. For his various projects, he rarely buys anything he can recycle or make himself. “Why let all this good stuff go to waste when you can use it?” says Horton. It’s a line worth reusing.

SmartPots are soft growing containers good for keeping the root system from overheating on hot days. Smart Pot #3, 10 Inch – 3 Gallon Container – 5 Pack “>Purchase SmartPots here.



  1. Sharon Wong said:

    Way to Go Mr. Horton! I love it when discards become something of value again. I’ve dipped into our municipal tips before (in England) and found enough bits and pieces for me to create my home-made prototype which has now turned into a patent-pending product and selling really well!

    All the Best,

    — May 31, 2011 @ 07:22

  2. hazel jarvis said:

    What a great story. what a great Father.

    — May 31, 2011 @ 07:28

  3. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Yes I know Sharon, and I am so proud to have featured your Figo Frames at the beginning before you launched them! Congrats on their success!

    — May 31, 2011 @ 08:28

  4. Annie Haven | Authentic Haven Brand said:

    Hi Robin great blog post I’m in love with your father in-law already. Annie

    — May 31, 2011 @ 09:31

  5. Wicked Gardener said:

    Awesome! I wish more like him would write blogs. I’d love weekly updates on his projects!

    — May 31, 2011 @ 11:36

  6. Kim Horton said:

    What a nice piece about an extremely creative man! Thanks, Robin, for sharing his sense of caring with others.

    — June 1, 2011 @ 21:43

  7. Jennfer Jasmine said:

    Exemplary. And…93?? Absolutely not apparent!

    — July 20, 2011 @ 22:40

  8. Lise Pyles said:

    I just found this story and really enjoyed it. Mr. Horton reminds me of my own dad — a veteran, veteran dumpster diver and great gardener. His name was Jay and he built a sailboat in his garage. Thanks for the smiles.

    — September 21, 2011 @ 12:36

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