Container Gardening: An Ultimate Guide

Container Gardening: An Ultimate Guide

Last Updated on July 21, 2020

As the name suggests, container gardening is the practice of growing plants, including fruits and vegetables in a container instead of growing them in the ground.

While it may appear to be a suitable practice for growing small plants, this type of gardening can literally be used to grow anything that does not have a large, spreading root system.

So if you live in an apartment and have outdoor space constraints or if you are concerned about poor soil quality in your neighborhood, try container gardening.

With clusters of containers of your choice, a container garden can add color and vibrancy to your yard and create a welcoming décor on your stair case and a relaxed ambiance in your patio.

If you are a novice gardener and don’t know how to get started with container gardening, this post if for you.

Here you will find out what container gardening actually is and what types of fruits and vegetables you can grow in a container garden.

You will also learn about what you will need to grow a container garden and once you have planted it, how to take care of it. So let’s get started.

Container Gardening – Overview

Woman Planting Veggies

As mentioned earlier, container gardening is the practice of growing plants in a container.

This cultivation in a confined space can be slightly different from growing plants in the ground. Let’s take a look at a few differences.  

  • Container gardening needs less water as compared to plants grown in the ground. However they need to be watered more frequently.
  • Container gardening can be done anywhere so you don’t need a designated outdoor space. Your balcony, patio, yard and even your kitchen window can be an excellent spot for your container garden.
  • The containers used for container gardening need to have a drainage system.
  • By using a variety of different pots, you can have a more vibrant garden, something that is not always possible in a ground garden. And if you want to change the color scheme, you can easily do it by repainting or simply by changing the container.
  • With a container garden, you can grow different variety of plants next to each other. This might not be possible in a ground garden where the garden soil is shared by different plants and it is not possible to meet the specific needs of each type of plant.
  • Depending upon the specific needs of your plants, you can change the location of your garden during the day.
  • Since container gardens have a small surface area, it is unlikely to experience problems like weeding with container gardens.  

All in all container gardens are more versatile, you can have more variety of plants, are mobile, need lesser but more frequent watering and adequate drainage.

And most importantly, you can have your container garden literally anywhere. Now let’s take a look at what types of fruits and vegetables you can grow in your container garden.  

What Vegetables are Good for Container Gardening?

If you are getting started with container gardening and want to find out which vegetables are good for growing in a container garden, your answer is simple.

You can literally grow anything and everything in your container garden that doesn’t have a spread out root system.

Some of the easiest vegetables to grow in your container garden include tomatoes, chives, peppers, salad greens, broccoli, peas and not to forget herbs. Find out 10 vegetables that you can easily grow in a container.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes In Containers

One of the easiest vegetables that can be grown in your container garden are tomatoes and watching them grow is incredibly satisfying.

While most varieties of tomatoes grow happily in larger containers with a little support (from tomato cage or simple staking), other varieties such as money maker can grow indoor.

Tomato plants do not do well during the cold season so it is a good idea to plant them during the warmer season.

An important thing to note is that tomato leaves may be toxic if ingested by pets so if you have cats and dogs around in the house, keep them away from your tomato container.

Salad Greens

Salad greens can grow really quickly and well in a container garden. Since container gardens have a lower risk of weeds and pests, you can safely grow cress, lettuce and other salad greens in your container.

And while you enjoy the tasty, healthy greens on your dinner table, you can also enjoy the serene, green look in your container garden.

Broccoli

Another vegetable that can grow exceptionally well in your container garden is broccoli.

However, once it grows, it spreads wide so make sure you choose a wide container for this vegetable.

Another thing to remember when growing broccoli in your container garden is that is needs frequent feeding and regular watering.

Carrots

Container Garden Carrots

Didn’t know carrots can be easily grown in a container garden?

You are not alone. You don’t always need a huge garden to enjoy the sweet treat but you definitely need a deeper container.

Make sure you choose a container that is at least 12 inches deep so the plant can grow adequately. Simply by using a fertilizer and regularly watering the plant, you can enjoy carrots all season long.

Peas

Do you have children at home who enjoy gardening? Or do you want to develop the love for gardening among your kids?

Try planting peas in your container garden. They can grow easily and quickly. And can be perfect for succession plantation.

So plant peas early in the spring. Make sure your children pluck them out once they finish producing.

And in the same container you can plant some other vegetable or peas again (a few months later).  

Chives and Cucumbers

Chives and cucumbers both do really well in containers. These water loving plants do best in heavy weight containers that can retain moisture and grow quickly in ideal conditions.

Peppers

Both chilies and capsicum can grow well in your container garden.

Whether you have an outdoor container garden or have an indoor windowsill, this star performer can continue to provide peppers in all colors, shapes and sizes with a varying level of spice that you can add to your salsa or salad.

Potatoes

Potatoes In Container

Fresh, home grown potatoes can be quite different from what you buy at the grocery store.

Want to experience the difference in taste?

Then try growing some potatoes in your container garden. While potatoes need a lot of water and good quality soil, in the end it is all worth putting in the effort

Herbs

Herbs can be an ideal addition to your container garden. The small plants with a shallow root system thrive well in containers. An added advantage is that you can continue to grow them throughout the year.

However, if you are planting more than one herb together in a container, make sure you are aware of the watering needs of each type of herb.

Also, though herbs have a shallow root system, they still need space and proper drainage to grow well.

And while it is common to grow herbs such as basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley in your container garden, you can also plant some great smelling herbs including lavender, dianthus flower and mint and enjoy the pleasant fragrance in your garden.

There are numerous other fruits and vegetables that can grow well in a container.

Whether its vegetables like eggplant, radish and squash or fruits such as blueberries, cherries or plums, you can literally grow anything in your container garden that has a confined root system.

What Do I Need For A Container Garden?

Vegetables In Container Garden

Now that you already know what vegetables you can grow in your container garden, now it is the time to find out what do you need for a container garden.

Here are a few things that you will need for your container garden.

A Container

Now that’s a given. You need a container to grow a garden.

Here it is important to note that containers are made up of different materials and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and different types of containers have different drainage systems.

Let’s take a look at each of these aspects of a container.

Container Material

You can choose from a variety of container materials ranging from clay or terracotta to cast concrete, plastic and fiberglass. Each type of material has its own pros and cons.

Let’s take a look at different types of container material.

Clay Containers

With vibrant colors and attractive look, clay containers are an all-time favorite type of container but they are easily breakable and can be damaged by extreme temperatures.

In areas where there is snowfall and the temperature drops below zero, clay containers might not be a viable option as they can crack and break.

Cast Concrete Containers

Cast Concrete Containers

To overcome the disadvantages of clay containers, people often go for cast concrete containers as they last longer and are available in a variety of sizes and styles.

Unlike clay containers, this type of containers can be left outdoors throughout the year. However, since they are made up of concrete, it might be difficult to move them around.

To overcome this problem, often fiberglass or perlite is mixed with concrete to create a lighter blend of pot.

Plastic Containers

Plastic containers are light in weight and relatively inexpensive. It is easier to move them around and they are somewhat flexible.

However, they are often not preferred as they do not add an elegant touch to a garden.

Wooden and Metallic Containers

Since wood add to the natural look of the garden, wooden containers ass aesthetic appeal to your container garden however, some types of wood may rot.

So if you are planning to use wooden containers, make sure you go for rot-resistant wood such as locust or treated pine.

On the other hand, metallic containers are robust but they may play a role in conducting heat to sensitive parts of the plant such as roots.

Container Size

Three Different Garden Containers

While it is important to choose the right type of material for your container garden, it is also important to choose the right size of the container.

And one of the biggest influences when it comes to choose the size of the container is what do you want to grow in your container.

If you want to grow herbs, then a small sized container would suffice but if you want to grow potatoes, then you would need a larger pot.

Similarly with herbs, a narrow container may provide sufficient space for the plant to grow but growing carrots need deeper pots.

So before you invest in containers, it is a good idea to think through the plants you want to grow in your container garden.

If you are not sure which size would be ideal, a container that is 10 inches wide and 12 inches deep would be great for growing vegetables.

Container Shape

You can find containers in a variety of shapes. Apart from the regular square and rectangular containers, you can choose from spherical and deep pots vs. square and shallow pots.

Again the choice of container would depend on what you want to grow in the container.

If you are planning to grow plants that have deeper roots, then you need to go for a deeper container but if you are planting herbs that have narrow root system, even a shallow container would be enough to meet your needs.

Drainage

Drainage In Garden Container

Lastly the most important aspect of containers is drainage. Regardless of the type, shape and size, whatever container you choose, make sure it has enough holes for adequate drainage.

In case there is no drainage in your container, the soil in your container will become water logged. As a result, you plant will die soon.

So make sure there are holes in your container that are not necessarily too big but should be big enough for the excess water to drain out of it.

If there are no holes in your container, make sure you drill a few holes before you plant it.

Choosing the Right Container

Now that you know all the important aspects of a container including material type, size, shape and drainage, the choice becomes simple.

Just decide on the type of material you would like to invest in and based on what you intend to grow, you can pick a container of the right size and shape with adequate drainage. 

The Right Soil

Apart from the container, you will also need soil for growing plants in your container garden.

A good growing medium will help ensure that whatever you grow in your garden not only grows quickly but is also healthy and nutritious.

As with choosing the container, there are a number of factors that you need to keep in mind when choosing the soil.

  • Make sure the soil is rich in nutrients that will ensure best growth of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
  • It is important to combine nutrient rich soil with sandy soil if you are planting desert plants such as cactus or other succulents.
  • If you are planting seeds, then you would need coconut fiber or other well-draining medium in your plant.  

Keeping these factors in your mind, you can either create your own soil mix or choose from a variety of different packaged soils.

Again it is important to decide what you want to plant before you choose the soil so you can choose the one that best meets your plant’s needs.

And with your container filled with soil, now is the time to plant your container garden. 

How Do You Plant a Container Garden?

Now that you already have a container and the right soil for your container garden, it’s time to get your hands dirty and plant your container.

And this is where you can be as creative as you want. From choosing the location of your containers in your home to arranging the plants in the container, you can choose a spot that you like.

So let’s get started.

Start by moistening your soil a bit. Now with your container in your hand (or on the ground) start by filling up your pot with soil.

Make sure you fill in at least 3 to 6 inches of soil in your plant so it makes a good base. But depending upon the depth of your plant’s roots, you may need a little more soil.

Once the base is ready, remove your plants from their store containers. As you separate roots, don’t forget to shake off excess soil.

You don’t have to throw the excess soil away instead you can save it and add to your plant later. Now place the plant in your container.

In case you are starting your container garden using seeds, make sure you fill the container up to 1 inch below the top of your container. Now add 1-5 seeds per container.

Don’t forget to keep adequate distance between each seed.

Once your container garden has the plant or seeds, provide some water to the soil so your base gets moist and your plant gets a little rest so it can establish well inside the container.

With your plant set in the container, don’t forget to add the remaining excess soil (that you initially shook off) to the plant. Now you can sit back and relax as your container garden is set to grow!

How Do You Maintain A Container Garden?

Terracotta Pots

Now that your container garden is ready, here are a few tips that will help you maintain your small garden:

Frequent Watering

So it is a given that you need to regularly water your plants whether they grow in the ground or are planted in a container.

But when it comes to container gardening, you need to water your plants more frequently.

Soil in small, confined spaces tends to dry up more quickly compared to soil in the ground bed.

So your container gardens need frequent watering. In most cases, it is a good idea to water the plants at least once a day, but in warmer weather, you may need to water the plants twice a day.

Fertilize Regularly

Since container gardens grow more quickly, they need more nutrients from the soil so along with frequent watering, container gardens also need to be fertilized regularly.

It is a good idea to use any water soluble fertilizer once every week. However, make sure you use a reasonable strength solution keeping in mind the packaging instructions.

Grow Accordingly

Plants in a container tend to grow very quickly but may lose their vitality as the weather changes.

So it is best to plant in your container garden keeping in mind the season. And as the season changes, you can change the plant and grow something else.

Keep Your Garden Green and Healthy

Woman Maintaining Garden Container

Though container gardens have a lower risk of weed and pests, to maintain your garden, you still need to groom it.

Don’t forget to remove some dead leaves, stems and flowers and keep your garden green and healthy.

Prepare for the Cold Weather Ahead

Certain types of containers may crack if left out door during cold temperatures.

So if you have clay or ceramic pots, it is best to transfer your plants to other types of containers that are more resistant to temperature.

And ideally, you should do it well before the winter season hits your region.

Final Words

Growing your container garden is one of the most rewarding gardening experiences.

You are not limited by space or location and you are sure to see some quick results.

So brighten up your kitchen window, patio, yard or stair case by bringing in some colorful and pleasant smelling plants in the containers of your choice.

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