Container Gardening

Anyone can do container gardening – on a table, in a window, on a deck or porch or in a garden setting.

From the smallest, maybe a pot of two of herbs in a window, to a garden that is 25 x 40’….if you want to have some fresh plants, herbs or flowers, I am telling you it’s possible.

Almost anything can become a container.  Of course you can buy pots at the local big box store or garden center, but there are also probably things you already have that will work.  Things like:

  • old boots or shoes
  • old containers from food – like plastic ice cream tubs
  • old crockery, cookie jars, even mugs or a tea cup
  • old plastic files boxes for larger displays, or mixed plantings
  • buckets, barrels or troughs
  • an old wheel barrow
  • wooden boxes
  • reuse hanging pots

It’s only limited to your imagination.  If it’s something can that can hold soil, you can probably make it work.

There are a couple basic things to remember.  Drainage is really important.  Most plants don’t like wet feet, and water and moisture must have a way to drain off.  This may mean creating a hole or holes with nails or a drill in the bottom of your project.

It is also important to make sure the plant fits the container size.  A plant that has deep roots will not thrive in a shallow container, for example. And a  perennial plant that gets tall may not do well in a container, and it may become difficult to move.  Remember soil can be heavy, and the added weight of a full grown plant may be too heavy to lift in a large container.  Most garden vegetables will need a 2 or 5 gallon pot in order to thrive and produce vegetables.

Speaking of soil, buy bagged potting soil, or research making your own. Regular soil from the garden is usually too dense to start young plants in, as well as being heavier than potting mix.

The type of material your container is made of may have some drawbacks and positives….things like terra cotta pots can dry out faster and will often crack if exposed to below freezing temperatures, as could plastic.  Those kinds of pots will need to be cleaned and put away during a northern winter.

Advantages of containers: they are moveable, so if a plant isn’t thriving in the environment, or you need to rearrange space,  it can be moved.  When using potting soil, the threat of harmful pests and organisms are eliminated.  No weeds!  Thus easier to maintain and take care of.  And in cooler climates, you can garden year round. The garden just comes inside.

If you are only just starting to garden, containers can be a great way to get started.  Don’t be surprised if you keep adding containers and additional plants, and spread outside in nice weather!  Try easy basic plants like lettuces, radishes, spinach or carrots (make sure the container is deep enough!).  These are all easy vegetables to grow.  Or for some color, try easy flower seed like marigolds or nasturtiums.

Disadvantages of containers: they tend to dry out faster, so you may need to water more frequently.  Most of the time you will be growing small or medium size plants  – nothing like corn or sprawling plants with lots of vines, like cucumbers or squashes.  root crops like potatoes are okay, as long as you have a container deep  and large enough for the root crop.

A container plant will need some kind of fertilizer, compost or soil amendments after a while in order to provide nutrients.


Container gardening can go in other directions as well – hydroponics (using water to grow plants rather than soil), a desert with cacti & succulents requiring little little watering,  a water feature garden with only a pond lily….