Container Garden Essentials


Whether you have a ‘black thumb’ you want to turn green, are short on space or you’re trying to add more plants to your patio without installing flowerbeds — container gardening is one of the best solutions. 

More than any other form of gardening, container gardening gives you the flexibility to adjust the placement and maintenance level of your garden. Container gardens can be as big or small as you want. They can be used to grow edibles, florals, and medicinal plants. Plus, your containers can always be re-planted without disrupting your entire garden.

The question is, what does it take to be a successful container gardener? Luckily, anyone can do it. All you need are a few tips to make planting and maintaining your container garden a success.

Determine How Much Sun Your Containers Will Get

Plants grow in practically every environment. The key is to know what kind of environment you have — which is primarily dependent on the amount of sunlight your plants will receive. Does your patio have direct sunlight? Is it a low-light setting? Or does it get partial shade?

Most of us have a tendency to substantially overestimate how much sun an area gets. This is why it’s important to accurately measure how much sun your plants will get — at the time of year you’re going to plant. Because the sun moves throughout the year. This means the sunlight on your patio during the depth of winter will be different than the sun during another season.

Measure the sun with a timer. How much time does the area receive direct sunlight? This duration is essential for creating a thriving garden.

Select Containers with Enough Drainage

You can create a container out of pretty much anything. The only major requirement is that it be able to hold soil. This means your ‘container’ could be as small as a thimble and as big as an inflatable swimming pool. However, neither a thimble nor a swimming pool are very practical for most patios.

Take a look at your square footage and consider where you’re going to be placing each pot. While pots can be placed close together, they still need enough room for a stable footing.

Other considerations include:

  • Giving your plants enough nutrients. The bigger the pot, the more the soil, and the more easily your plants can get the nutrients they need.
  • Giving your plants enough water. Larger pots help keep soil moist for longer, which makes your plants the less susceptible your plants will be to pests and diseases.
  • Giving your plants enough room to grow. With a bigger pot, you give your plants root system more space. This helps them avoid becoming rootbound.

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to use the biggest pots possible, especially seeing as it helps you avoid watering all the time. That being said, you want to make sure all your pots have enough drainage so that you don’t drown your plants. In most instances, pots will come with holes. But if they don’t, you’ll want to add them. This can be done by drilling, punching or pounding holes through the bottom of the pot.

plants in pots

Plant with Potting Soil

Buying soil can be as confusing as buying a new mattress. Companies have their own terms, standards, and grades. You might see potting soil listed as potting soil, but you could also see it called potting medium, potting mix, container soil, and mix.

The key is to make sure the description recommends the soil is used in containers. You don’t want to buy topsoil or garden soil. And, it’s strongly recommended you don’t simply use the soil from your garden. All of these options will likely leave you very disappointed.

In most cases, potting soil comes with fertilizer already in it. The key is to know if it does or doesn’t, because this will determine whether or not/how much fertilizer you need to add when you plant.

Select Plants Based on Your Sun & Size of Containers

The most important thing to making sure your garden will be successful is to make sure you buy plants based on the amount of sunlight they need. Generally, nurseries have their plants separated by sun requirements, with high sun, share and partial sun in their own sections. If you’re having trouble navigating your plant selection, talk to one of the plant specialists.

In addition to the amount of sunlight your plants will receive, you want to consider how much room they need to grow. An extra-large tomato plant that requires fourteen feet of room for its root system won’t be very happy in a five-foot pot.

plants on table

Plant with Love (aka Give Your Plants Food)

Planting is perhaps the most rewarding part of the process. Once you have added your soil, add the fertilizer based on the directions provided. This is very important because too much fertilizer can burn the roots of your plants. Mix the fertilizer well throughout the pot. When you finally add your plants, make sure to dig a deep enough hole so the entire root system can be fully submerged in the dirt.

Also, be sure to give your plants enough room to grow. You don’t want to shove them all into the same pot and just hope they make it. And finally, water as directed, making sure your plants stay well-hydrated.

Additional Gardening Tips

Essentials to Growing Kale

Kale is a hearty green that’s easy to grow, nutrient-rich, and fabulous in a wide variety of dishes. And for all those patio and backyard gardeners late to the game, this is a veggie best planted in late summer.

Organic Gardening 101

Whether you want control over how your food is being treated or you’re simply tired of paying ‘organic’ prices, growing your own fruits and vegetables can be a fun and delicious activity. With a little know-how, you can plant and care for your own growing beauties. It doesn’t even have to take a massive amount of work.

Small Balcony Gardening with a Vertical Garden

No yard? You are not alone. The vast majority of condos and townhomes in the Seattle area only have a small balcony. But this doesn’t mean you should let the urban jungle of cement and steel get the best of you. A vertical garden allows you to turn your small patio into a lush oasis.