How to Grow a Container Garden

June 21, 2016

I have fond memories of our childhood garden in Alaska. Nothing tastes as sweet and crisp as a carrot straight from the cold ground in your backyard.

Unfortunately, we live in a townhome (for now) so we can’t plant a large traditional garden. But to be honest I think I only like large gardens for the romantic notion of it. In theory, a large garden to feed your family is wonderful but the reality is… well, hard work.

I don’t know about you but still there is just something about growing plants (especially if it’s edible). There’s a sense of achievement that often we can’t find elsewhere.

That’s why I’m going to explain today how to grow a container garden. Container gardens are easy to put together, add a green touch to your décor and you don’t need to own land to put it in!

My containers are purely for growing vegetables and fruit but you can use them for flowers too (whatever brightens your day!)

In this post I’ll explain what to look for when buying containers, best vegetables for container gardening, container garden ideas, how to fill out a container garden correctly and other container gardening tips.

Let’s get started!

Best Vegetables for Container Gardening

Now, this is all going to be based on personal preference. These are the plants that I have found to grow best in containers (and I actually can get my money’s worth from it). Don’t plant a vegetable just because it grows well in a container. If you don’t eat it then it’s not going to be worth it.

The number one best vegetable for container gardening is tomatoes…can’t beat the cheap, amount you can grow and how easy it is to take care of it. Secondly, I would say to plant herbs. I use a lot of fresh herbs in my cooking so I planted rosemary, basil, marjoram, cilantro and two different types of thyme. I plan on adding sage and oregano next year.

Alicia Lawrence's Vegetable Container Garden

Lettuce, spinach and kale also grow well in pots but they can be temperamental about their drainage and heat.

The next layer of plants that would require a little bit more work in pots are peppers and peas. There are a lot of other plants that can grow well in containers but what you have to consider is how much a single plant can produce. Containers don’t give you a whole lot of space to grow multiple plants, so stick with plants that produce a lot of produce. 😛

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Container Vegetable Garden

I’ll be honest, money got away from me when planting my first container garden. A lot of people think that gardening will help cut down their grocery bill. That depends. Have you heard the saying that a plant costs 10 cents but the hole costs $5.

Here’s how much it cost for my first container garden by item:

27 plants (The hanging strawberries which I counted as 1 plant were $15. The rest started as seedlings aka baby plants.): $65

5 plastic containers (1 small, 3 medium, 1 large):  $55

3 bags of dirt (which barely filled all the containers): $21

All together it was $141…for a garden that produced probably around $20 worth of food. Despicable. But keep in mind, now that I have the dirt and pots I can use it for next year and the year after. So over time that initial investment will be worth it.

How to Make a Container Garden

Step 1: Buy the dirt, pots and plants (be sure to make sure you have enough dirt and the plants you use will fit in the pots you buy). Drill holes on the bottom of plastic containers if they have them already.

Use coffee filters in the bottom of your container to keep soil from falling out

Step 2: Place a few coffee filters over the holes at the bottom of your pots.

How to stuff your container garden for growing vegetables

5 Steps for a Successful Container GardenStep 3: Add sticks, cardboard, newspaper, or any other compostable items. I like to start collecting compostable items a few weeks before I start planting my container garden. Just make sure you have the appropriate balance between green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) compostable items in each container. Fill about halfway up your container.

Step 4: Begin packing in dirt on top of your compostable items. This step is optional but you can add a natural drip feeder to your container. I placed mine in the center. Take a plastic water or soda bottle. Poke holes in it enough to drain out slowly. Fill it up with water to test it and make sure it drains slowly and evenly on all sides. Put in when you have about 8 inches from the top of the pot.

Step 5:  Fill in the dirt around the bottle (if using) till halfway up (about 4 inches from the top- this will vary depending on the vegetable you are planting). Add your plants making sure to abide by the spacing suggested (usually around 6 inches between each one). Finish filling up with dirt to the top making sure your plants are well supported but don’t pack down the soil.

Container Gardening Tips

-Get creative! You probably have lots of items in your home that could double as a pot. Things like old shoe organizers, toy boxes, or maybe that set of old mixing bowls you never use. Don’t forget to drill holes in them so the plants can have good drainage.

-Don’t let pots dry out between watering. I usually watered mine every third day, unless it was a particularly hot day and then every other day.

-Feed your plants. Plants in pots need plant food more than those in the ground because their soil’s nutrients are soaked up faster.

-If you’re putting different vegetables in one pot, make sure they are good companion plants.

-Container gardens are great to start seeds in the container inside your home (this is important if you don’t have a long growing season). Just make sure you slowly acclimate the container outside so the sun doesn’t kill baby seedlings.

-Use forks (sharp spikes pointing up) to keep birds away from eating your young plants.

put forks pointing out in your container garden to keep birds from eating your veggies

Good luck with your container garden! For more container gardening tips, follow me on Pinterest.

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