How to Garden in Containers

Container gardening is a great solution for those of us who may not have a tremendous amount of garden space. Whether you’ve got a small patch of land or just a patio to work with, you can container garden successfully in any number of different barrels, containers, large pots, or even window boxes.  

Growing flowers in containers means you can add color wherever it is needed in your yard without having to dig a permanent bed. Using a container garden to grow vegetables means you can take advantage of that patch of full sun even if it happens to be on your driveway!

Flowers, herbs, and vegetables are happy to grow in containers. It is easier to grow plants in larger containers as they hold more water; this helps plants last through hot summer months. 

Before deciding on your container it’s important to decide what type of plant you want to grow. Consider the size of the plant when mature, how deep the roots will grow, and how quickly the plant will grow. If you plant zucchini in a tiny terra cotta pot, it won’t do well at all. Note that unglazed pots let a lot of water evaporate through the sides, while glazed pots hold in moisture. With the right variety of pots, you can have an entire vegetable garden in containers. 

Plants that grow large need a lot of water, so you’ll want a large pot that will retain moisture. When plants get root-bound (the roots fill the pot) they dry out too quickly. In that case, you’ll need a larger pot. For example, pole beans have a deep plant root system so you’ll need a larger pot than you would with bush beans that have a shallow root system and can be planted in a smaller pot. 

In addition to pot size, location makes a difference. For vegetables, you not only want full sun but if they are trailing plants like pumpkins you need to make sure they have enough room to spread out.

It is important to make sure that your pots have drainage holes. Too much water is just as bad as too little. Drainage holes help excess water to escape. There are certain kinds of potting mix you can get that will help to adjust the water level automatically by holding it and then releasing it to the plants slowly. Using potting soil rather than garden soil is preferred in container gardening as potting soils are formulated for container gardening and will not compact delicate roots. It also doesn’t drain as well. 

Finally, you should feed your container garden plants just as you would a regular garden plant. Fish emulsion is a great (though pungent) choice for organic fertilizer, though there are many other options such as Miracle-Gro available on the market. 

No matter which fertilizer you use, with a little bit of patience, sun, and nurturing, you’re sure to see success and get to enjoy the fruits—or vegetables—of your labor, all summer long.