5 Tips for Container Gardening

Add another element to your garden by growing in containers with these tips for success.

by Jessica Walliser

5 Tips for Container Gardening - Photo by Sarah Cady/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com) 

Container growing is one hot topic among gardeners. It saves space, cuts down on weeding, increases production and beautifies your outdoor living space. If your gardening plans include growing vegetables and ornamentals in containers, here are a few tips for guaranteed success.

1. The Secret Is In the Soil

In order to grow beautiful, healthy plants in containers, you need the same thing required in all types of gardening: good soil. To be more accurate in the case of container gardening, it’s soil-less potting mix. Start your container garden off right by buying the best potting mix you can afford. Ideally comprised of a mixture of sphagnum peat moss or coir fiber, vermiculite, perlite and other ingredients, soil-less potting mix is perfect for container culture. There are lots of different brands of organic potting soil on the market, and you may have to try several different types to see which one works best for you. You can also make it yourself. Regardless of which you select, mix it 60/40 with finely screened compost, which you can buy by the bag at your local garden center if you don’t make your own. The compost will aid in moisture retention, add nutrients, introduce beneficial soil life, and may help suppress certain diseases.

2. Grow Plants Based On Your Needs—And Theirs

If you’re growing veggies in containers, try to select varieties with a smaller stature. Bush-type beans, squash and zucchini are better choices for containers than their vining counterparts. Determinate, patio-type tomatoes will outshine indeterminate types that will quickly grow too large for the container.

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5 Tips for Container Gardening - Photo by Jessica Walliser (HobbyFarms.com) 

For ornamentals, follow the concept of blending together “a thriller, a filler and a spiller.” Your “thriller” should be one or two upright, bold plants that go in the center of the container. They are surrounded by three or four “filler” plants, and then the “spillers” get positioned around the edges where they can spill out over the container and hang down off the sides.

3. Water Regularly and Religiously

Once the container is planted, keep it watered. Make sure a drainage hole is in the bottom of the container and that the roots are never sitting in standing water. Poor drainage can lead to root rot. In the height of summer, you may need to water your containers once or twice a day.

4. Fertilize

Every week or two, fertilize your containers with a liquid, organic fertilizer mixed with the irrigation water. I like to use a blend of a fish hydroslate product and liquid kelp, diluted according to label instructions. These fertilizers contain macronutrients, scores of trace minerals, amino acids, plant growth hormones and vitamins.

5. Maintain Upkeep

For ornamentals, keep the plants well-pinched and deadheaded throughout the growing season. Most of the plants typically used in containers require an occasional haircut to generate new growth and flower buds. Use a clean, sharp scissors or your fingers to trim back a little of the growth once every three weeks and remove any spent flowers on a weekly basis. For edibles, regular harvests keep the plant producing. Pick mature fruits and vegetables as soon as they are ripe.

Read more about container gardening on HobbyFarms.com:

  • 3 Container Gardens to Spark Your Creativity
  • Container Garden Obscurity
  • 11 Herbs for Indoor Container Gardening
  • 10 Ingredients to Make Your Own Potting Soil
  • Quick Craft: Wine-Barrel Planter 

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