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5 Basics You Have To Get Right For Successful Container Gardening

Updated: Oct 28, 2021



Growing in containers is a great way to garden. There are many benefits such as being able to garden where soil is poor or space is unavailable. Container gardening opens up doors to gardening that traditional beds do not. I do a significant portion of my growing in containers. I've grown potatoes to pumpkins and everything in between. Growing in containers can be just as successful and prolific as a traditional garden bed.


Container gardening is subject to a lot of simple mistakes that can ruin your plants. You can avoid most of those mistakes by making sure that you get the basics of container growing right. Get these right before you plant and you can grow a successful container garden. Here are 5 basics you have to get right for good growth in your containers.


1. Choose the right material container to grow in.


Container gardening comes in all shapes and sizes. I've seen everything from old tires to Ikea bags. The first thing that you should consider when choosing a container is whether or not it is food safe. If you're planting useful plants for food or medicine in containers that leech toxic chemicals such as old tires or pressure treated wood, you're going to get that in your plant and ultimately, your body. If you are focused on organic gardening or a clean and healthy lifestyle, you have to consider the material your growing container is made of because it will become a component of your food. The right material for a container is safe for your plants and your body.


2. Choose the right size container.


I hate to disappoint all of the pinterest pins of container gardens that have baby plants in cute little containers that look great when planted, but it is too small a growing environment for them to thrive. The plants in the picture below all fit nicely as seedlings, but do not have enough room for optimal growth. Plants need room in order to develop a healthy root system. In order to choose the right size container to grow in, you need to know the plant height, width, and root depth. For example, tomatoes needs at least a foot to a foot and a half depth for roots whereas lettuce only needs about six inches. The container needs for each plant are quite different. Also, when planting more than one plant in containers make sure they have enough room to grow together and each receive sufficient nutrients from the soil. Over planting in containers leads to nutrient deficiencies and plant diseases. Give them room! Keep their full grown size in mind when planning. Truly in container gardening, bigger is better.




3. Choose the right soil for your container.


The only food your plant is going to receive is what you put in it's container. Not filling the container with the right soil spells eventual disaster. Container soil must be soil that is high in nutrients. It must be well draining but able to maintain moisture. It needs to be light enough for roots to develop and yet strong enough to hold plants stable. Choose a quality POTTING MIX and compost. Do not fill your containers with garden soil or top soil. The few dollars you think you're saving on the price of the bags will be lost when your plants suffer. Garden soil and top soil are too dense and won't allow water to drain properly. Plants can suffer from molds, funguses, and mildews when this happens and plant health deteriorates quickly when conditions stay too wet. Unhealthy plants attract pests and spread diseases throughout the garden. Make sure your soil is appropriate for your containers by being well draining.


There are many great recipes for potting soil that a quick google search will turn up. If you don't want to purchase a pre-mixed potting soil give one a try.



4. Choose plants that have the same requirements.


Tomatoes don't pair well with lavender. The reason is because tomatoes love a deep watering while lavender loves to stay a bit dry. If you place these two plants next to each other in a container they won't do well because helping one will hurt the other. When designing your container companion plants make sure that they are compatible! Choose plants that thrive under the same conditions. Don't place a sun loving plant next to one that wilts under its heat. Make sure a plant is not going to grow so large they tower over and block out the sun from its container buddies. Is it going to invade other plants space and crowd them out like those in the mint family tend to? These things should be considered before matching plants into permanent homes together. There are so many great companion plants that benefit and help one another grow. Do a little research and make sure you're putting growing buddies together and keeping bad matches apart.


5. Water your containers properly.


Container gardens tend to dry out more easily. They don't have the insulation needed to hold in moisture. It is a waste of time to just water the top of your container plant. The water needs to get deep into the soil to the roots. An easy way to check the moisture level of your soil is to stick your finger tip down into the soil to up to your second knuckle. If it's moist at that depth then you're good to go, but if not, you need to water. Container plants usually need to be watered more frequently. You also want to make sure that your container has the appropriate drainage for your plants needs. Some plants like a little moisture and some want dry feet. Make sure your drainage holes are appropriate for what you're planting. You don't want water pooling in the bottom of your containers. It causes root rot and leaves to turn yellow and die. Getting the drainage holes right is key to a healthy plant.


These are simple things that offer your plants the best start for healthy container growing. Don't be afraid to grow things in containers! There are so many amazing plants that grow great outside of the traditional garden. Make sure you get these five things right and you'll be amazed at what you can grow in a container!


For more growing tips and a fun useful plant community, follow us on Facebook.


To find great organic seedlings to grow in your containers, visit the Wortcunners Cottage where there are always great things growing.


Happy Growing.

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