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Bob's Guide to Container Gardening

Updated on June 2, 2013

container garden guide

The summer of 1991 was the year I created the first container garden. We were living in Thunder Bay, Ontario and had just moved into the top floor of the house with a great view of the harbour and a balcony right off the kitchen.

Four window boxes adorned the railings and that first year I grew sweet peas. Not only did they look great but they also provided a partial privacy screen. As the years passed, fourteen in all, I experimented and grew a wide variety of plants, added a compost bin and generally learned much about growing things in containers.

One of the lessons I discovered was you could grow just about anything in a container if the container was big enough, the soil healthy and the plants got the sun and water they needed.

Container gardening is a great way to start your first garden. However, as your skills grow so can your ability to grow herbs, fruit, flowers, vegetables and shrubs in an almost endless variety of pots and containers. As long as the container is deep enough so that the plant’s roots can develop and has drainage so excess water can drain through, the plant will thrive.

Shrubs provide food and shelter for birds, food for people, look great and act as a privacy hedge or a living fence. It is not necessary to have a large space to add a shrub or two to your landscape design; in fact, many shrubs can do quite well in containers and may be ideal for a deck or patio.

Containers can also be used to create a kitchen garden. You may find a container vegetable garden is the answer if your gardening space is limited. It is possible to use containers and grow the vegetables vertically as there are a number of trellises and other means sold that will support your tomatoes, peas, cucumbers and zucchini, for example.

Organic gardeners build soil and this applies to growing in containers as well. Add compost to the container, in smaller amounts, just as you would a backyard garden bed.

I suggest buying organic potting soil for container gardening from your local plant nursery. Be sure it is designed for containers and is organic. The label on the bags will be marked organic potting soil or some version of that, if in doubt ask the staff.

Healthy soil is the organic gardener’s principal secret, but it is a secret that is meant to be told. Feed the soil, you will feed the plant, so that you can feed yourself.

Plants in containers may require more frequent watering than plants placed directly into the earth. In the container, the roots can only go down so far, and cannot seek out water, so it is up to you to be sure they do not get thirsty. Do not let them wilt, while they may come back, they will use up energy, better devoted to fruit and flower production, to do so.

Be sure to place the containers where the plants will get sufficient sunlight as they will not blossom if they get too little sunlight. Vegetables generally appreciate six to eight hours of sunlight per day as do herbs and flowers.

Foliar sprays (spraying the leaves) are a good way to feed the plants and a well fed plant is a happy and healthy plant. A happy and healthy plant has less appeal to invaders who will exploit weak plants.

Consider making compost tea to feed your container bound plants. Compost tea is relatively easy to make; you simply put a shovelful of compost into a burlap bag or apiece of cheese cloth and tie the bag closed: then suspend that bag into a container of water for a few days.

A feeding at the beginning of the season and once again in the middle can help the plants grow and produce the fruit and flowers you want.

Container gardening is an accessible way to grow the plants you enjoy.

backyard container garden

Bob Ewing photo
Bob Ewing photo


Submit a Comment

  • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

    Dim Flaxenwick 7 years ago from Great Britain

    Thanks for all your good advice. Every article you write is truly interesting and informative. Thank you.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    They do generate happy thoughts, thanks for dropping bt.

  • lovelypaper profile image

    Renee S 8 years ago from Virginia

    Great information. I don't have time to garden anymore, but I love it and just thinking about planting and gardening makes me happy.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    It depend upon the tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, for example, do well in a container 24 inches across and 18 inches deep, larger tomatoes need bigger pots.

    Thank you both for dropping by.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

    Good advice and lots of tips, thank you

  • daisyjae profile image

    daisyjae 8 years ago from Canada

    I will be trying container gardening this year. Can you tell me how big a container i would need for tomatoes?

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    It works wonders, thanks for dropping by.

  • myawn profile image

    myawn 8 years ago from Florida

    I think making compost tea is interesting I will try that. Thanks Nice Hub!

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    You too, it could be light it could be they needed more nutrients than the soil provided. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Wealthmadehealthy profile image

    Wealthmadehealthy 8 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

    This has been an informative hub as always...I, when I lived in an apt. tried to do container gardening and did fairly well with regular plants, but when it came to growing veggies, failed miserably. Guess they didn't get enough light....Enjoyed the read.... Have a great day!!!

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Mint is, indeed, best grown in containers, thanks for dropping by

  • profile image

    WildIris 8 years ago

    Container gardening is also a great way to keep plants in the mint family from taking over. Great tips especially about remembering to water more frequently. Container plants can dry out quickly in summer.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    True, raised to a good height there is no need to stoop and bend, thanks for dropping by.

  • jayjay40 profile image

    jayjay40 8 years ago from Bristol England

    I find raised containers good for gardening with a bad back. Good hub


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