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Easy Tips for Container Gardening

Updated on January 27, 2016
Rosie writes profile image

Rosie was an elementary school teacher for 13 years, teaching grades 3-5. She is now a Library Media Specialist in an elementary school.


Benefits of Container Gardening

Container gardening is a wonderful alternative to using gardening beds for several reasons.

  • If you have a small yard and do not want to make part of it a garden, then container gardening is the way to go.
  • If you have minimal spaces where the sun shines for six to eight hours a day, then you may need a movable garden so that plants can be positioned in the sun for long enough periods of time to optimize growth.
  • Placing containers outside your front door or back door can also be very convenient for watering and maintaining. It is much easier to keep a close eye on your plants if they are only a few steps away.
  • You may live in an apartment or condominium with only a balcony for outside access. Container gardening will allow you to grow a few fresh herbs and vegetables within close proximity.

Container gardening is much easier than you may think. You will only need a few things to get started, and you probably already have some of these items. It takes very little money to start and maintain a container garden, and as an added bonus, it can easily be disassembled and stored away during the winter months.


Items Needed

  • an assortment of containers, large and small
  • potting soil (Miracle Gro brand is recommended)
  • mulch or pebbles for top layer around bas of plant
  • tomato cages or stakes for large plants
  • watering can or hose placed within reach of containers
  • assortment of herb and vegetable plants


Soil Mixture

  • Use Miracle Gro mixture for watering plants as directed. Use a mixture of Miracle Gro potting soil and regular topsoil.
  • Place pine cones and pine straw in base of pots before adding soil. This will allow soil to drain properly and will make the pot weigh less; it will be easier to move about.
  • Place river rocks or mulch around plant on top of soil to hold moisture in and for eye-appeal.
  • Create a small compost bin in a medium-sized trashcan, placed outside. Add coffee grounds, filters, leaves, yard debris, banana peels, egg shells, and other organic matter. Mix together with soil and add to gardening pots.



  • Use large pots for tomatoes and other vegetables.
  • Use smaller pots for single herb plants, or plant a few herbs in a larger pot.
  • Drill drainage holes in pots to prevent plant roots from sitting in water too long and rotting.
  • Purchase large pots at yard sales, Goodwill, or thrift stores to save money.
  • Paint the pots in colors that you like. A variety of colors can be very beautiful or a group of monochrome-colored pots can be very attractive as well.
  • Use large plastic containers from the Dollar Tree for cheap pots. Make drainage holes with hot metal knife or ice pick, by melting small holes in the bases of the containers.
  • Be creative with container choices. Use items that may not normally be used for containers to create interest, such as barrels and buckets.
  • Recycle previously used containers and use them for container garden pots. Laundry detergent containers and pet food containers are just a couple of examples.


Creative Containers for Container Gardening

While searching Pinterest, I was delighted to find some new ideas for containers for my container garden. Some of these ideas are:

  • Use cinder blocks turned vertically, place end to end. Plant one plant in each of the two openings. By placing the blocks end to end, it gives the appearance of a raised bed.
  • Attach long gutter pieces to a wall or fence. Place them horizontally so that the opening is at the top. Plant small herbs and flowers in them.
  • Upcycle old furniture, by turning all of its nooks and crannies into planters. A desk is one piece that lends itself easily to this idea; place plants in open drawers and on top of the desk.
  • Place large and heavy planters on rolling carts that can easily be moved as needed.
  • Use shelves, stairs, tree stumps, or wooden pilons to stagger the heights of plants, making them more accessible and visible.

Maintaining Plants in Container Gardens

  • Use stakes or round tomato cages to support plants, encouraging them to grow upward.
  • Place milk cartons or 2-liter bottles (bottom half) over new plants on cold nights after initial planting, to avoid losing them due to unexpected low temperatures and frost.
  • Bring herbs inside before freezing temperatures set in after fall, place them in a sunny window, and enjoy them for another month or more.

How would you describe your experience with container gardening?

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Companion Planting

Some plants are beneficial to other plants. Not only do they look attractive paired together, they keep unwanted pests away. Using plant pairing as a natural pesticide is a great way to save time and money in the long run. It is also a natural and healthy way to plant a container garden. Below are some suggestions for companion planting:

  • Plant basil around tomato plants. According to Wellness Mama, basil improves the flavor and production of tomato plants; it also is a known mosquito deterrent. I have also read that basil will repel aphids, flies, a even tomato hornworms as well.
  • Chives are a beautiful plant to pair with any vegetable, producing purple flowers and providing an accent to your pot. According to the Country Basket, chives will repel rust flies and Japanese beetles. Japanese beetles will quickly destroy the leaves of a plant.
  • Garlic is an excellent and easy plant to incorporate into a container garden. Simply plant a small clove in each container. Garlic repels most insects and takes up very little soil space.


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    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 2 years ago from Virginia

      That is awesome! You could put a layer of pine cones beneath the soil to allow excess water to drain.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I am growing spinach, curry leaves, mung beans, spring onions in old flower pots, i don't have a drill to make holes for the containers.

    • profile image

      Karan 3 years ago

      My mom-in-law gave me Gardening in Containers book by Taunton press. There are a lot of pictures and exemlpas of what to plant and what kind of planters you can use in. I think this is a good guide book for the beginner like you and me. I've done a lot of yard work, but container gardening is still new to me. There are great plants for containers out now, so you'll enjoy making it. Unlike planting flowers in ground, there is no time limit on container planting. You can also go to the nurseries and ask people at there. They can suggest what you need. Have fun! Was this answer helpful?

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      Riviera Rose, thanks for visiting my hub. This is the first year I've done container gardening with a great quantity of plants. I've been amazed at the results. I too love tending to them and I love them being all around me as well. :)

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 4 years ago from South of France

      Loved this hub, and love container gardening. I've got all sorts on the go, from roses to goji berry plants and succulents - just repotting and tending them gives me so much pleasure. I'd never heard of garlic repelling insects before - a great tip, thanks!

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks for your comment abhirath. I am growing broccoli and squash in containers now. They are doing surprisingly well.

    • profile image

      Abhirath Mahipal 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      Nice. I thought I was an expert in gardening. Will use these tricks for my container garden :)

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 5 years ago from Virginia

      Great - I love basil (my favorite herb), so it's one I want plenty of in my garden. Thanks for reading!

    • emilynemchick profile image

      Emily Nemchick 5 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      I was very interested in the companion planting idea... I'll definitely try planting basil next to my tomatoes. Thanks for the tip!

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 5 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks ytsenoh! I have to thank my sister for her green thumb wisdom. She helps me with my gardening woes and inspires me with her gardening passion and success. I appreciate your positive comments and feedback. Take care.

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      I love this hub, period! But, I love plants and it's so wonderful to see things grow in the summertime. Your hub was very nicely presented and well-written. I loved your images and the way you had everything organized. I bet when you finished with this, you told yourself, "tah-dah!" Have a good week planting something!