A Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening: What You Need to Know

Container gardening

Whether you have limited outdoor space or simply love the look of plants grown in pots, container gardening is fun, easy, and ideal for beginners. It allows you to enjoy growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs conveniently in small spaces like patios, decks, and apartment balconies. 

tomatoes growing in containers

With the ease of growing fresh fruits and vegetables in any space, it’s no wonder that container gardening is so popular. And with the variety of dwarf and compact varieties of fruits and vegetables available, it's never been easier to grow the plants you love.

Ready to get started? Here’s a guide to get you on the path to gardening success.

Gardening in Containers vs Traditional Gardening

Container gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening.

  • Pots are portable, which makes a container garden flexible.
  • Plants that would die with the first frost can often be overwintered indoors.
  • It’s easy to keep a pot free of weeds.
  • Container gardens allow the beginner to learn without worrying about making a mess of their yard.
  • Children especially love growing in pots - ask any elementary school science teacher!

child holding flowers in bucket

Choosing the right plants for your containers

Plants that do well in backyard gardens often will do well in containers as well. Take care to pick varieties that won’t be more than your space can handle. You won’t want to plant a massive pumpkin vine on your apartment balcony. But maybe some tomato and basil plants would be perfect, though. And there are many compact, dwarf and bush varieties of your favorite fruits and vegetables that thrive in containers and have a small footprint.

Think of how big your plant will be when fully grown, and don’t forget to take the roots into account. Pots filled with soil, water, and plants can get heavy.

Get creative with your containers!

Your plants aren’t the only source of beauty in a container garden. Choose interesting pots that express your creativity. There are beautiful options for sale, or you could make your own containers. Like to upcycle or DIY? Almost anything that will hold potting soil can be a place for plants to grow. It can be fun to repurpose something that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

It’s important to choose containers made of safe materials that haven’t been contaminated with anything toxic, of course. This is especially important if you’re growing anything edible.

herbs growing in outdoor container

Don't forget drainage

Make sure that your pots have holes for drainage so that your plant doesn’t become waterlogged. If they don’t, drill or create holes for water to escape and keep your plants healthy to prevent root rot and disease. And don’t forget to water them as needed.

Container gardens need more watering than in-ground gardens. Don’t allow the roots to dry out completely or they may die. That extra watering means that the fertilizer in your soil or growing medium will leach out more quickly, too.

Choose the right spot

You'll want to choose a spot with enough light for your plants to thrive. Since pots are portable, they're easy to move if your plants need more or less light. Don’t forget about wind conditions or other environmental factors.

If you’re interested in learning more about container gardening, we recommend this article by the Colorado State Extension with more details about successful container gardening. This article by the Texas A&M Extension has more information specific to vegetables that grow well in containers. 

Of course, experience is the best teacher. Get out there and plant. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn.

Written by Teresa Chandler

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