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How To Grow A Container Garden

Let’s talk about how to grow a container garden.

Container gardening is really the easiest way to set up a garden. You get some pots and put some potting soil into them. Choose the plants you want and place them into the containers.

Voila! Instant garden. Wherever you want it.

What You Need To Know

container gardening three pots
Photo by Alison Miksch, Southern Living

Container gardening lets you design a beautiful garden even if you have limited space by using containers or pots for your garden. A container garden is flexible, moveable, and easy.

But, how to grow a successful container garden? You just need some potting soil, the plants, and a sunny location to put them. Right?

One thing to remember is that plants in containers aren’t in the ground. The area where their roots can grow is limited.

So, you really want to understand what your container garden needs to thrive.

What Does Your Container Garden Need?

Let’s dive right in so you’re ready to plant your container garden.

We’ve found that there are several aspects that are important to your container garden’s health.

They are:

  • Appropriate container
  • Proper drainage
  • Potting soil
  • Careful removal from nursery pots
  • Transplanting care
  • Correct watering and feeding

The 8 Basics of Container Gardening

Let’s cover the five basics you need to understand for successful container gardening.

1. Have The Appropriate Container

There are many things to consider when picking a pot for your container garden, including a budget, style, space, and intended use.

You don’t want to crowd your plants too closely, and you want the pot to drain.

Size is important to ease of care. Smaller pots will dry out more quickly. You might need to water small hanging baskets two or three times per day to keep the plants alive. Larger pots will hold more potting soil, which will stay moist longer.

Color is important too. Black or dark colored pots will absorb heat and dry out faster than pots that are lighter in color.

Choose a container that is the right size for your plants. Consider how fast the plant grows, the size and shape of its roots, and whether it’s an annual (dies at the end of the season) or a perennial (will come back every year).

Here is some plants-to-pot-size guidance you might want to consider:

  • A 10” to 12” pot can accommodate a mixed planting of 3-6 plants
  • A 14” to 16” container can house 4-8 plants
  • A 16” to 20” pot can hold 6-12 plants

Here is a patio pot that we recently ordered from Amazon. Tequila Sunrise. I love its color and size! But it’s available in two sizes and several colors too.

2. Provide Proper Drainage

In container gardening, drainage might be the most important aspect of your plant’s health. The rule of thumb is that the more effective the drainage the better for your plants and their health.

Just think. If the plant is in the ground, any excess water drains into lower soil levels and its roots are happily stretching out.

Remember, your container garden plants are in a container and not in the ground. If there is not enough drainage, excess water can get trapped in the bottom of the pot. If this continues, too much water can cause the plant to drown or get root rot. It could die.

Be sure the pot you choose has adequate holes for drainage. You can put more holes in the bottom if needed.

3. Prevent Soil Loss

When container gardening, you want to prevent soil loss from the pot that could happen when water is draining out. This will help keep nutrients in the soil, feed the plants. And prevent a mess on your patio.

There are several different ways to try to prevent soil loss. The old way of using rocks in the bottom of the pot don’t really work. The soil just comes out of the pot around the rocks.

Instead, use a mesh, permeable screen, or filter to line the bottom of pot prior to filling it with potting soil. Water can pass through these materials while soil cannot.

Choose from materials like coffee filters, window screen, landscape fabric, paper towels, newspaper, and brown paper sacks.

We use these flower pot hole mesh pads from Amazon. There are 120 pieces with two different sizes.

4. Elevate The Pots Off The Ground

Another thing to think about in container gardening. You’ll want to place the pots on something that elevates them from the ground. Raising the pots off the ground will help water to drain from the bottom of the pot and not get trapped inside.

We use wheeled plant stands for our larger containers. They help us to easily move large, heavy pots around. They also raise up the pots and help facilitate drainage out of the pot bottoms. You can also use these for under large pots inside your house.

Other suggestions include pot feet which are placed under your pots. They lift your pots ¾” off the ground while providing airflow and water drainage.

5. Transplant Plants With Care

Take your time to learn how to remove plants from nursery containers.

Beginners often remove by pulling upward on the stems. Doing this might kill the plant.

If your plants are in those small four-packs or six-packs, it’s easy to remove them for transplanting.

  • Hold the plant close to the soil line
  • Pinch the pot, squeezing the plant out
  • Put the plant into the soil in your container

If your new plants are in a nursery pot, it takes a little more effort to remove them.

  • First, try to push the plant from the bottom while supporting the base of the plant by the soil
  • If the plant is root-bound, you’ll have to cut the extended roots
  • Then squeeze the pot to loosen the plant and it should slip out.

For larger nursery plants, work close to the ground so the plant doesn’t drop and break.

  • The first thing I do is lie the pot of its side while supporting the base of the plant
  • You might need to roll the pot back and forth to loosen the root ball.
  • Tap the bottom of the pot and it should slide out
  • If roots are dense and circling its soil tightly, cut or tear the roots aggressively before planting.
  • Give the roots enough room to grow freely downward. If they grow in a circular pattern around the pot, the plant can become rootbound and strangle.

6. Place Plants In Containers Carefully

When you are moving the plants from the nursery pots to your containers, get everything ready before you start.

Pour the potting soil into your container. Be sure to break up any dirt clods and remove air pockets.

Inspect the plant’s roots so you can see how deep they should be planted. The plant should be at the same dirt level it was in the nursery pot. This will help the roots maintain optimum contact with soil.

The depth of planting is easily determined. You can tell by covering the plant’s stem with potting soil to exactly the same level as it was in the pot.

After placing the plants in the containers, water the pot thoroughly to settle the soil.

Then, fill any holes with potting soil after watering.

7. Water And Feed Correctly

Keep the soil moist and damp, but not wet.

  • If the soil remains too wet, the plant’s roots can rot.
  • If the soil is too dry for long periods of time, the plant will die from lack of water.

Remember, plants in containers dry out more quickly and might require more water or more frequent watering compared to plants that are planted in the ground.

And container plants will dry out more quickly especially if they are in black containers, placed on asphalt or concrete, or receive lots of sun.

To test for soil dryness, push your finger into the potting soil an inch or two. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.

  • Slowly pour the water into the pot to ensure that all the potting soil gets moist.
  • Pour water deeply until water runs freely out of the bottom of the pot.
  • Watch to make sure that water soaks straight down to the roots and throughout the soil, not just soaking the edges.

8. Fertilize Your Container Garden

When planning your container gardening, remember that container plants need more fertilizer than in-ground plants. Nutrients are flushed through the container due to frequent watering and are limited to what potting soil nutrients are the pot.

It’s a good idea to fertilize the plant before planting.

  • The plant’s been watered frequently at the nursery, and nutrients leach out with the water.
  • Mix a slow-release fertilizer into the potting soil prior to transplanting into your containers.
  • After that, apply a diluted fertilizer to the soil every one to two weeks after planting.

This is the fertilizer we use for our container gardens. Jack’s Classic All Purpose 20-20-20 plant food. It’s water-soluble, it can be diluted, and our plants love it.

How To Do Container Gardening

How to grow a container garden?

You’ve learned what it takes to start and grow a successful container garden.

  • You’ll need the right pot with lots of drainage holes.
  • Fill the container with the appropriate potting soil.
  • Take care when removing the plants from the nursery pots and transplanting them into their containers to keep them healthy.
  • Give your container garden sunlight, care, water, and food. You’ll grow a fabulous container garden that everyone will love.

Container gardening is fun and easy. You can create beautiful gardens using pots and containers. The containers you use for your garden are limited only by your imagination.

If you want to learn more, we’ve talked about container gardening before. 

Veggies and Thriller, Fillers, and Spillers, oh my!

What is your favorite container or pot for your garden?

We’ve got more info on raised bed gardening here.

Want to learn about how to improve your soil the easy way?

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