Container Gardening Advice

Although I could plant more in the ground, I am a container gardening freak and I love the control that it gives me. There's far less weeding, and I love that the plants are (generally) portable. I can rearrange my containers for maximum effect or for simplified watering if I'm away from home. My husband does tomatoes and peppers (in containers) where the sun is brighter, but I just enjoy beautiful green and flowering plants; I don't care if they produce anything to eat. I do love herbs, though.


Here are some thoughts on container gardens:

  • Start small and build on your successes. Don't try to buy/do too much at first.

  • Try lots of herbs. They are easy to grow, often beautiful and fragrant to boot. Rosemary is great. Mint is delicious but will get scraggly on you (hint - keep it trimmed). I'm dying to try chives next year. My neighbor has them.

  • Don't be too quick to purchase every plant in the store on your first trip - again, start small - make several trips over a few weeks in spring. You will be surprised at the new things that come into the stores during that period. Spreading your selections allows you time to do your potting chores promptly without an exhausting day in the garden.

  • Only buy what you can plant today or tomorrow. You wouldn't bring a new baby home and store it in the garage for 3 days.

  • Ask questions at your local plant stores - find the knowledgeable clerks and pump them for information.

  • Find a gardening association, or attend their plant sales, for wonderful tips and great localized plants. Gardeners love to talk about what they love doing. You may also get some free bulbs or plants this way!

  • Make sure all your pots have holes in the bottom for drainage. Try not to buy any containers without: If it's hole deprived but too cute and you must have it, drill a hole in the bottom if possible, or use it only as a base or outer pot holder.

  • No plant lives forever. If one is past its prime, pull it up and move on. You're not a failure as a gardener because a plant died. No point trying to nurse a sad tomato over the dog days of August. Just replant for fall.

  • Use mulch. Cover the potting soil with 1 -2 inches of mulch and refresh it if it thins in late summer. This reduces the amount of watering needed and helps your plants make it through the heat in far better shape.

  • I've just learned this one in the last 2 years - get some rolling potholders. These are fantastic! I have mostly shade in my garden area but I can move the containers around to get more sun as needed.

  • Enjoy your garden everyday by establishing seating nearby. A plant you don't see regularly can get forgotten and neglected fast! If you can keep an eye on it, you can usually keep it growing. We have our coffee on the porch every chance we can.

By nhe from Denton, TX

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May 20, 20130 found this helpful

An interesting and well written entry. Thank you for sharing with us.

Due to invasive Burmuda grass, I am forced to grow many things in containers. Besides the drainage holes you mentioned, the growing medium itself is very important.


I have found that for best results, the soil for container grown plants should be highly amended with Perlite or an equivalent. Before I learned this lesson, I lost many plants to improper drainage - not due to lack of adequate drainage holes, but due to the soil itself retaining too much water.

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