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Container Gardening Ideas: For the Beginner Gardener

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Anyone can grow plants in containers. An incredible diversity of flowers, fruits and vegetables exist that can be grown in a container. Lots of fun and satisfaction can be derived from growing beautiful healthy, colorful plants in pots or hanging baskets. Growing vegetables can provide you with a healthy alternative to bought packaged items. Children in particular love to see fast growing vegetables such as lettuce and radishes developing so quickly in front of their eyes. You never know, they might also be encouraged to eat them.

The pots available come in an amazing variety of sizes and shapes. Anything from a mini pot that may contain a mini cactus, through to a trough for vegetables or flowers. Or you may choose to use an old container you found at a second hand store. I have seen many items such as large cans, old wheel barrows and metal washing machine inserts, converted into container gardens.

Over the years I have seen some amazing container gardens, full of color and variety, that obviously give there owners many hours of pleasure.

WHAT IS CONTAINER GARDENING:

Container gardening is the practice of growing plants in a container rather than planting it directly into the ground. This method of gardening is normally utilized in small gardens, or in units, where the owner has a restricted area available to them. Even a small balcony or patio can have a container garden incorporated.

ADVANTAGES OF CONTAINER GARDENING

It is unnecessary to own a large plot of land in order to have a pretty garden. You can make a garden in just about any space, no matter the size. It’s even possible to have one inside your home. All you need is an area that receives sufficient light and ample amounts of sunshine. Many people have built container gardens on their patios, decks or balconies or even on small concreted areas in their backyards. It’s even possible to construct one on your window sill.

Container gardening very is easy, even for a beginner, and is a good idea especially If you live in an apartment or have a small yard. There are many types of fruits and vegetables which are suitable to grow in the containers including eggplant, squash, green onions, green beans cucumbers, tomatoes and more. Some climbing plants will need some supports such as wire trellis’s or bamboo cane, where the plants can be tied to keep them upright.

Container Gardening Ideas: For the Beginner Gardener

Looking for the right gardening tips for beginners? Look no further! Here are tips to help you get started with your new garden quickly and cheaply.

1. Plants or vegetables suitable for container gardening

Not every variety of kind of vegetable or plant is suitable to be grown in containers. In the vegetable range you will usually have to pick dwarf varieties. However, there are many vegetables that are suitable for container growing. Plants such as beans, Mini Tomato’s, lettuce, and small peppers are ideal. Other varieties include radish’s, baby carrots and dwarf purple french beans. There is even a miniature dwarf eggplant available.

There are a wonderful array of plants that can be grown in containers. From very colorful annuals, such as petunia’s, through to small shrubs like Asters, Tulips, Daffodils, Hippeastrum. Daylilies even miniature Agapantha’s’s.

What you grow in your containers will depend on such factors as:

  • Climate… The climate zone you live in. Succulents and cacti might prefer a hotter, drier zone.
  • Micro climate… The climate that your garden may consist of, for example, brick walls often warm up an area.
  • Personal preference’s. What colors and shapes you personally like.
  • Availability. What plants are available at your local garden center.

2. Suitable container to use

Almost any type of container can be used, just make sure it is big enough and has plenty of drainage holes. If possible choose a light colored pot as they are cooler in the hotter months and conserve heat less than darker colored pots so won’t cause the soil to overheat as readily.

However, you can alter the black pots by giving them a touch up with some light colored paint. Use a drip tray under the pots to help conserve water.

There are many pot designs available today that have their own mini water reservoirs attached.

Hanging baskets are also a fantastic way of adding more plants and color to your garden. If you have the room to place a few hooks or rods high up in your courtyard, you will be able to add these amazing features.

3. Ideal locations for container gardening

You can place your pots on a balcony or patio but make sure they will be in the sunshine for most of the day, but have protection from any hot afternoon sun. Most vegetables will need a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight a day to grow well. However, the amount of time a flowering or colorful leaf plant will require is dependent on the variety you choose. Always check the plant label for these details.

In colder climates in the Northern hemisphere, it’s a good idea to place them against a wall that faces south. You could also put the pots on a movable platform so that you can move them around to get sunlight from every direction which will result in more even growth and allows you to move them out of the sun in the hottest part of the day.

4. How you should plant your vegetables

You will need to use a good quality potting compost. The ordinary garden soil is not recommended for container gardening as it may not have the right balance of nutrients and may contain pests and weed seed. The vegetables can be bought as young transplants or you could grow them indoors or in a greenhouse from seed.

When you plant them in pots, place some mulch on the top of the soil to help conserve moisture. You could use some sort of mulch such as pebbles or straw or even bark pieces. It is possible to purchase colored bark pieces that will help bring the pot alive with vibrant clor tones.

5. Watering schedule

Most containers will only be needed to be watered once a week. This will depend on the climate. During very hot spells they might need watering every three to four days. The opposite is true for situations where the weather is very cold or wet, once a week may be too much.

Don’t water directly on the plants but around their bases, as water on the leaves can encourage mold and fungus. Don’t allow the pots to become waterlogged but make sure the drainage is adequate.

Fertilizers to use and how to apply:

It is recommended that you use either a half strength liquid fertilizer, such as sea weed extract, every fortnight, and do it alternately with your watering routine. Every six months I would add a slow release fertilizer. You shouldn’t need to add the slow release type with the initial planting as most modern potting mediums include it in their mix. This would guarantee that only vivacious and healthy plants will thrive in your garden.

Conclusion

If the dying/dead plant is just becoming an eyesore and really beyond hope, take it out of the container and replace it with a new and healthy plant. Last, but not least, if your plant is clearly suffering from a disease, either quarantine it immediately away from other plants or just throw it to ensure the survival of your container.

If you are planning on placing several plants together in one container, make sure that they work well together. This means, ensure that all the plants have similar requirements for light as well as moisture. If you choose to grow plants that don’t make good neighbors, you can end up with a container full of dying and wilting plants or one plant might outgrow and smoother the other.

As a beginner, you need just the right advice and have the patience to wait for success, it could be for you. Always talk to the experts at your local garden center for information on which plant types to choose for your area.

If your first plant dies or just doesn’t look good, don’t feel bad; pull it out and replace it with something else!

If you have any comments about container gardening or questions you would like to answer, please leave a comment in the box below.

==>If you enjoyed this article why not click on this link for more information<==

Happy Gardening. Jim

Jim Kulk

37 Comments

  1. I purchased this house because of the garden and where it is and I love to see colour and whilst we had it nice, living in the UK believe it or not, but there is a water restriction so they are not looking their best. We have our name down for a plot on an allotment so we are looking forward to growing our own veg. We currently have many willows that I planted around 6 years ago to strengthen the banking as we live next to a river. Around 40 and some have died, any advice would be great? Some great advice, thanks for sharing.

    • Ni Mick. Unfortunately Willow trees do need water. Your plot sound incredible. Are they close enough to the river edge to benefit from the water?.These trees thrive in moist soil and full sunlight. Check that there aren’t any suckers growing from the base, these take nutrients away from the main tree. Check your trees for any sign of crown Gall, cankers or willow scab. Remove any branches that might have become infected these diseases by cutting them off near the branch collar. Look for any signs of spots on the leaves, green spores underneath leaves, lesions on twigs or branches and dieback. Hope this helps. Jim

  2. Hi Jim, what a wonderful and inspiring post, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!
    Although I once did a couple of years of gardening work with my Dad, it was always other people’s gardens and I have never really had a garden of my own. I have mostly only ever lived in small flats, or had very tiny courtyards and never really thought I had enough room to grow much, but it looks like I was wrong.
    Being a huge organic fruit and veg fan it has always been my dream to be able to one day have a garden big enough to grow my own food. Although I would like an actual gardener to come along and do the hard work as I know how back breaking gardening can be ha ha! But it is a lovely thought 🙂

    • Thanks Stephanie. I appreciate your positive comments. I also am a fan of organic fruit and vegetables. I hope to add an article to this site on that subject in the near future. All the best. Jim

  3. Here in Virginia, the tomatoes get really big. It isn’t impossible to grow them in containers, but it is kind of awkward. My neighbor does have a full sized tomato plant (6′ tall) in her containers, but she supports it with her fence, so that makes it look better and easier to pick the tomatoes.

  4. I love to grow plants and trees. Now my challenge are these: While I have 1.2 acres around my house, the summer heat, the winter cold and the non stop wind will have no chance at survival. What is the best way to grow veggies in the high desert of California !

    Thanks !

    Joe

    • Hi Joe. Desert sand type soils are often rich in minerals and are an ideal base for growing plants. All you will need to add is compost, manure and slow release fertilizers. Ideally you should grow your plants in a shade house, probably around 50% shade for desert country. I assume you have access to water, as this is a much needed ingredient. All the best. Jim

  5. Hi Jim,
    I’ve been looking for a way to grow some veggies in my top floor condo. I wondered if it would be possible to grow some in mason jars. I love the look of them and think it would be really cute to have some mason jar planters lined up on my window sill. Do you know anything about that? I know you said the containers are supposed to have lots of holes. Hmm, maybe it’s a bad idea. Anyway, lots of great info here and I’ll have to bookmark this for reference. Thanks for the information!

    • Hi Reaghost. Always use containers where the water can drain out of, otherwise you will have waterlogged plants causing them to slowly die. Thanks for you positive comments. Jim

  6. What helpful information. We have both a garden and a container garden for our deck and yard. I had never even thought about how the darker color of my pots could be affecting my plants. I chose them because they have great drainage, plenty of room and a cool antique rusted look even though they are plastic. Makes me wonder if I need to lighten them up. My plants, petunias, go through cycles. They will be thriving and blooming one week then all the flowers dry up and fall off the next. Are they supposed to do that to grow fresh buds or is it that the containers are too hot?

    • It sounds like the containers might be getting to hot. You might also have a poor quality potting mix. Always use premium mixes with water crystals added. Thanks Jim

  7. Outstanding! Never actually thought about doing this. We’ve put in in-ground gardens forever, but this will definitely be our next challenge. Love the ideas you lay out here. Thank you.

  8. Hey Jim, I used to gardening years ago when I lived in New York. It’s a little harder in Florida because it gets so hot. But my wife loves to grow vegetables and it is rewarding to eat the vegetables that you grow. I’m not much of a green thumb so I will leave it up to her! You have some great tips for growing with container gardening. Thanks!

    • thanks Rob. If you’re in Florida with the heat, it might be worthwhile covering your vegie patch with an igloo made of 30% shade cloth. Jim

  9. Hi Jim,
    Thanks for all the great information. By a miracle the plants I have in containers are all alive. Meanwhile the plants in the front yard are basically almost death. I don’t know what to do. I water them in the morning before the sun comes out. Later during the day, they get so droopy, so I water them again in the evening. Do you have any advice or any suggest a special type of fertilizer to use?

    • Hi Carmen. It might not be a fertilizer issue. By the sounds of it you may have soil problems. It sounds like your soil isn’t holding any moisture. There are several tasks you need to undertake to fix this issue I) add compost to the soil to improve it’s structure. 2) Add water crystals. 3). Cover the soil with mulch, fine straw or sugar cane mulch would be ideal. Once you have completed these tasks, water in well and see how the plants go for a couple of weeks. You can then add some slow release fertilizer, preferably a six month variety. Jim

  10. Interesting article especially for the urban gardener like me. Any idea whether raised beds fall into the same category?

  11. Great tips for all urban gardeners. I got an inspiration to try container gardening in our patio. I think there’s light enough and I will find suitable plants and vegetables according to your suggestions. Thanks.

  12. I was wondering where I should do that. I will use the balcony. However, I think it takes only 5 hours of sunlight. I am just a beginner and I wonder whether this will be a problem or not.

    • Five hours of sunshine is usually plenty if the plants are getting extra light as well. What this means is that they should be in an area that will still receive some light after the sunlight has passed. Jim

  13. Thank you for sharing this!y wife and I just moved to a small apartment but that hasn’t discouraged her determination to start a small garden. Perhaps trying out a container garden would be a great option for her! Keeping your article bookmarked.

    Oftentimes people have the impression that gardens have to be big or grand but I’m glad to see there are smaller, more minimalist options available.

    • Hi Mike. Gardens come in all shapes, sizes and types. Each with their own unique design and features. All the best with your container garden. Jim

  14. What an interesting article. My mother had a green thumb, and had five daughters. Can you believe that not one of us inherited her love of plants, herbs, and flowers? She had a fabulous rock garden, herb garden and vegetable garden. We always helped her with them but we didn’t really appreciate how much she loved it all. I was much more into animals than plants, and so took that path in career and hobby. Can you write a ‘How To’ for those of us who would love to have a small, kitchen herbal “garden” in the kitchen window? I would love that! Anis would definitely be one of the ones I’d grow because my Mom used it a lot. Perhaps you could list the ones that would grow well in an indoor window? Thank you for writing this article!

  15. I love watching things grow.  Container gardening is perfect for my apartment.  Plants grow great near the window of my apartment.  I grow some basil and other herbs for my bunnies, they love it.  I also love using all those wonderful herbs in meals and cooking.  I used to grow sunflowers, and pumkins and lots of other plants outdoors when we used to live in a house.

  16. Hi Jim,

    I just wanted to let you know that I liked your article. 

    I laughed a little as I read your suggestion for placing your plants facing south when you live in colder climates. I used to live in the Midwest part of the US and it sure can get cold. But your absolutely right! Just follow the sun!

    Over time, I’ve found that container gardening is especially useful for those who move around a lot, as you can take your containers with you and replant wherever you are with potting soil. This seems to ensure a better harvest, as the native soils in some places are not very hospitable to certain plants. I learned this the hard way while living in Arizona.

    • Hi Cris. Thank you for reading my article on container gardening. Containers are definitely a benefit in climates where you need to follow the sun. Jim

  17. Hi Jim, Thank you for the nice article.  I have always said that I have a ‘brown thumb’ rather than a green one.  If is a plant I can kill it.  However, I was given a begonia last year for my birthday that is still thriving.  For those of us totally plant inept people, this gives us something to go on.  For simplicities sake, what are some of the more hardier flowering plants or vegetables that are easier to grow?  Which combination of plants would you recommend for a small container garden in an arid climate?

    • Hi Tammy. I think you should read my article on green thumb gardening, or at least the myth around it, it might help you. All the best. Jim

  18. I really enjoyed your post, Jim.  I have dabbled in vegetable gardening for years, on and off.  We had a horse farm and i used an unserviceable 100 gallon water trough and a poly plastic used peanut oil drum (cut in half) for outside containers for peppers and tomatoes (with holes drilled in the bottoms for drainage).

    I have since moved to Florida, and am renting in a historic district, so containers will be the way to go for me.  I don’t think the local historical society would appreciate two or three rows of corn in the back yard.  I have an avocado seed sprouting roots in a jar on the kitchen window sill right now, waiting until it gets big enough to transplant to a container.  Your post came just in time.

    I have your site bookmarked for reference, and will check back periodically.

    Thanks for an interesting post, and best wishes,

    Joe (joejr49)

  19. I live in a small space and have a tiny area where the sunshine comes through. I have been wanting to take advantage of this little pocket of sun I have and create a grand container garden composed of glass mason jar bottles  in various colors that I have collected. They are very vetro looking. I also went to home depot and got a bag of very nutritious soil similar to the ‘potting soil’ you have pictured. I also went to Whole Foods and bought an array of flowers and different vegetable / fruit plants. I am going to experiment with two  of each in two jars. ( I have several jars! ) I really like the idea you had of a wheel barrow. While that would be way too large for my balcony, it certainly inspires me to think of other boxes and larger containers other than my little vintage jars, which I can plant in. I am going to give this round a go. I even got some organic fertilizer that I am going to add to the soil mix when I plant the seeds. Just to give them a little boost! I like the beginners gardening tips you gave here, definitely inspired me to do different things with my little garden than I first planned 🙂 Book marked your site for future reference!  

    • Hi Sophia. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed my site and that you got some useful information from it. I look forward to you returning for future blogs. Jim

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