No backyard and limited garden space, but still want fresh and nutritious produce all summer? Look no further, the answer is container gardening!
What is container gardening?
Container gardening is the practice of growing plants in containers rather than directly in the ground or in raised beds. Herbs, vegetables, and fruits are all examples of plants that could be grown in containers. The containers used are just as versatile as the plants you can grow. Virtually any container can be used for a container garden, including clay pots, recycled household containers (yogurt containers, plastic tubs, etc.), wooden or plastic planter boxes, barrels, and so much more.
Benefits of Container Gardening
Container gardening has many benefits, with the first being that container gardening is perfect for those who have limited garden space. If you have access to a balcony, small yard, driveway, or even a windowsill, you can still container garden.
Container gardens are not permanent but are instead portable by design. This means that if you are moving or your plants need water or more sunlight, you can easily move your garden around as needed in your space. This adds a level of versatility that is not easily achieved in raised beds or in-ground gardens.
Container gardening allows you to be as creative as you would like! You can add structure, colour, style, and dimension to your garden. This includes selecting and decorating your containers, creating vertical gardens and unique trellises, and or upcycling containers. The possibilities are truly endless!
In many instances, container gardens require less soil and allow more control over soil type. The soil in container gardens can be more easily replaced than that of traditional in-ground or raised bed gardens, which allows the gardener more control over the type and quality of soil used. Different soils have different effects on soil moisture, which is important to consider during those hot summer days. Container gardens are also less likely to suffer from soil-borne diseases and weeds. Less weeding is always a positive in our books!
Container gardens are more accessible for children, the elderly, and those with limited mobility as the containers can be adjusted (placing the container on even or elevated surfaces).
Drawbacks of Container Gardening
Despite the many advantages of container gardening, there are some drawbacks. First off, container gardens often require more frequent watering as the soil is more susceptible to drying out quickly, especially on the hot summer days, compared to in-ground and raised bed gardening. Check the moisture levels in your containers by sticking your finger into the soil (about one to two inches) and see if the soil is dry.
The pots or containers you use will restrict and limit the size of your plants. For some gardeners and plants, this is actually an advantage, whereas, for others, it is a disadvantage.
The Best Vegetables for Container Gardens
Many vegetables do incredibly well in containers, but there are aspects to consider, such as sunlight, companion planting, and soil depths.
Mainly Sunny: basil, thyme, oregano, carrots, cherry tomatoes, radishes
Sun/Shade: kale, arugula, spinach, chard, green onions
Mainly Shady: mint, dill, beets, broccoli
Minimum Soil Depths
4 to 5 inches: lettuce, radishes, chives
6 to 7 inches: garlic, onions, bush beans
8 to 9 inches: pole beans, carrots, peppers, spinach
10 to 12 inches: beets, broccoli, potatoes,
Good Companion Pairings: tomatoes & basil, tomatoes & onions, lettuce & beets, carrots & onions
Pairings to Avoid: beans & onions, beans & garlic, tomatoes & potatoes, tomatoes & squash, carrots & dill
Top Tips for Container Gardening
- Use high quality potting soil for containers – Using soil from your garden or lower quality soils will compact in the container and prevent good drainage. Also, by using soil from your garden you could introduce weeds and other problems from the garden.
- Drainage, drainage, drainage – It is important to make sure your containers have drainage holes to prevent overwatered plants and soggy soil. If you are upcycling a container that wasn’t initially intended for growing a plant, ensure that you create drainage holes at the bottom of your container (before filling with soil). It is also important for water to drain when flat, consider adding pot feet or pot risers.
- The bigger the pot, the better – The larger the pot, the better the plant can grow, the more plants you can grow in the pot, and the better water retention the soil will have. Also, consider the minimum depths for soil, squashes and beets need deeper soils than chives and lettuce.
- Container plants need more frequent watering – Become familiar with the water needs of your plant, the type of container, and soil used, and from there remember to water your plants consistently and thoroughly. Deep watering allows your plants to develop stronger roots. It is crucial that you do not let the soil dry out completely (it will require work to rehydrate correctly).
- Provide the right light – Identify the type of light (full sun, full shade, partial sun) your container gardening space receives, from there, select the best types plants. If you do not have adequate sunlight in one area, consider moving your containers throughout the day.
- Don’t forget about companion planting – If your pot is large enough for two types of plants, consider companion planting. Even in separate containers, it’s doesn’t hurt to keep your compatible plants closer together and your incompatible plants further apart, to avoid issues like cross pollination, or insect damage.
- Be creative and have fun – Use the materials and resources you already have to create your container garden. There is no correct way to create a container garden, so let your imagination lead the way!
What will you be growing in containers this growing season? Share in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.
Contributed by Alicja Jazwiec, Community Garden Education Assistant
Better Homes and Gardens. (2009). Complete Guide to Container Gardening. Better Homes and Gardens.
Fine Gardening. (2009). Container Gardening: 250 Design Ideas & Step-By-Step. Taunton Press.
Macdonald, M. (2021, May 20). Companion Planting. Retrieved from: https://www.westcoastseeds.com/blogs/garden-wisdom/companion-planting
Sweetser, R. (2020, January 22). Container Gardening with Vegetables. Retrieved from: https://www.almanac.com/content/container-gardening-vegetables