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Container Gardening for Beginners – GIY Plants

Garden crops growing in containers

Next to water, food is our most basic essential need. Most people don’t know the first thing about growing their own food. Billions don’t have the space to even think about an outdoor, inground garden. Container gardening is the solution.

Gardening in pots or other containers allows anyone who doesn’t have the first clue about gardening- the opportunity to grow their own vegetables and plants. Continue for our container gardening for beginners tips and ideas.

Beginner Container Gardening Tips

Know your light

Use either a sun calculator or simply watching the space in your home to determine how much actual sunlight your plants will get. It’s easy to over- or under-estimate this, and the amount changes throughout the year. So take some time and find the best location for each plant, based on its specific sunlight needs.

Drain, drain, drain

Drainage is huge when it comes to gardening with containers. While inground gardening offers its own unique challenges, most soils drain naturally. But with containers, you have to make sure the water that goes in doesn’t just sit there, as that can rot the roots.

Most containers for gardening you might buy at your local store don’t have large enough holes for proper drainage. You may need to drill a few more before planting the seeds.

Avoid falling for the myth that gravel or stones in the bottom of the container help. Unless you water perfectly, your plants can and often do suffer.

Know your fertilizer

Like you, plants need food. That is called fertilizer. We recommend avoiding commercial fertilizers because, even though it’ll feed your plants, it’ll also kill off the good organisms that exist in the soil. Meaning you’ll constantly have to use this same type of fertilizer.

Most potting soils don’t have nutrients necessary for plant growth. So, mix some natural fertilizers into the potting soil, then use a liquid fertilizer every week or two. Seaweed blend or a fish emulsion is a good one to go with for organic, natural fertilizer.

Know before you go

Know what you want to grow before you head out to the nursery. Once you get there, assuming they have a robust selection, you’ll get overwhelmed and end up either hemming and hawing or want it all.

Make a general list of the plants you want. This will help narrow your focus. There are plenty of plant catalogs if you have no idea where to begin. From this list, determine the size pots you’ll need, where they’ll go in or around your house.

If you already have pots, take pictures and ask questions if needed to make sure those pots are ideal for the plants you choose.

Types of Gardening Containers

Selves of terracotta pots
There are almost a dozen basic types of gardening containers you can choose, so I’ll touch on a few to get you started.


Mostly made of clay, these gardening pots last longer and have a more natural, ‘earthy’ appearance and feel to them. They offer great aeration and drainage properties.


These plant containers can be raw, painted, or finished and they adept well to the weather conditions for almost every region. They can rot over time, so pay attention as the years pass.


These usually include aluminum, tin, copper, and steel, but can be almost any type of metal. Weather friendly, just know that these can get hot in direct sunlight, which usually dries out the soil faster.

Hanging Basket

Popular for flowering plants, these tend to be lightweight, and the soils tend to dry out faster because the plant container doesn’t hold water long.

The Purpose of Container Gardening

Lack of space is one of the top reasons people start with potted gardening. Growing plants in apartments, townhomes, or even houses with very little land available isn’t easy or feasible unless you use pots and planters.

Also, many people live in urban areas with limited sunlight, and garden pots and containers allow you to move them from one window or area to another throughout the day to achieve optimal sunlight levels.

9 Easy Steps to Create a Container Garden


1. Choose the right location

It’s all about the lighting. Find a place that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. If you have a place that receives ample morning sunlight, that would be ideal.

Also, be sure to choose a location that’s close to a water source, such as a garden hose. If you’re doing your garden containers indoors, make sure you can carry a small watering can or cup without a problem.

2. Decide on the plants you’ll grow

It can be anything that your specific location can accommodate based on sunlight and access to water. You could grow crop plants, like tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers or herbs or even flowering plants for color and ambiance.

Choosing these plants before you set out will keep you from getting sidetracked and ending up with a host of plants you either don’t really want or that aren’t ideal for your home and lighting setup. You want to make sure you have the right amount of space for your plants to grow. For example, if you’re container gardening in a windowsill, tomato or squash plants aren’t a good choice.

3. Choose the right container

I referenced four main containers, but you can also choose from self-watering containers, which reduces a lot of questions and stress from the process.

Be sure the roots will have room to grow. Smaller gardening pots are ideal for smaller plants, such as some herbs whereas larger pots of best for larger plants, like tomatoes or cucumbers.

4. Mix potting soil with fertilizer and place in the containers

Focus on raised bed mix or potting soil. Avoid garden soil as it tends to be too compact and won’t allow the air and water needed for healthy roots to move through in containers.

The proper soil should appear and feel fluffy, which indicates good drainage, and be sure to add the right levels of fertilizer as needed.

5. Plant the seeds to the appropriate depth

Make sure if your gardening containers are to remain in one place that there’s ample height for the plant to grow up. Place the seeds about two times the depth of the seed under the surface. Usually, between one and two inches.

Also, make sure you don’t allow the seeds to dry out before they begin germinating.

6. Water your garden containers appropriately

Each plant will require different amounts of water and some roots will go deeper than others. These container garden plants won’t be able to search for water, so you’ll need to provide the right levels of water daily, every other day, or however often is best for your climate, the plant, and the size of the pots.

Check the containers frequently. Insert a finger into the soil and if it feels dry, you need to add some water.
Seventh, add fertilizer every week or every other week, depending on the plants’ needs. As you water these plants frequently, that’s going to wash nutrients down the soil and away from the roots. That’s why it’s important to fertilize regularly.

8. Watch your plants daily

The healthier your plants, the less prone they’ll be to insects or diseases. Diseases and other problems are easier to detect when they’re small, and they may be easier to confront and deal with, too.

If there are leaves that are dried out or have fallen off, remove them. Learn to identify common container plant signs of drying out or overwatering and adjust accordingly.

9. Know when it’s time to harvest

Wait too long and your fruits or vegetables can become tough. Also, picking often encourages more crops.

Container Gardening Ideas

Look around your home and you’ll likely find quick a few items that can be converted into containers for gardening. You may have some old clay pots that are dirty and worn, but you could paint them, spruce them up, and bring them back to life.

Here are some other simple ideas you might consider:

  • Use an old shelving unit to display the pots
    Too often, we tend to discard shelving units, bookcases, and other items when they no longer serve their original purpose. This is a great way to stack pots, especially if you have a tiered shelving unit.
  • Old tin cans or milk cans
    If you find some old tin or other metal containers at a tag sale or flea market, these can be wonderful for container plants. Make sure to drill proper holes in the bottom or drainage.
  • Pallet containers
    Pallets are almost everywhere, and businesses are desperate to get rid of many of them. Just one, with a saw, some fresh nails, and a bit of ingenuity and you could create a host of box containers for the window, garden plants, and much more.
  • Plant decorative grasses
    Have an unsightly section around your house, such as a meter or other fixture, you could place potted grasses before them, sprucing up that area of your home.
  • An old wheelbarrow
    If you have an old wheelbarrow or other similar item on your property, something rusted and run down, don’t chuck it. Use it as a decorative container plant and place it along the front lawn. It’ll certainly be an eye-opener to passers-by.
  • Convert an old bird feeder
    An old stone bird feeder could make for a great container for gardening. You will need to figure out how to build in drainage, but if it’s cracked or was leaking, it may just offer the level of drainage needed for plants now.
  • Metal watering cans
    Like the milk containers, old watering cans, with proper holes drilled in, can make wonderful plant containers.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to think outside the box and imagine what’s possible. You don’t need to spend a fortune to start container gardening, just a sincere desire, a little elbow grease, and some creative thinking.

The Best Vegetables for Container Gardening

Peppers, carrots, strawberries, potatoes, kale, green onions, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, radishes, and even some tomato varieties can all make great container garden plants.

So, too, can herbs, including basil, garlic, oregano, ginger, sage, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of soil is best for growing vegetables in containers?

Potting soil works best, but you’ll need to add organic fertilizer to it as the potting soil won’t have any nutrients naturally.

What are the benefits of container gardening?

You don’t need a lot of space, so it works great for city life and even rural living. Your growing season can be longer if you can move them indoors during a potential frost or cold snap. You can also protect them better from extreme weather (ie. hail, flooding, high winds), so long as they’re mobile enough.

What are some disadvantages to container gardening?

Depending on the plant container size, there’s limited room for root growth and they require more constant watering than in-ground plants tend to need. Plants in containers are more prone to extreme heat and cold weather. Plants in gardening containers require more care and their output will be somewhat less than their in-ground counterparts

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