how to garden in containers

Why would we want to know how to garden in containers?

Gardening in containers is good when;

  • We don't have time for a large garden.
  • There is no space for a garden.
  • Our soil is too hard or rocky.
  • The yard has lousy drainage.
  • It's hard to bend over to pull weeds.
  • Our yard is mostly shade.
  • We live in a third story apartment.
  • We want to feed the wildlife.
  • The deck or patio needs some sprucing up.
  • We want to show off our artistic flare.
  • We just love gardening out in the fresh air and sunshine.

Container-garden-potContainers don't limit our imagination.

container gardening is the answer to our dilemmas

If our property has poor drainage, gardening in containers is the answer. If we have poor soil, learning how to garden in containers solves that problem. Our plants will grow wonderfully in a container.

Originally, I planted some fruit and vegetables in tubs to keep the dog from running over them. Soon, I realized how much easier it is for a senior to tend plants in containers, instead of at ground level.

  1. What can we grow in containers?
  2. How do we choose our containers?
  3. Where can we put our container plants?
  4. Preparing our containers for planting
  5. How to care for garden containers
How-to-garden-in-containers-2We can landscape the deck with container plants.

what can we grow in containers?

Almost any plants that grow in the ground can be grown in containers. This includes trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs and vegetables.

It's fun to add color spots in our yard with containers of flowers. The container may be stationary, moveable on rollers or it may be a hanging basket.

Even if we live in a third story apartment, we can put out a bucket, a hanging basket or a window box of flowers for the butterflies and hummingbirds.

Container vegetable gardening is very rewarding!

We can grow many vegetables when we know how to garden in containers.

Today the plant breeders are coming up with more compact sized vegetable plants. The larger vegetables like tomatoes and squash now have compact, bush or dwarf varieties that fit very well into a container.

The sprawling vegetables like cucumbers, winter squash and even the melons have bush varieties suitable for container vegetable gardening.

The vine-like plants like cucumbers or beans may be planted next to a trellis, a fence or grown on tomato cages.

Leafy greens are ideal container vegetables.Swiss chard does very well in containers.


Many of our grandparent favorite old-time, heirloom vegetables grow in containers. The plant breeders keep producing new varieties bred for growing in containers.

Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula and Swiss chard are excellent container vegetables.

Broccoli and all the cruciferous vegetables in the cabbage family are happy in containers.

Tomatoes are a favorite vegetable for growing in containers.

A full list of vegetables that grow in containers would include: beans, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, cucumbers, eggplant, green onions, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, melons, mustard, parsley, peanuts, peas, potatoes, peppers, radishes, turnips, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

We can grow fruit in containers, too. Strawberries, figs, bananas, blueberries, raspberries and more will all grow in containers.

how do we choose our containers

We can grow vegetables, flowers and herbs in just about anything that will hold soil.

We may choose our containers for appearance. What will look good with the color of our house or what will look good on our patio table.

What containers are available? We may use pots, pans, buckets, tubs, whiskey barrels, livestock water tanks, an old sink, a bath tub or a wheel barrel. We may even build our own containers, such as raised beds.

Grow God's gifts in containers.Container plants compliment the house and yard.

what size do we need?

Choose containers that are large enough to hold the roots system of the plants.

Containers for large plants like tomatoes and zucchini squash need to be at least 12" deep. Smaller plants can get by in shorter pots.

Small containers for flowers will be easy to move around. Large containers that will need to be moved can be put on wheels or casters.

Five-gallon buckets are great for container vegetable gardening. They are readily available and they are easy to move with their handy handles.

If the container is used, find out how it was used previously. We don't want to plant our vegetables in a container that contained toxic things like paint, pesticides or other chemicals. That's how to garden in containers safely.

where can we put our container plants?

We can grow in containers in the front yard, backyard, on the porch, up the side of the steps, in hanging pots, on the patio, the deck or anywhere we can fit a container.

When we live in a city apartment or condo, we may do our container gardening on the rooftop, a balcony, the alleyway, on the sidewalk or in window boxes.

Anyone can grow flowers in containers.We can still grow flowers on a third story apartment.

plants need sunlight

Put the plant containers where they will get adequate sunlight. Light is a very important aspect of how to garden in containers.

Many flowers and herbs like two to six hours of sun per day. Roses need six hours or more in order to grow and flower well.

There are of course many exceptions. Some flowers like Impatiens do better with less sun. Actually, they will grow in full shade.

Vegetables grow the best with six hours of sun per day. Shade vegetables will grow with as little as two hours on sunlight. But two to six hours is best for most vegetables.

preparing our garden containers for planting

Make sure the containers have adequate drain holes. This may mean drilling holes in the bottom of plastic buckets and tubs.

Use a 1/2" or 3/4" auger bit and drill several holes in the bottom of a bucket. A larger tub should have 1" holes about every six to eight inches. Some people like to drill the holes on the sides, just above the floor of the container.

We may put rocks, broken pieces of clay pots, landscape fabric or plastic window screen to keep the soil from washing out the holes.

Some of the clay or ceramic pots for sale don't have any drain holes. Use a masonry bit to make their drain holes. Drilling into a ceramic pot with a regular drill bit may cause the pot to crack or break.

what soil should we use in containers?

Get commercial 'potting soil' it's how to garden in containers.

Apart from the sun, the soil in our containers is the most important aspect of how to garden in containers.

The container's soil must both drain well and be able to retain moisture. It should not compact and become soggy causing the roots to rot.

The commercial soil mixes have also been sterilized to kill any pests, diseases and weed seeds.

Growing vegetables in raised bed containers is the answer to poor draining soil in our yard.Raised bed containers solve drainage problems.

Bags labeled 'garden soil' are too heavy to use in containers. The plants will sit and sulk in heavy, wet soil that doesn't drain well.

The natural soil from our yard is too heavy and do not drain well in containers.

We may improve the drainage of natural soil or bagged topsoil by mixing them with plenty of organic matter such as compost, peat moss or vermiculite.

Some people make their own containers soil mixes. But if we have a limited number of containers, our best bet is to purchase commercial 'potting soil'.

Filling the containers

  • Small pots can be filled with soil to about 1" below the rim.
  • Larger pots should be filled to 2" or 3" below the rim.
  • The soil in my very large tubs is about 5" to 6" below the top.
  • Then when you water, the soil won't wash out of the pot.

how to garden in containers

Plants need light, water and some fertilizer to grow and prosper in containers. We covered light already, above.

Share the gift of flowers in containers.Share the lovely gift of flowers in containers.

how to water our container plants

As a general rule container plants require daily watering, with some variations.

Check the soil with the index finger in the soil, up to the first knuckle. Does the soil feel dry? If so, it's time to water.

Large containers are watered less often. Small containers don't have as much soil. They dry out faster and more than likely will need daily watering.

During hot or windy days, the soil can dry out very quickly. So, the container will probably require extra watering.

During cool or cloudy weather, we don't have to water so often.

Do container plants need fertilizer?

Yes, container plants especially need fertilizer. It's a necessary for how to garden in containers.

Container plants are watered more often than plants in the ground. The constant watering washes the nutrients out of the container.

When we planted our container garden originally, there may have been time-released fertilizer in the mix. Maybe we added compost or rotted manure. These nutrients last a few months.

So, after 3 or 4 months we need to give the plant more nutrients - fertilizer. That's how to garden in containers.

How does a plant get its nutrients from of the soil?

A plant picks up the nutrients when are in solution. Dry nutrients have no way to get up into the plant.

Soluble fertilizer is best for our container plants. Fish emulsion is good or any other liquid fertilizer with equal numbers. Liquid fertilizer is ready for immediate use. Apply it every 2-4 weeks.

In order to prevent burning the plants, make sure the soil is moist before applying the fertilizer. This keeps our plant happy and healthy.

mom said veggies are good for us - how to grow broccoli

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are healthy, keto friendly vegetables. The name crucifer comes from their four-petaled flowers that look like a cross. They are commonly called cole crops.

They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. Plus, they are noted for helping in the prevention of cancer. You can't go wrong with these tasty, healthy vegetables.

These healthy vegetables include; arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, horseradish, kale, mustard, radishes, turnips, wasabi and watercress.

They all do well growing in garden containers.

Broccoli is a cool season vegetable grown in the spring and fall. The seeds may be started inside about six weeks before transplanting the seedlings into the garden. Plant the fall crops in the garden in the late summer.

In moderate climates it may be grown into the wintertime.

How to grow broccoliBroccoli is the king of vegetables.

Broccoli has a long harvest season. What we eat is actually the flower buds that have not opened.

It is a cool season plant, so plant it in the spring, as soon as we see the young plants in the garden centers. We can grow our own young plants from seed by planting the seed about 4 to 6 weeks before garden time.

Varieties - Marathon, Packman, Patriot, Calabrese, Premium Crop, Bravo, Waltham 29, Signal, Sun King and Decathion.

Planting - Plant young plants in the spring about two weeks before the last frost. They will take a light frost just fine, but not a hard freeze.

Set the plants about 2 or 3 broccoli plants in a large tub.

Hot weather will cause a broccoli plant to bolt and go to seed.

In mild climates, we may set out the plants in the late summer or fall for a harvest during the winter and early spring.

Care - Broccoli grows best in full sun. It requires regular watering for best growth. A layer of mulch will help control the moisture and keep the weeds down.

Water the plant regularly and apply organic fertilizer a couple of times before the broccoli heads form.

Harvesting - It will grow the broccoli flower in the center of the plant. Harvest it when it is a moderate, compact size. If you wait until it gets too big or the flowers start to open, it won’t taste good.

Cut the flower with about 6 inches of stem and leaves which are also good to eat.

After the center flower is harvested, the side branches will grow and produce another broccoli head on each branch. It's easy learning how to garden in containers and broccoli is a good choice.

Broccoli is not resistant to quail!

One year while I was growing broccoli in the ground, I was so proud of the young broccoli seedlings that were up 4 or 5 inches tall. There was a whole row of them.

Looking out the window one afternoon, I saw a bunch of quail come into the garden. I thought, oh how pretty.

They wandered around the garden looking at everything. Then they zoned right in on the young broccoli plants. They went right down the row eating all the broccoli plants. Yikes!

It's too bad they don't know how to grow broccoli for themselves.

how to grow broccoli with organic pest control

The one thing that may bother our cole crops is the cabbage worm. If our plants are troubled by cabbage worms, we have three options.

  1. Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterium that lives in the soil. Cabbage worms don't like it. It’s naturally safe to spray on the cruciferous vegetables about every week or two. Always read the label and follow the instructions on any pesticide.
  2. Make a collar out of stiff paper and place it around the stem of the plant. The collar should go 1 inch below the soil and 2 inches above the soil. The cutworms can't figure out how to navigate the collar and your plants are protected.
  3. Plant your cruciferous vegetables in a different place each year. The pests overwintering in the soil won't have an easy time finding the plants.

When you know how to grow broccoli, you can grow any cole crops. You can't go wrong planting and growing healthy cruciferous vegetables.

Are Tomatoes a Fruit or vegetable?

Are tomatoes a fruit? It depends whether we are asking a cook or a botanist.

Cooks classify fruits and vegetables according to how they use them. They use tomatoes with other veggies in salads, and pasta etc. They call tomatoes a vegetable.

Botanists say tomatoes are a fruit. They come from the flower's ovary and contain seeds. So do green peas, squash, okra and many other so-called 'vegetables'.

Vegetables come from other plant parts, like the roots, leaves and stems. Potatoes and carrots are from the roots. Spinach, lettuce and kale are the leaves of a plant.

People have been wondering for ages if tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable.A fruit or a vegetable?

how do we grow tomatoes?

Tomatoes are the most popular home grown 'vegetable'. There is nothing like the treat of fresh garden tomatoes on the dinner table.

We can grow these wonderful tomatoes when we know how to garden in containers.

Tomatoes like;

  • Well-drained soil, but they will grow in most any type of soil.
  • 6 hours of sun per day
  • Good watering
  • A bit of fertilizer when they are fruiting

How long does it take to get a tomato?

  • Cherry tomato types will harvest in 50 to 55 days after planting a seedling.
  • The larger tomatoes take 55 to 85 days from the seedling stage.
  • Most tomatoes will continue to produce all summer up until frost.

Two types of tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated tomatoes. This means you can save the seed. Plant the seed the next year and it will come true year after year.

You may save your own tomato seeds from a ripe fruit.

  • Spread out the fleshy insides of the tomato containing the seeds, on a paper towel to dry.
  • When the seeds are thoroughly dry, place the seeds in a zip-lock bag or small jar with a lid.
  • Store the seeds in a cool dry place.
  • In the freezer the seeds will last well.
  • Saving seeds is a good thing to know, if the seeds become unavailable for some reason.

Hybrid tomatoes are produced by crossing different varieties. There are many delicious hybrid tomatoes.

They will not come true from the seeds we save from the fruit. The seedlings could have all sorts of variations, much like our parents had children that were all different. No two are alike.

Choose heirloom or hybrid tomato varieties.We have a choice of many tomato varieties.

Tomato varieties

* The heirloom, open-pollinated varieties are marked with an asterisk.

Cherry tomatoes; Super Sweet, *Black Cherry, Sweet Million, *Sun Gold, Yellow *Pear, *Red Pear

Slicing tomatoes; *Brandywine, Early Girl, Better Boy, Big Boy, Beefsteak, *Rutgers, Celebrity

Various tomatoes: *Cherokee Purple, Lemon Boy, *Mr. Stripey, *Pineapple, German Pink, *Black Krim

Container tomatoes: Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Pixie, Toy Boy, Patio, Salad Top, Tumbling Tom, Early Salad

Canning tomatoes: *San Marzano, *Roma, *Amish Paste, *Bison, Better Boy, Big Mama, *Jersey Giant, Beefsteak, Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Red

Tomatoes used for canning have more flesh, fewer seeds and less juice. That makes them easier to handle during the canning process.

We may see - F, V, N or TMV on the plant labels

Plant labels and seed packets provide the information we need for selecting tomatoes. These initials are for tomato diseases that may attack your tomatoes and cause their demise.

F - is for fusarium wilt that can attack tomatoes in the middle of the summer.

V - is for verticillium wilt that may attack tomatoes in the cool spring weather. Verticillium can spread to other plants such as; potatoes, eggplants, strawberries and black raspberries.

  • These are soil borne diseases that can survive in the soil for years. Purchase your plants from reputable dealers that fumigate or otherwise sterilize their soil to kill the soil pathogens.
  • It's not worth the chance of potentially introducing these diseases into your garden.
  • Both of these wilt diseases, stop up the water transport system coming from the roots. The plant will yellow and eventually die.

N - is for nematodes, little worms that attack the tomato roots. Galls form on the roots where they are attacked. The plant is weakened and wilts. Nematodes can also live in the soil for years.

Plant marigold flowers next to your tomatoes to repel the nematodes.

TMV - is for tobacco mosaic virus that causes mottling and yellowing of the leaves, less production, smaller tomatoes or brown fruit.

So much for the bad stuff. The labels help us learn how to garden in containers.

determinate and indeterminate tomatoes

Determinate tomato varieties stop growing and tend to produce all their fruit at one time, over 4 to 6 weeks. This is good, if we want to do some canning. We will get more fruit at once. Determinate tomatoes generally are a bushy plant that is not staked or caged.

Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing and producing fruit the entire season. They provide a supply of tomatoes for the table until frost. These plants need to be staked or caged.

when and how do we plant tomatoes?

We can start our own tomato seeds about 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost. Or purchase seedlings that are already growing.

We can grow tomatoes from seed.We can grow our tomato seedlings.

Incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil before planting. That's how to garden in containers.

After the last spring frost, plant the seedlings into your garden.

  • Plant them 1 per 5-gallon container or up to 2 in a large tub.
  • Plant the seedlings deep into the soil.
  • Bury the stem all the way up to just below the first set of leaves.
  • The extra stem under the soil will grow roots for a stronger plant.

how do we take care of tomatoes?

Tomato cages are a good option. They are so easy. Purchase them at any garden store, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. Place one tomato cage around each plant.

  • Stakes or tomato cages keep the fruit up off the ground and prevent rot, discoloration or pest damage.
  • Tomatoes in containers or hanging baskets will hang over the sides of the basket and are quite attractive and easy to pick.
  • Water your tomato plants regularly. Tomatoes have deep roots, so water deeply.

When these keto friendly fruit start forming, be sure and water regularly. The fruit will start to set when the nights are 55 degrees or warmer.

  • Pull the weeds. The tomatoes appreciate some mulch to maintain even soil moisture and prevent the fruit from cracking. Mulch also helps to prevent weed growth.
  • After the fruit sets, apply a mild fertilizer every 2 weeks. Place the fertilizer a few inches away from the stem to prevent burning it.
  • Do not fertilize a dry plant. After fertilizing the tomato, water the fertilizer in.

There are three numbers on fertilizer containers. They stand for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Select a fertilizer with the 2nd and 3rd numbers higher than the first number. Too much nitrogen (the first of the 3 numbers) is good for growing leaves, but not much fruit.

Pinch off the suckers that grow in the joints where the branches attach to the main stem. They just grow leaves, but no fruit.

When do we harvest the tomatoes?

Pick the tomatoes when they are red and juicy. When the tomatoes are ripe, they should pull off the vines easily.

Keep the ripe tomatoes picked. If they are left on the plant, it will stop producing.

When the fall frosts are on their way, pinch off the terminal growths and any flowers. The tomatoes on the plant will ripen faster.

We may pick the green tomatoes for a tasty fried treat. Or wrap them in newspaper and store them in a cool place at 58 degrees. When we want them to ripen, bring them into a 70-degree temperature.

  • When the growing season is finished, pull the tomato vines and destroy them or otherwise remove them from the property to control any pests or diseases.
  • Plant the tomatoes in a different place each year. Pests and diseases can overwinter in the soil. If they don't find any tomatoes to munch on, it breaks their cycle.

it's a joy knowing how to garden in containers!

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