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What is Container Gardening?

By Sarah E. White
Updated May 16, 2024
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Container gardening is a great way to garden, no matter how much space you have. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can enjoy the benefits of having plants in and around your living space. Container gardening is simply a form of gardening that uses containers instead of the ground to hold the plants.

Containers that are used for container gardening can be anything from gallon milk jugs with the tops cut off to terra cotta pots, plastic window boxes to half barrels. Anything that will hold soil can be used as a container for container gardening, as long as it has holes in the bottom for drainage. You can always make your own holes with a knife or drill if you are recycling something to use as a container.

A container garden can be as small and simple as a couple of containers holding herbs sitting in a sunny windowsill, or it can be large and complex. You can plant just about anything in your container garden, including trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables and herbs. The key to successful container gardening is planting your plants in containers that are large enough for your plants. A good guideline is to buy a container that is one or two sizes larger than the container the plant is in when you purchase it. That will allow the plant plenty of room to grow, and the roots to get really healthy in the plant's new home.

Another key to container gardening is using quality soil. Do not take soil from the yard to put in your containers. If there are diseases or pests in your soil, you will bring them onto your new plants. It is much better to buy high-quality potting soil, preferably with fertilizer built in, to plant your plants for your container garden.

When container gardening, consider using matching or coordinating pots to give harmony to your garden. You can use containers that are all the same color or made from the same material to make it look like all your plants go together, even if you have planted a wide range of plants. If you buy good plants, and use quality soil and good-sized containers, your plants will thrive without a lot of care. Container gardening is a great way to find out if you like gardening, or to express your green thumb when you don’t have a lot of space for plants or a yard to plant them in.

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Discussion Comments

By myharley — On Jul 01, 2011

I have had good results with tomatoes planted in containers. I make sure and buy the type that are suitable for container or patio gardening.

They will grow more rounded like a bush than tall like a regular plant. You also don't need to worry about staking them. One year I had one tomato plant like this and I had more than enough fresh tomatoes for us from just than one plant.

There are other vegetable plants that you can buy that are suited for patio gardening. You will need to make sure they get adequate sun though.

By anon87777 — On Jun 01, 2010

Vegetables will grow prolific leaves and get quite tall, but to produce fruit, they require six hours of direct sunlight a day - this is non negotiable. Trees also require more sunlight; perhaps this is why you've been unsuccessful with these types of plants.

By calea — On Jul 10, 2009

I've lived in apartments for years, and always try to have a container garden. I have much more success with flowers and herbs than I do with vegetables and small trees, although I've known other people who don't have that problem. Nice pots are so expensive, though, so I'm thinking about buying some old bowls and containers from a charity shop next year.

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