Container Gardening for Non-Gardeners

There seem to be a lot of new gardeners this year thanks to the pandemic. It was next to impossible to find fresh seed at many of my usual online retailers. I had to sort through my dregs to see what I could plant this year.

Yesterday, on a lark, I went back to my favorite seed company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and found that they had a few of my sought after seeds back in stock. I started browsing through their catalog to see what else I needed. By the time I finished looking, two of the seeds I had put in my cart had sold out again.

Pandemics are hard on the supply chain. While my normal instinct is to look for the best deal, I've had to rethink my buying strategy. Now, if I see something I need, I get it because there's no telling when it'll get restocked.

By the way, if you want great quality heirloom variety seed, I recommend Baker Creek. They even ship free. Check back from time to time because availability is spotty right now.

I love to inspire new gardeners. I remember when I started gardening. I killed nearly everything I touched. In the early days, Greg did all the gardening because I was so bad at it.

I got better, but I've probably killed more plants than you'll ever plant in your life. It was a steep learning curve for me. LOL! But I can say I'm a fair gardener now. Not great. Greatness is reserved for the Holy Saints of Gardening who can simply throw a seed in soil and make it burst forth with bounty.

I actually know gardeners like this. I still sit in awe of their accomplishments.

Unless you were born to the soil, most of us start out tentatively with gardening. The easiest way to do that is with containers. If you're brand new to gardening start with pots. There are so many fruits, vegetables, and flowers you can grow in containers.

Container gardening is safe too. You control the environment. You supply the soil, water, and however much sun it requires. You can't lose--unless you ignore it.

Here's the breakdown.

Containers: There are so many! Aside from regular terracotta pots, you can also grow in:
  • fabric pots
  • old nursery pots
  • old wheelbarrows
  • raised wood boxes
  • water troughs
  • wood barrels
  • food grade plastic buckets
  • even the bag the potting soil came in
Just remember that whatever you use, make sure it has drainage holes at the bottom. Also layer the bottom with small stones, broken clay pot pieces, or even packing popcorn so that only water, not dirt escapes the holes. The exception are the fabric pots (known as grow bags). The bag is mesh so it allows excess water to seep away.
    When growing in pots you want to use potting mix, not garden soil.

    If you want to make your own potting mix, I use a 1:1 ratio of peat moss, vermiculite, and homemade compost. Adjust your amounts until you get a light soil with good drainage. You can also get away with peat moss and vermiculite, but you'll have to add fertilizer.

    You can grow almost anything in a pot if it's the right size. I've even seen people grow corn, though I wouldn't recommend it.

    Let's start with a few easy ones.
    • Radishes: Everyone starts with radishes. I have terrible luck with them. I have such a short window of opportunity due to my hot climate. You'll have better luck if you have cooler weather.

    • Squash: All sorts of squash are good in pots. They're generally shallow rooted, but you will have to feed them continuously. Squash are notoriously heavy feeders.

    • Lettuce: Another cool weather vegetable. Easy to grow and relatively fast.

    • Snow Peas: So easy and fast. Grow them around a short tower trellis.

    • Bush Beans: You can't stop a bean from growing. Even kids can grow this one.

    • Tomatoes: A heavy feeder. Regardless whether it's determinate or indeterminate, put a trellis around your tomato plant because they will topple.

    • Peppers: These do nicely in pots. Sometimes I pull a couple of pepper plants out of the garden after the season is over and put them in pots to overwinter in the house. Mine are already starting to flower and fruit.

    • Eggplant: This one does beautifully in pots and looks very nice even as part of the landscape. Very decorative.

    • Potatoes: Try this one in fabric pots. It makes it way easier to harvest when all you have to do is dump the soil and gather your spuds. 
    That's only a start, but you can also do spinach, kale, chard, and nearly every herb. Most of my herbs are in pots. They are so pretty dotting my front yard.

    Don't forget fruits. Strawberries make great container plants. All my citrus trees are in pots too, as are my blueberry shrubs.

    My soil is neutral to slightly alkaline, so blueberries don't grow well here. Putting them in pots allows me to adjust the ph to where they like it.

    You can grow melons in pots. And if you can keep it pruned, a fig tree can also be grown in a pot.

    What I like best about containers, aside from the fact that you can customize the ph to each plant's needs, is that they are very decorative in and around your landscape.

    I have a huge garden yet I still grow a great deal in pots. These are what make up my kitchen garden. All my herbs, my citrus (lemons, limes, and tangerines), and assorted berries are grown in pots.

    So if you've been thinking about gardening this year, go for it. The container isn't as important as the soil. And if you can't make your own potting mix, it's easily available at Walmart, Lowes, or Home Depot. Heck, even grocery stores carry potting mix.

    I do recommend the fabric pots though for clunky produce like potatoes or squash. When you're done for the year, you can move the soil to the garden or a new pot and fold up the fabric pot for next year.

    Are you growing anything this year? Do you have a favorite fruit or vegetable?


    I've always liked the idea of container gardening, but I'm concerned whatever I plant - other than flowers - will attract critters that will chew through the patio screen (and I would need to keep it inside the patio.) I've had critters do that even when there wasn't anything good growing on the patio - it was just in their way and they were too lazy to go around it!
    Jackie said…
    For the sake of honesty Maria the only container gardening I have ever, ever managed to get good at is with my Pothos Ivy plants inside our homes.

    They cannot be killed it seems even when forget to repot in bigger container, clip off dead spots are when do not water enough or overwater.

    My husband however is lucky that our soil is old riverbed and very very rich because it grows almost everything he plants directly in the dirt. Except Beets, Carrots, Radishes and Watermelons successfully. I think that is because he put the seeds out too late or too early for them to produce the couple of times they were planted where we are now.

    Our weather has been so unstable with too many cold nights late in spring planting season or too many hot days and nights in fall planting season for certain things to make it for 4 or 5 years in a row now.
    Maria Zannini said…
    Madeline: Your story reminded me of one year when I brought in my sunflower seed heads to my screened porch to dry. Some varmint(s) chewed through the screen to get to them. Not only did I lose my seeds, they ruined my screens too.
    Maria Zannini said…
    Jackie: I'm only bad with container plants if I have them in the house. That's because they're in a part of the house I don't visit every day. If they're outside, I always take the time to check on them.

    The weather has been a little unstable. It hasn't been too bad, just not as predictable as I've known it.

    You're right about planting at the right time. Texas weather don't play.
    Jenny Schwartz said…
    Blueberries surprised me by how well they do in pots. Herbs are pretty much my favourite thing for growing in pots. It means you can put them close or even inside your kitchen! And you can harvest them quickly and for quite a long period.
    Maria Zannini said…
    Jenny: I know, right! I always had so much trouble keeping blueberries alive because I didn't have the right ph, but they do absolutely fine in pots.
    Mike Keyton said…
    Another inspirational post from the 'horny-handed son of toil' - sorry that should be daughter, mistress if you prefer. My cultivation is limited to three gooseberry bushes, rhubarb and a small army of damson trees that will eventually take over China in world domination. The rest of the garden is 'green' 0 I won't call it lawn, more and more roses, and a small section of what will hopefully be seen by kind hearted souls as 'cottage gardeny' I like the idea of growing eggplants/aubergines. Might well investigate. Keep well
    Maria Zannini said…
    Mike: Oh, now you have me interested in gooseberries. What do you do with them? Are they good for fresh eating?

    I love cottage gardens. But I often what the area looks like when blooming season is over. If you ever think to send me before and after pictures, I'd love to get some ideas from you.