Here’s How to Start Container Gardening

Eva Hagan - Author

Feb. 11 2023, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

Container Gardening
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If you have been wanting to get into gardening, either to grow food or beautiful flowers, but don't have the yard space — or a yard, for that matter — container gardening is an option for you!

Even if you just have a little ledge, balcony, rooftop, or sidewalk, you can stick a little container there and start growing plants. Here is a guide to container gardening for beginners.

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What is container gardening?

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, container gardening is the process of growing plants in pots instead of raised beds or a plot of land. It's great if you just want to grow a small quantity of a crop, and want to be able to move the container around to optimize the sun exposure.

Harvesting tomatoes
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What to grow in your container garden:

Start by picking fruits or vegetables that don't take up a lot of space, such as radishes, romaine lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, or peppers. When picking crops, also consider how much sunlight your container will receive. Some crops need more sunlight than others. For example, root vegetables and leaf crops such as carrots and lettuce can bear partial shade, whereas tomatoes and peppers tend to need lots of sun, per Virginia Tech Extension.

In addition to the light requirement, some plants need the container to be a minimum size in order to grow successfully. For example, cucumbers, which require full sunlight, need to be housed in at least a 5-gallon container. Whereas, beets, which are root vegetables, only need to be in a half-gallon container, per Virginia Tech Extension.

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Potting soil
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What pot(s) to use in your container garden:

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, plastic, ceramic, and fabric pots work best for container gardening. Another option to maximize space is trying out hanging baskets, which work great for housing cherry tomatoes, and herbs.

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What soil to use for container gardening — and which to avoid:

It is not recommended to use soil from the ground outside your house for containers. This is because natural soil can contain insects and even diseases, per The Old Farmer's Almanac.

Therefore, most savvy gardeners recommend using a commercial or "soilless" potting mixture for your container garden. Store-bought mixtures usually contain fertilizer, and are not waterlogged and compact which allows for proper drainage and aeration, per the University of Georgia Extension.

Woman trimming plant
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What are the benefits of container gardening?

One great benefit to container gardening is that maintenance is much easier. Instead of taking care of an entire yard or plot of land, you only have to manage the various pots, meaning watering and weed removal which will most likely be much faster.

In addition to being easier to manage, planting in containers helps you avoid nematodes, microscopic roundworms that usually fixate in plant roots.

Nematodes can cause root injury, make your plants grow more slowly, or even kill the plant entirely. This is another great reason why you should not use soil from your yard because without testing the soil first you won't be able to detect a potential microscopic nematode infestation, per the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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