Gardening in Containers

Growing up my parents always had vegetable gardens. We grew corn, beans, green onions, turnips, tomatoes, and I’m sure a few others. Nothing beats a tomato fresh from the garden. In college I planted a small garden in our yard. The corn and tomatoes took over that corner of the yard, and my yorkie often got lost in the “jungle”.

I haven’t had the time for a proper garden in years, a full time job and now 2 kids take up 99% of my time. (The other 1% is sleep in case you were wondering.) I didn’t want to miss out on walking into the back yard to grab fresh veggies though, so we planted container gardens. We started with just tomatoes and have expanded over the years.

This year we’ve planted two Early Girl tomato plants, a cherry tomato plant, a green pepper plant, and strawberries, all in containers.

Container gardening is fairly simple and quite versatile. When we went away for the weekend, we put them in the shade so they wouldn’t fry in the heat. Try that with plants in the ground. Another benefit this season is that tomato blight has hit plants in the ground. Thankfully mine are in “pots” so we’ve dodged the blight. 

Easy Peasy Steps for Container Gardening: 
1. Find a container.
2. Buy/gather plants & potting soil.
3. Drill drainage holes in container if necessary.
4. Fill container with soil & plant.
5. Water & fertilize.
6. Watch them grow.

You can use most anything as a container. Feel free to be creative. If you want something decorative, go for it. There’s no rule saying they can’t be pretty. This would be a great place to reuse old paint buckets or if you’re attempting to grow herbs you could use teapots or tea cups.

We used traditional pots and 5 gallon buckets for most of the plants and a hanging basket for the strawberries. Plastic buckets are great because they will hold in moisture and you can easily drill holes for drainage. Plus they will stand up to the elements (kids included). If your containers do not allow for drainage the roots may rot or mildew.

Planting is easy. If you’re composting this is a great way to use up that compost! Compost makes great potting soil and provides a wonderful supply of nutrients for container plants. If you need to purchase potting soil be sure to buy one that drains well. Google can help if you want to mix your own.

Make sure you’re giving the plants consistent water. Stick your finger in the soil an inch or two and it should be moist. If not, add water.

Be sure to plant in a mostly sunny location, around 6-8 hours per day. Container plants are great because you can move them with the sun if needed.

Container plants need more fertilizer since there is no surrounding soil to pull nutrients from. You can add fertilizer 1 or 2 times per week until the plant starts fruiting. Then add every 2-3 weeks. This recommendation is for continuously growing plants like tomatoes. Seaweed extract and fish emulsion are two types of organic fertilizers that are great for container gardens as the nutrients from these are readily available to the plant.

As the plants grow taller you may need to add stakes to help support the weight of the plant. You can tie the main stem loosely to the stake with twine or strips of fabric if necessary. 

My Early Girl tomatoes are suffering from blossom end rot, where the tomato rots from the bottom before it’s fully ripened. It’s caused by insufficient minerals due to inconsistent watering. Both fertilizers above should remedy the problem. The cherry tomatoes are doing great and have been wonderful in salads.

This is the first year we’ve tried growing strawberries. We planted 3 ever-bearing plants (2 harvests) in a wire hanging basket lined with coconut fiber. The strawberries began to grow and were delicious, but the dog started eating them because it was not hung. Hopefully it will produce more in a few weeks.

The green pepper is growing just fine with 3 small peppers almost ready for the picking!

What are you growing this year? 

** I want to thank The Wife for this fantastic guest post.  Be sure to check out more of her writing on her blog, Tales Of the Wife. Her Green Living section is wonderful.

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  • Great tips on container gardening – especially recycling/reusing containers (ie. paint buckets). You really don't need a whole lot of space to start a garden.

    Thought you might appreciate this cool time lapse video about an urban community that turns their junkyard into a sustainable garden in just one day.

    Take a look at how Kia is driving change.


  • This was a really fantastic read and I’d personally like to come back and read more if possible. I suppose I’ll simply check back in the future.
    Remarkable job!

  • Great post! We live in the city and have always grown herbs in containers, but I’ve never tried any veggies. You’ve motivated me to give it a try this year. Thanks!

  • I completely agree – a container garden is a great way to grow veggies/herbs and fruits if you don’t have a lot of time. And I totally hear you about the 1% of sleep (I have a 5 month old!). I love this post, and your website! Are you at all interested in a guest post on how to encourage children in the garden? We have an awesome fairy garden within our vegetable garden, and it’s amazing how our nieces and nephews become so curious about gardening once they know that “fairies” live there! It’s so cute! I would love to contribute something if you’re interested – feel free to email me at your convenience. Jesse Nattamai, (

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