Container Gardens

Want to grow some plants but don’t have anywhere to put them in the ground? Create a container garden. Anything that you can grow in the garden can also be grown in a container. You just need to provide a few basic needs to your plants – a container, growing media, water, nutrients and light. When growing plants in a container here are some things to consider:

  1. Anything that can hold soil and has drainage can be used to grow plants. This can be a pot from the store, a bucket, a milk carton or even a shoe. Just make sure that if the container doesn’t have any drainage holes to make some. Also, make sure your container is going to be big enough to support your plant once it is fully grown.
  1. When choosing a growing media for your container, you need to choose something that is well aerated, drains well and able to hold enough water for the plant to grow. The most common growing media for containers are called soil-less media because they don’t actually contain any soil. They are made up of things like peat, vermiculite, bark, coir (coconut) fiber and perlite. These can be purchased commercially as all-purpose potting mixes or you can make your own. Soilless media is generally the best option for container gardening.
  1. Providing adequate water to you plants is vital for success. Soil in containers will dry out much faster than soil in the ground. Plants should be watered when the top inch or so of your growing media feels dry. Water plants thoroughly, until water starts to trickle out of the drainage holes. In warm dry weather you may need to water your containers more than once a day.
  1. Soil-less media are usually low in nutrients. Because of this, plants growing in them may need to be fertilized at some point. You can use either slow release or liquid fertilizers. Make sure to follow the directions on the label when applying fertilizers to avoid damage to your plants.
  1. It is important to know the light requirements of your plants (full sun, partial shade or shade). Most vegetables and annual flowers need full sun (at least six hours) to grow properly. Other plants can be burned by too much bright light. Many plants will come with labels that indicate their light requirements.
  1. Before planting make sure to thoroughly wet down your growing media. Then fill your container. Leave about one inch of space between the rim of your container and the soil. This will help prevent water from overflowing your container. If growing your plants from seed plant at the depth indicated on the seed package. It is usually a good idea to overseed and then thin the seedlings to the spacing indicated on the package since not all seeds may germinate. If growing from transplants, use plants that look healthy. Make sure to thoroughly water your container after they have been planted.

For more information on container gardening visit University of Illinois Extension’s Successful Container Gardens site at:

Ken Johnson


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