What is Container Gardening: Understanding the Basics

Salad greens growing in an EarthBox Original container gardening system

Container gardening isn't just for flowers and ornamental plants. Sure, you can use gardening containers of all types to add color floral displays and greenery to your patio or front porch.

But container gardening is also an excellent way to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs. And what's especially beneficial is that you can grow them even with limited space.

You can create miniature gardens in small spaces like balconies, patios, decks, or indoors. So, imagine picking fresh and nutritious produce like tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, and vegetables right from your backdoor.

Better still, you're reducing your trips to the grocery store. Plus, you'll know exactly where your food came from and how you grew it. Talk about organic produce!

Why It's Worth Trying Container Gardening

If you love fresh vegetables, container gardening delivers the freshest vegetables you could want. You can watch them grow, pick them right off the vine, and enjoy them within minutes.

But there's more to like about container gardening:

  • Decoration: Container gardens can enhance your home's or outdoor space's visual appeal, adding beauty and vibrancy. They bring nature's beauty to your patio or balcony.
  • Stress Relief: Gardening can be a relaxing and stress-relieving hobby. You can connect with nature and enjoy watching your plants grow and mature.
  • Experimentation: Container gardening offers the opportunity to experiment with various plant species, not to mention gardening itself. You can learn what grows best in your space. For example, you can change layouts and companion plants to maximize plant health and yields.
  • Convenience: As mentioned, garden containers give you ready access to your plants and, most importantly, produce. They make watering, harvesting, and maintenance easy. And it's like having a delivery service right at your doorstep!

What Are the Advantages of Container Gardening?

We've already addressed one substantial benefit of using gardening containers: space efficiency. You don't need a ton of space to grow produce. All you need is a spot offering full sun and a large pot to house the vegetables you want to grow.

A small outdoor space measuring five feet by five feet gives you plenty of room for your vegetables to grow. Even urban dwellers with limited, if any, yard space can be successful gardeners using containers.

Gardening Containers Require Less Maintenance Than Garden Beds

Large gardens become cumbersome, especially if you only want to get your feet wet, becoming a gardener. You must worry about weeds, diseases, critters, etc.

Container gardening eliminates those concerns. You'll spend next to no time weeding and preparing the soil. Plus, you'll have more control over the growing conditions, which can lead to healthier plants while reducing your maintenance.

Containers are portable, making it easy to rearrange your garden as needed. You can also move them around quickly to deal with changing sunlight or weather conditions.

Garden Beds Are More Prone to Issues

Plants in open garden beds are more susceptible to pests and disease. Drought, weed competition, and insects can quickly weaken them. Once weakened, they become susceptible to common plant diseases like powdery mildew, rust, and verticillium wilt.

Moreover, larger infestations are more difficult to address and cure.

Gardening Boxes Let You Control Pests and Diseases

Container gardening helps prevent common pests and diseases that often affect plants grown directly in the ground.

First, you control the quality of the soil. That helps eliminate weed populations that can quickly affect a garden bed. It also avoids pathogens that might have found their way into the soil.

Second, you can see issues more readily because you have a controlled space. Aphids, spider mites, cutworms, or other plant-destroying insects are more apparent. And that lets you treat and eliminate them more quickly to keep your plants healthy.

Some gardening containers have accessories like protective netting to keep insects and birds at bay.

Finally, you can treat insect or disease breakouts more effectively. Again, they're easier to spot, and you have a smaller surface area to treat.

Container Gardens Offer Easy Access

Container gardening is accessible to people of all ages and physical abilities. After all, your garden is just outside your door in many cases. You don't have to worry about walking to a more remote spot in your yard with a suitable gardening space.

In addition, gardening in beds can be backbreaking. You must lean over to remove weeds, treat plants, or harvest.

With gardening containers, you can place them at a height that is comfortable for you. For example, you can place them on a patio ledge, offering convenient access.

Many containers are available with gardening stands. With EarthBox gardening boxes, for instance, you can get a stand that puts your containers at a three-foot height. No more bending or kneeling to tend or pick your plants!

Getting Started with Vegetable Container Gardening

Like what you're reading so far? Then, let's tell you how to start growing fresh vegetables, tomatoes, fruits, and herbs outside your back door.

Choose the Right Gardening Container

To start your container garden, you'll need suitable containers. And there's no shortage of styles at your local garden center. You can choose from standbys like terra cotta pots or plastic pots. They're an inexpensive way to give your green thumb a try.

Just ensure they have holes in the bottom for drainage to remove excess water. If your potting soil becomes waterlogged, it won't take long for plant roots to rot. And that will kill your plants and your harvesting goal.

Gardening Containers Should Be At Least 12" Deep

Pick up large, sturdy gardening containers with drainage. Their size depends on the type of vegetables you want to grow. Generally, however, most vegetables need a depth of at least 12 inches to support healthy plant roots.

With herbs, you can use containers with a shallower depth, typically 8". More sprawling plants, like tomatoes, benefit from depths greater than 12 inches.

Check Out Container Gardening Systems

The safest bet is buying a gardening system. For instance, EarthBox delivers a proven gardening system that gives you everything you need for successful gardening.

Their award-winning gardening system includes:

  • Gardening container
  • Aeration Screen
  • Water Fill Tube
  • Black & White Reversible Mulch Covers
  • 4 Casters with Locking Mechanism (optional)
  • 1 lb. each Fertilizer & Natural Dolomite (optional)
  • 2.0 cu. ft. of Organic Potting Mix (optional)

You can select from different sizes based on your growing needs. They include their original standard gardening box that works for virtually any vegetable.

However, you can also get a smaller container that's perfect for herbs or one that's suitable for root vegetables.

You can even get a tomato planting kit if you like ripe, juicy tomatoes. The kit includes everything you need for a bountiful tomato harvest.

Use High-Quality Potting Mix

This is critical. Whatever container you purchase, use a high-quality potting mix specifically formulated for containers. This ensures good drainage and aeration and provides your vegetables with essential nutrients.

Never use soil taken from the ground, as it will clump in a container. Plus, it could house weeds, insects, and diseases.

Your gardening container should be filled with soil that's light and airy. Your local garden or home center will have a wide selection on their shelves. But look for ingredients like:

  • Perlite
  • Vermiculite
  • Peat moss
  • Coconut coir

These ingredients help anchor your vegetable plants and give them the critical nutrition, moisture, and air they need to thrive.

Adding organic materials like compost, manure, worm castings, or fish emulsion is beneficial when potting plants (though not recommended if using an EarthBox).

Selecting the Ideal Location for Your Container Garden

Most vegetables and herbs love the sun. So, place your gardening containers in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Sunlit balconies, patios, or windowsills are excellent spots for your vegetable container garden.

If your location doesn't get that much sunlight, you can still try container gardening. You can plant shade-tolerant plants that thrive in three to four hours of direct sunlight.

Shade-tolerant vegetable and herb plants include:

  • Arugula
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Endive
  • Spinach
  • Radish
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Mint
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro

Best Vegetables for Container Gardening

You've seen a list of plants that do well in more shaded locations. But what vegetables thrive in gardening containers? Here are some of the best plants to use in your garden:

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Peppers
  3. Lettuce
  4. Radishes
  5. Green onions
  6. Bush beans
  7. Potatoes
  8. Cucumbers
  9. Eggplant
  10. Summer squash
  11. Zucchini
  12. Beets
  13. Carrots
  14. Peas
  15. Cabbage

7 Tips for a Thriving Vegetable Container Garden

Ready to dig in and start your container garden? Spring is just around the corner for those of you in colder climates. But there's no time like the present for those of you in more balmy locations.

Here are some tips to get you off to the right start:

  1. Companion Planting: Group plants with similar needs in the same container. For example, tomatoes combine nicely with basil, eggplant, and peppers. Conversely, avoid cucumbers when companion planting with tomatoes.
  2. Overcrowding: Give your plants plenty of room to grow. Otherwise, you can stunt their growth, reducing your harvests. Equally important, crowded plants don't get as much air circulation and are likelier to fall prey to disease.
  3. Harvest Promptly: When your vegetables are ripe, pick them immediately. You'll not only get to enjoy them at your dinner table, but you'll encourage more production. In addition, you'll avoid over-ripening and spoilage.
  4. Fertilize Frequently: Gardening containers lose their nutrients from plant feeding. Plus, they can leech out through the soil from drainage. So, keep your plants happy with frequent fertilization. You can use smaller doses of water-soluble fertilizer when you water. Or hit your plants with a larger dose every couple of weeks.
  5. Replenish Soil: If you elect to use the same soil next year, make sure you replenish it. You can remove some of the soil and add some new soil. Or add compost and fertilizer to the existing mix.
  6. Drainage: We already mentioned the importance of drainage, but it's worth noting again. Plant roots hate standing water. Excess water is a sure bet for root rot, diminishing your yields if not killing your plants. Make sure your gardening container has drainage holes.
  7. Self-Watering: One of the significant concerns among gardeners is watering. Too much or too little water is detrimental to plant health. Eliminate the concern with self-watering garden boxes. They include a reservoir at their base, allowing plant roots to access moisture when needed. You get to water less and stop worrying about overwatering.

No-Fail Container Gardening

Tomatoes growing in an EarthBox container gardening system with attached trellis

As a final tip, invest in the EarthBox gardening system. Commercial farmers developed the system and then tested it in labs. It can double the yield you'll get in a conventional garden. And it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Add your vegetable, herb, or tomato plants and enjoy fresh produce at your table right from your doorstep. No digging. No weeding. No guesswork.