Garden Containers, Tips For Success

Containers have held the spotlight with increasing uses with urban yards decreasing in size, condo dwelling becoming fashionable and because we have finally discovered how fun it is to include our yards as part of our homes.  Here are some foundational things to consider before you get started planting.

Bigger containers like this don't go dry as quickly as small ones do.

Choose the right size container. This one thing will solve a host of other issues we face with containers, like root compaction, needing to water “all the time” as well as giving you more room to be creative.  Unless you are growing succulents, which don’t require much soil, avoid those itty bitty pots like the plague.

Good drainage is not an option! That does not mean one tiny ½” hole in a thigh high container either.  That means at least a 1” hole or more than one hole in a container that size.  We drilled 6, ½” holes in the bottom of our half barrel planters to get proper drainage.

Good sized drain hole in this container

Important note…It take less time for water to drain from a tall container than a low broad one due to gravity so the wider the pot the more holes it will need.

Knee high cylinder shaped container like this drains faster than flat low containers

Buy the best potting soil you can afford. Do not use regular garden soil, as it is too heavy and dense for containers.  Bagged potting soil mixes are specifically designed for containers to provide the foundation for your container plants.

Feed regularly. Constant watering leaches fertility from potting soil quickly, so if you are watering twice a day with water you need to use a time-release fertilizer or do what the growers do and feed with a very weak solution of liquid fertilizer every time you water.  Its amazing the difference you’ll see.

Chose plants with similar needs for sun, water and nutrients to group together.

For planting plan ideas for your containers check out pages 132 through 134 “Garden Allstars” edition of Birds and Blooms Magazine on local newsstands now.

  1. Danielle says

    Since I live in a duplex with a limited yard, I’m choosing to plant in containers this year, too. Great tips, Patty!

  2. Luanna Quesnot says

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve been planting in pots for the last few years because my bad back makes it hard to spend time working in my beds…..So container gardening helps me still get my hands dirty and I’ve found that I am quite creative here too :)
    I have to water them twice a day and never realized that I needed to fertilize more often because of this!! I’m excited to see the results this season in Michigan!! Thanks again :)

    • Patty says

      So glad you were able to find a new tip here Luanna! It certainly does help. What we used to do with the water soluble blue fertilizers at the nurseries I worked at was make the water so it was barely blue…and I mean just a hint of blue color to the water. I wish you success with your containers! Happy gardening!

  3. Patty says

    Thanks Danielle. You are in an ever growing gardening demographic and containers being so versatile are so useful for folks like yourself. Good luck with your containers!

  4. Cheryl says

    I have a spot in my yard where nothing will grow because the ground is too wet most of the spring. I use large containers on patio stones to add color to a part of my yard that would otherwise be very drab. Thanks for all your tips, they are great.

    • Patty says

      Cheryl, that is a way to use containers to solve a problem! Glad you enjoyed the tips.
      Happy Gardening,

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