How to Start a Container Garden from Scratch: 7 Steps

1 flowers growing in a container indoors

The fact that you don’t own a garden shouldn’t discourage you from growing flowers, herbs, and vegetables in your apartment. Even the tiniest of apartments can host some sort of plant if placed in the right container. Growing plants in containers is, in fact, easier than growing them outside, especially for people who are just getting started with gardening. Today’s guide is focused on building a container garden. We’re going to take you through the 7 main steps of starting one so that you can begin working on it as soon as possible.

7 Steps to Starting a Container Garden

Step 1: Decide What You Want to Plant

The first thing that you should consider whenever you want to start a container garden is what you want to plant in your containers. That’s because the rest of the process differs according to your decision. For instance, if you want to grow vegetables and herbs, you’re not going to follow the same steps you would have if you were to grow flowers. Because we want you to be prepared for every scenario, we’re going to mention both vegetable/herb growing and flower growing when detailing the steps.

Step 2: Choose the Plant Varieties

When it comes to container vegetable gardening, the first logical step is to choose the varieties of vegetables and herbs that you want to plant. As you might already know, all herb varieties are small and low maintenance enough for you to plant them in containers; however, the same thing can’t be said about vegetables. Not every vegetable variety is suitable for growing in containers. The main types you should consider are tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, lettuce, collards, Swiss chard, and mustard. The best kind of herbs you could grow inside are basil, thyme, and mint.

Moving on to container flower gardening, not all flowers are appropriate options for this type of gardening. Some of the flower varieties that you can plant are ferns, grasses, ivy, begonias, African daisies, zinnias, marigolds, impatiens, petunias, and pansies.

Step 3: Choose the Appropriate Pot

Since this is going to be the home of your plants from now on, choosing the right container is an important step in the process of starting a container garden. The first thing you have to remember is that the container should have good drainage. This means it should come with some holes in the bottom, or just one large one if you want to grow flowers in it. This will prevent the growing medium from becoming waterlogged, which would lead to the plants’ roots rotting.

For material, you can choose anything you’d like, from clay to plastic to wood, and so on. Just make sure to research each material a bit and see if there are any challenges to it. For instance, containers made of terracotta tend to become really dry in hot climates. This causes them to soak up a lot of water. Wood containers are lovely, but you can only use them for a couple of seasons before replacing them. If you would like to build your own we have a tutorial for building window boxes that would also work for this.

Whenever you have to choose the right container, also keep in mind its size and shape. Think about how the plants you want to grow would look in it, and if they would have enough room to develop properly. If the plants have shallow roots, you can choose a short container. More massive plants such as zucchinis or pumpkins are going to require taller pots.

container garden

Step 4: Cover the Bottom of the Container

Whenever you start a container garden, you have to pay a lot of attention to how you care for the container. After all, the health and development of your plants depend on it. Regardless of whether you want to plant vegetables/herbs or flowers, the next step implies using a porous material to cover the bottom of the container, more precisely the drainage holes. You don’t want any soil falling through the holes. At the same time, you also don’t want to stop water from draining properly. The porous material will allow it to drain, while also impeding the soil from coming out of the draining holes.

If you’re wondering what kind of material you can use, allow us to suggest window screening, a scrap of burlap, or a coffee filter. For additional protection, you can also place a dish under the container. This will ensure that no extra water reaches the surface where you’re going to place the pot.

Step 5: Choose the Soil

The success of a container garden is also dependent on the quality of the soil you use. The soil itself depends on the plant variety that you’ve chosen. For instance, you’ll notice that certain plants thrive in well-draining soil, while others enjoy a rather moist one. Regardless of the soil you end up choosing, we have a couple of tips for you.

The first one would be to look for one that contains ingredients such as perlite, aged bark, sphagnum peat moss, lime, or vermiculite. They’ll help your crops grow healthier. The second tip you should keep in mind is to add some fertilizer when first planting your seeds or seedlings. Then, make sure to also consider some wetting agents. They’re perfect for keeping the soil evenly damp.

Step 6: Start Planting

Now, on to the actual planting of your container garden, the process differs according to whether you want to grow a vegetable/herb garden or a flower garden.

For the first option, you have to fill the container with the soil you’ve chosen, leaving about 2 inches of the container empty. You want to keep the soil looking fluffy, so don’t press on it too hard. Instead, rock the container back and forth or tap it against a wall. This will help you get rid of any pockets of air. Then, take the seeds or seedlings you want to plant and create a hole in the soil that is large enough for them. After placing the seeds/seedlings, use some extra soil to cover the rest of the hole. Then, water everything thoroughly until you notice water coming out of the bottom of the container.

This final step will make the soil compress. This means that you’re going to have to add a bit more, and then water it again. In the end, you should leave 2 inches of empty space at the top of the container.

When it comes to planting flowers in a container garden, the process is a bit different. Instead of starting by filling the container with soil, you’re going to start by placing the flowers inside the container and arranging them the way you see fit. Since we’re talking about flowers, and especially if the flower varieties you’ve chosen are multicolored, the design is really important. You want your container garden to become the center of attention. You can play with different patterns and color schemes, as long as you only plant a single flower variety in one pot. Other characteristics that you can group your flowers by are height and texture.

Once you’re sure the arrangement looks the way you want it to you can start filling the gaps around the plants with soil. Then, go through the whole process of watering the plants in the same way we described above.

Step 7: Care for Your Container Garden

We’ve reached the final step of today’s guide to starting a container garden, namely the one that involves caring for your plants. Among the first things that should concern you is to provide them with water depending on their respective needs. Some plants might need you to water them a few times a week while others might not require watering that often. Usually, the best way to figure out when to water them is to test the soil and check whether or not the top inch is dry.

container garden

Fertilization is also important, but this should be done only seldom and according to the needs of your plants. Other than that, make sure you keep your container garden in a sunny location. That’s because few plants can thrive completely in the shade. The amount of sunlight your garden is going to need also depends on what you’ve planted in it. So make sure to research your plants and their requirements beforehand. In the case of flower gardens, you’re also going to have to deadhead the flowers. This will encourage the growth of new blooms and ensure a beautiful view.

Summing It All Up

We hope today’s guide to starting a container garden has managed to convince you that you don’t need an actual garden or a lot of space to grow plants. If gardening is your passion, you can always find a way to grow your favorite flowers or the delicious vegetables and herbs that you’re tired of purchasing from the store. Starting a container garden can be extremely satisfying. Plus, it’s going to be much easier for you to track the progress of your plants that it would have been if you were to grow them outdoors. All in all, this is an experience that we recommend to anyone who enjoys gardening.

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