Creative Container Gardening Tips

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creative container garden containers

image via Flickr by Happy Sleepy

Practically anyone can start a garden where they live, even if they don’t have much space. Container gardening makes it possible to grow a variety of plants in practically any location. You just have to get creative.

Creative Containers

You don’t have to spend money on expensive pots and other containers. Look around your home and imagine what unused items you could transform into plant containers. Plastic and metal items often work best because they won’t get waterlogged.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Old shoes and boots
  • coffee cans, jars, margarine, yogurt, and salad tubs
  • old furniture like bed frames, dressers, chests, toys with hollow insides (an old Mr. Potato Head works great for small herbs!)
  • stereo and tv cabinets, wheelbarrows, musical instrument cases, et al

Before you start planting, make sure your creative containers have adequate drainage. You don’t want water to pool at the bottom because it can promote mold and bacteria that kill plants. If you have a drill, just put a few holes in the bottom of you container. You can also use a knife, nail, or similarly sharp object.

Choosing Your Location

Container garden roof garden

Image via Flickr by dane brian

You don’t need a lot of space to start a container garden, but you do need plenty of light. If you want to grow vegetables, you should choose a spot that gets at least five hours of sunlight per day. If possible, choose a location that gets eight to ten hours of light.

Other than the light requirements, you can put your container garden pretty much anywhere. Popular locations include:

  • balconies
  • porches
  • window sills
  • decks
  • roofs

Containers also let you transform concrete slabs into lush, productive areas. It’s a great way to make an unused area of your driveway or patio look nicer.

Mixing Soil for Your Plants

Without the right soil, your plants won’t prosper. You can purchase pre-mixed potting soils from most garden supply centers, or you can purchase the base materials and mix your own.

Soil science can get complicated. A truly experienced gardener might talk to you about pore space, cation exchange capacity, and water-holding capacity. You can learn about those things, but you’ll want to focus on the basics at first.

pH is one of the most important ways of choosing soil. Different types of plants need different soils with specific pH. This resource from North Carolina State University offers a quick guide that will help you determine what pH your plants need.

You can purchase soil testing kits that tell you what pH level your soil has. Many Cooperative Extension System offices will also test your soil for a small fee.

Adding Nutrition to Your Soil

Just like all other organisms, plants need to eat. That means you have to add nutrition to the soil in addition to giving them plenty of sunlight.

Organic matter will add the necessary nutrients to your containers’ soil. Before you purchase anything, look around your kitchen after preparing an evening meal. You have organic matter all around you.

Composting lets food waste break down into its raw forms so that it can benefit plants. You don’t need much space to compost. You can even compost inside (it doesn’t stink as long as you stick to the right kinds of waste).

Now that you know the basics of creative container gardening, what plants do you look forward to growing?


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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.