Introduction: Successful Container Gardening

Picture of Successful Container Gardening

Many people have that 'Green Thumb' and really enjoy gardening but don't live in a place where there is enough room to do any gardening.

Still others who possess the 'Green Thumb' for in the ground planting are frustrated by trying to satisfy their need to grow things when it comes to planting in containers.

Here is a simple yet inexpensive solution to the problem to successfully gardening in containers.

Step 1: Materials

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All you need to get started is any kind of non degradable container, depending on what you want to grow, ie, a plastic bin, large food containers like cottage cheese or soft butter spreads come in.

I had several of those large plastic bins that slide under the bed and the deeper ones from Wally World, redwood planters that look like half barrels and have used 2 and 3 liter soda bottles ( and made a hanging herb garden on my patio! You need to determine container size by root depth and recommended spacing.

Get some potting mix, compost if you need it, garden bark or some kind of filler that won't pack down, pre-started plants or seeds, and a cardboard roll from either, toilet tissue, paper towels or gift wrap, depending on how deep your container is.

Step 2: Where to Put Your Container

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First decide where you want to put your container garden, if it is outside you don't need drainage protection. If it is inside you need to protect the area below. I use the lids off my containers as drip catchers.

Second determine how much soil your container will hold. Fill the container with potting mix or garden soil specific to the plant then measure it by pouring it into a 5 gallon bucket. Add an equal amount of compost, if you have some, if not you can buy it in most garden centers. Mix it well with a stick or broom or mop handle.

(Optional) Add a little extra kick to the soil by combining and adding in the following for every 5 gallons of soil mixture:

3/4 cup used Coffee Grounds that have been rinsed
10 - 12 egg shells that have been finely crushed and are powdery
1 1/4 cup Epsom Salt
3 Tbl Instant Tea Mix

Don't overload your container as your plants need root space, pay attention to the planting guidelines on the plant or packaging.

Move your container to its designated place and prepare your container by making sure you have sufficient drainage holes in the bottom then cover the bottom with some rocks, garden bark, packing worms or anything that will not pack down tight and allow drainage so your plants won't be left sitting in water and develop root rot.

Step 3: Preparing to Plant

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To provide a more efficient watering system that gets the water all the way through the soil to the roots and not just on top take a cardboard tube (toilet paper, paper towel or gift wrap core, depending on depth of the planter) stand it in the middle of the planter on top of your drainage material then pack your soil mixture around the tube so it stays upright. You can cut the tube level with the top of the soil.

Fill the tube with more drainage material.

Step 4: Add Plants or Seeds

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You are now ready to add your plants or seeds. If you are using pre started plants from the lawn and garden shop plant according to directions.

If you are starting from seed plant according to directions and cover your container with any clear plastic wrap and place in a sunny location. Once seeds begin to sprout and are 2 - 3 inches tall discard the plastic wrap.

Pour water in and around the tube when watering for even distribution to the root system and in time the tube will disintegrate but the drainage material will remain intact.

Step 5: Pest Control

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Add some pest control by taking plastic lids from used containers like yogurt, frosting, cottage cheese, butter tubs, etc., depending on the size of your container and smear a good thick coating of Vaseline or Karo Syrup on the inside.

Set them sticky side up on top of the soil in your container. If you have a very large container you may want to add more lids. Replace as necessary.

Your Container is now complete and ready for you to enjoy!


Amyjustine (author)2016-01-03

Love these suggestions.!!!! Brilliant!!!! I do already have a veggie garden. But am always looking for more places to grow them. Had already tried container gardening once but didn't have the correct drainage or apparently the watering system ;). So results weren't as good. Will definitely be trying this in the spring. Will have more tomatoes, more peppers, more lettuce,more........

Only one question though how can you tell that the container has had enough water with your method?


imstillatwork (author)2010-05-15

I commented on the front page about drainage also, missed the pics somehow.

You will find that by adding drainage material that you are effectively reducing the size (volume) of your container, and effectively raising the water level that the soil holds. The equilibrium between capillary action (up) and gravitational flow (down) in the soil remains the same, just now in an effectively smaller container.

Just a tip. You don't need a hole/tube in the middle of a pot if your soil characteristics promote drainage.

imstillatwork (author)2010-05-15

Please do not take this negative:

If you need a creative method for even watering, then you are using the wrong soil. period. A soil for a container planting should take water straight through, that is, be very well draining and porous. If your water is only saturating the top of the container soil, then you really, really need to revisit your soil mix.

friendorphobia (author)2010-04-17

Ever so often I run across an idea that is just so logical and obvious I can't help wondering why no one has thought of it before!  Awesome idea! Thanks!

Aronbao (author)2009-12-14

nice job,thanks

francoe (author)2009-12-11

The egg shells are not very effective. They contains calcium, but in a way that, even wiht a proper degrade, can't be taked by the plants. You can easily find  cheap mineral calcium used in agriculture (calcium sulphate).
The epson salt are good source of magnesium (again, they are magnesium sulphate), but take care that not use bath salts. They contains chemicals that use to be toxic for plants.

AmyLuthien (author)2009-12-10

Good idea!  Reminds me of sticky traps I used to use when I was working in commercial greenhouses.  As a point of interest, the color yellow is highly attractive to whiteflies.  Now to find bright yellow lids!  


b1russell (author)2009-09-15

Great post - thanks! But (ahem) what about those of us poor folks WITHOUT a green thumb? I have it on the best authority that I possess a matched pair of "black thumbs" - as witnesses, I call the (dirge sounds) bodies of deceased house and garden plants. Can this help me, too?

Deewheat (author)2009-07-27

Great idea!

hsmomof2 (author)2009-07-22

For the last 2 years I have been wanting to try one because we live on the side of a hill. So, we don't have a lot of flat ground to plant anything. Great info about how to do one, thanks!

im4tooele (author)2009-07-22

That looks easy.

chauntee2 (author)2009-07-20

That is a really good idea;)

GloriaJ (author)2009-07-20

This is a great idea and very helpful information. Thanks.

juvinurse (author)2009-07-20

Great idea for those of us that do not have real space for a garden.

aunty (author)2009-06-23

You have done a very nice job here.

DebH57 (author)aunty2009-06-24

Thank you

Bratillia (author)2009-06-22

Looks interesting

DebH57 (author)Bratillia2009-06-24

Thank you

BettyBoop1 (author)2009-06-17

I used this page to start my flowers with, they are doing great. Thank you

DebH57 (author)BettyBoop12009-06-18

You are welcome and thanks for letting us know, please keep us updated Betty.

AmazingGracie (author)2009-06-14

I am getting things together to do this one it looks very interesting

DebH57 (author)AmazingGracie2009-06-14

I think you will like how it all comes together Grace

CAWildWoman (author)2009-06-14

I tried this out, it was so quick and easy, my flowers are already perky after only two days. The cardboard tube is great, the lids to catch bugs works like a charm. Thanks for posting this DebH.

DebH57 (author)CAWildWoman2009-06-14

Thanks for saying so CA, enjoy your flowers

mman1506 (author)2009-06-13

just wondering how the vasline works .is it so the bugs get stuck to it or do they not like vaseline

DebH57 (author)mman15062009-06-13

They get stuck in it mostly, they are attracted to the 'stickiness' which distracts them from your plants.

evan_124 (author)2009-06-11

since the "root depth" was mentioned when considering the size of the container, i was wondering if anyone knew of any places to find info about a given plant's root depth. and another bravo on the cardboard tube idea, love it. one thing tho, i was thinking that if you put the tube right over the drainage hole of you container, you may lose a lot of water as it would just flow right through quickly. at least thats what i imagine would happen.

DebH57 (author)evan_1242009-06-11

For root depth I would suggest Googling it specific to what your are planting. Since you determine where the drainage holes go omit putting one in the direct center, if it already has holes put your cardboard tube just off center. Your watering is not limited to the tube only you can water around it as well.

yoshhash (author)2009-06-11

ok, this is getting redundant, but I really have to add how much I love the cardboard tube waterer- freakin' brilliant! Finally a genuinely valueable way to put them to good use!

DebH57 (author)yoshhash2009-06-11

LOL Yoshhash, thank you very much be as redundant as you need to be, I appreciate your comments.

ChrysN (author)2009-06-10

I'll have to try the cardboard tube and your pest control method, these are great ideas!

DebH57 (author)ChrysN2009-06-10

Well thank you very much Chrys!

bethmez (author)2009-06-10

I have never thought of using vaseline or Karo to discourage pests. Will have to try this!

DebH57 (author)bethmez2009-06-10

It is a good alternative Beth - and cheap too!

wreck (author)DebH572009-06-10

I will try this one. Lots of good tips in here, thank you.

DebH57 (author)wreck2009-06-10

Most welcome Wreck, I would like to hear your results. Thanks for commenting!

geekyb (author)2009-06-10

Neat idea on the drainage system. I've been looking to try a hanging bucket planter for tomatoes, will the cardboard tube trick work well with that system, too?

DebH57 (author)geekyb2009-06-10

I've never tried it GeekyB but if your plant is hanging the root system will be up the center of your bucket and it drains automatically through the hole. I would think if you wanted to add this maybe put in two; one on each side of the bucket but IMHO I don't see a need for it. I've only done mine in soda bottles and there would not be room enough for this type of drainage.

PrinceJ57 (author)2009-06-10

I really like the cardboard tube idea thats a nice touch...great instructable!

DebH57 (author)PrinceJ572009-06-10

Thanks Prince, it does a good job for me.

jessyratfink (author)2009-06-10

The cardboard tube bit is an excellent idea! I also like your pest control strategy. Much better than coating the plants with nasty sprays!

DebH57 (author)jessyratfink2009-06-10

Thanks Jessy, I have dogs that get into everything and have to find ways that are non toxic to manage my plants.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am 51 and hail from sunny Southern California but originate from back east. I am a Web Designer by trade and own a small ... More »
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