Container gardening for beginners

Container gardening is a wonderful method to grow plants and vegetables and a great way to start gardening for beginners.

The majority of the time, plants cultivated in pots have fewer insect problems than those produced in the ground. In general, insects that travel from plant to plant in the garden are less likely to find plants on a balcony, verandah, or inside.

Containers are readily accessible these days, and there are several distinct sorts of containers that may be utilized in a garden.

You can even start container gardening indoors or on a tiny patio with just a few pots! In this post, we’ll go over what you’ll need for container gardening, as well as how to set up your first container garden.

In this article we provide great tips for new gardeners and recommend the best plants and vegetables to plant.

container gardening for beginners

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Table of Contents

Choose the right location

When starting out container gardening the best advice we can give is to plan in advance. The best location for garden containers is a well-lit area that has a lot of sunlight ideally south- or west-facing. You will need to pick out an area with at least 4 hours of full sunlight per day so that your plants can thrive in their new home!

If space or sunlight is limiting you may decide to have your pots or containers inside. If this is so stay away from windows that receive a lot of direct sunlight as the windows will heat up and dry out the soil.

container gardening for beginners

Make a plant wish list

Having decided on how much space is available next start to think about the types of plants or vegetables you want to grow. It is easy to get carried away and costs can easily mount up. Perhaps choose one type of plant or vegetable to start with.

Choose the right garden container

There are many garden containers that one can choose from. If you are new to container gardening it is important to pick the right garden container.

Your garden container should be large enough for the plant variety that you are interested in planting, but small enough so that it can be easily moved around the garden if needed. Ensure adequate drainage with sufficient drainage holes.

Remember pots and containers are an investment you want them to last from year to year. So take your time choosing the containers that will work best for you.

Terra-cotta garden containers – Kiln-fired clay can range from rich orange-brown to a pale, creamy colour. They are durable, are available in many sizes and are often less expensive than other garden containers. The properties of the clay are porous so air can get in and water can evaporate. This classic container material is durable and can be used in formal- or casual-style gardens. On the downside being porous also means that water can evaporate more easily resulting in the soil drying out quicker and they can crack during extreme cold.

Terra-cotta container garden

Glazed containers
are fired clay pots that are coated with a wide range of glaze coatings and available in almost any size, shape or colour. Glazed containers or ceramic containers are more durable and hold moisture in the soil better than plain terra-cotta but they can be heavy and can easily chip

glazed container garden

Concrete or stone containers It may be moulded into a variety of shapes and painted, stained, or left natural. Tough and incredibly durable, concrete containers will last for many years with minimal care. They are heavy but this means they do stay put during the worst of weather conditions. If you are looking for a lighter cheaper alternative look for Fiberstone which is a mixture of fibreglass and crushed stone.

concrete container garden

Wooden Containersthe choice of shapes and sizes is limitless in wood and popular for window boxes and planters. A hardly material which get be left outside for years can be painted to prolong life span but will rot in time.

wooden container garden

Plastic Containersmade to match any shape style or size they are lightweight, durable and weather resistant. The main advantage of growing plants in this type of container is cost but be warned they are likely to take off if the weather turns bad.

plastic container garden

Cast-iron – moulded to create any style from classic antique designs to streamlined modern styles. It may be painted or left raw to rust naturally. Larger containers can be heavy and maybe an issue if you need to move them around regularly.

Sheet metal – rolled into thin sheets and formed into containers. Usually lightweight the metal can withstand extreme heat or cold with ease. Caution, metal heats up fast in the sun and can harm plant roots if not kept cool.

The right potting soil

One big mistake that people make when starting new container gardens is not investing in quality potting soil.

In an ideal world, your containers will benefit from homegrown compost

There is no such thing as the “best” potting soil. You can make good potting soil with a variety of ingredients and they’ll all produce healthy plants & veggies. A decent mix should have the following characteristics.

Lots of Air – Roots need a lot of air, more than you might believe. Excellent soil contains 25% air.

Hold Moisture – The most common issue with containers is that they dry out too quickly. Plants will need to be watered less frequently if the mix retains more water. That’s good news for you, but it’s also beneficial for plants. Plant roots dislike significant changes in moisture levels.

Heavy or Light? – If you garden on a balcony and have many pots, you’ll want to use less weight. You also want less weight if you move the plants frequently or store them in the garage for the winter. On the other hand, containers with tall plants require more weight to keep from falling over in the wind. Smaller containers may also benefit from additional weight

Hold Nutrients – Containers are frequently watered, and each time you water, some nutrients are lost from the bottom of the container. A mix that retains nutrients longer will lose them slower. This is beneficial to plants, but it also helps to save money on fertilizing.

What is the ideal Potting Mix – a good potting mix will usually comprise 50% garden soil, 30% peat moss or choir, 20% compost.

In 2021 new regulations were introduced to protect English Peatland by preventing some burning which is argued could help the UK reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

If you wish to play your part there are a number of Peat Moss Alternatives:

Coconut Coir – Coconut coir, also known as coco peat or coir peat, is a popular alternative to peat moss. Coconut coir is created from the fibres between the shell and outer covering of coconuts after they are harvested.

Wood-Based Materials – Peat moss alternatives that are not actually peat moss include composted wood fibre, sawdust, and wood pulp. Woody materials like wood fibre, sawdust, and composted bark aren’t the greatest peat moss alternative, but they do have advantages. Wood-based additives have long been used in commercial potting mixes to aid water retention

Organic Compost Compost, also known as “black gold,” is full of helpful bacteria and nutrients. Compost is made out of garden and food waste, which is high in microorganisms that are beneficial to the soil. It aids drainage, attracts positive earthworms, and gives nutritional value by being made from “black gold.”

Pine Needles – Pine needles are readily available to most homeowners, who have a garden filled with evergreens. Pine needles provide a quick and sustainable peat moss substitute. While pine needles alter the texture of your soil, they do not significantly impact mineral levels. Pine needles have a high tannic acid content, making them acidic, yet their pH is unaffected.

Rice Hulls – The “skin” of a rice grain that is removed before it is sold for consumption is the rice hull. When preserved, these shells may be utilized to enrich the soil. Thin and almost weightless, they assist to lighten the soil, improving drainage and aeration, and facilitating water absorption.

Leaf Mould – Leaf mould is an important component of organic gardens. Leaf mould is simply leaves left outside to decompose or compost, which organic gardeners recognize. It has several benefits for gardens, making it a cost-effective, replenishable, and locally sourced alternative to peat moss.

Composted Manure – Manure is a natural and sustainable substance that aids in the increased carbon content of your soil and the development of beneficial microorganisms, which promote plant growth. It also improves soil structure by increasing water retention capacity. Before applying manure to your land, allow it to compost fully before spreading it.

container gardening

How deep do containers need to be to grow vegetables?

A 6 to 8-inch-deep planter box is enough for most plants. For some veggies, the depth might differ. Turnips, cucumbers, broccoli, beets, lettuce and green onions can all be grown in a planter box at that depth, but other crops such as cabbage require a greater depth of at least 10 inches.

The importance of proper watering and drainage

Too much water will rot plant roots too little and your efforts are likely to die.

Rather than watering at a fixed time, look first to see if your plants require water. Check the surface of the soil in a pot by looking at it or stroking it with your finger if your plant is in a container. The colour of wet soil will be dark, while that of dry soil will be lighter.

When you water moisten the entire root zone until water comes out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. 

10 vegetables that can grow together in containers 

1. Basil and Tomatoes – Basil and tomatoes make a wonderful pair for companion planting. Basil is a herb with a strong odour that seems to repel house flies, mosquitoes, and aphids. Because they’re grown together, they share nutrients hidden beneath the soil and actually make the tomatoes taste better.

2. Tomatoes and Marigold – Marigold is beneficial for tomatoes since it improves the productivity of the plants, resulting in more tomatoes. They also protect tomatoes from nematodes and other pests.

3. Pepper and Basil – Pepper and basil are good companions since they both have a strong odour. Basil, because of its powerful smell, helps repel bugs that prey on pepper plants.

4. Broccoli and Onion – Broccoli is one of the many cabbage families, and it’s one of the most nutritious within the vegetable family. Broccoli can thrive in both cool and sunny locations. It’s claimed that planting onion next to broccoli improves its flavour.

5. Rosemary and Broccoli – Rosemary, on the other hand, is not a good companion plant with other herbs. It does, however, do well alongside certain vegetables. Broccoli is one of these veggies. Rosemary protects the broccoli from insects and pests while also enriching the soil for rosemary to thrive.

6. Carrot and Onion – Carrots and onions are great companions in the garden and can help prevent the carrot fly from ruining your crop. the carrot from disturbing the progress of the carrot plant.

7. Leeks and Onion – Although onion and leeks come from the same family, and it’s unusual for plants from the same family to thrive together, this is not the case with these two. Leeks are useful in keeping insects away from onions.

8. Carrot and Beans – Beans are leguminous plants that enrich the soil with nitrogen through the nitrogen-fixing process. This implies you may be certain that your carrot will thrive in excellent and nourishing dirt if you plant beans alongside it.

9. Lettuce and Garlic – Garlic is an excellent neighbour for lettuce because of the distinctive fragrance of garlic, it naturally repels insects that might harm or disturb the lettuce, allowing the garlic to protect it until maturity.

10. Cucumber and Radish – Because of the lengthy striding vines of the cucumber, the cucumber leaves provide surrounding plants with room to flourish at the bottom. Radish protects the cucumber against the cucumber beetle, a plant pest that damages the cucumber plant. Radish acts as protection for your cucumber and can be kept on it until it is ready.

The best vegetables to grow in containers

  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Chard
  • Chilli Peppers
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes


Gardening is a great way to grow food. In this article, we have offered advice on Container gardening for beginners. Our list of 10 vegetable varieties that work well in containers hopefully will provide you with a starting point. Get out there and start growing plants and vegetable crops!

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Oliver Wright

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