When people talk about gardening generally, a sprawling landscape full of beautiful garden beds typically is what comes to mind. However, with 60% of the world population expected to live in urban areas by 2025, it’s about time to stop thinking about gardening as a hobby for only those of us with backyards.
Enter the container garden, the small-space, grow-anywhere, unsung hero of the gardening world. Container gardens are compact, can be tailored to contain plants that are best suited for your individual climate, and are easy—and fun!—for even beginner gardeners to grow.
Have you been wanting to garden but have felt limited by your lack of green space? Container gardening is for you! Read on to learn about some of our favorite tips and tricks for setting up your very own DIY container garden.
Things To Keep In Mind While Creating A Container Garden
Sometimes, it can be hard to figure out where to begin when it comes to gardening. There is a wealth of information out there, but oftentimes, it can be coded for high-level growers working with in-ground gardens as opposed to those of us who choose to grow in containers.
If you are a beginner, welcome! We’re so glad you’re here. Gardenuity exists to de-mystify the gardening experience so that all of us can reap the amazing wellness benefits that gardens have to offer.
For those just starting out, here are “pillars” of container gardening, the things that you should always keep in mind:
1. Match your plants to your climate.
Set yourself up for success from the start by growing plants that are suited for your climate. The month of April is different in Texas than it is in Michigan, and your garden should reflect that. When selected plants for your garden, do a little bit of research on the temperatures that each should grow at. This will help guide your selection and your growing season.
2. Choose companion plants that grow well together.
Companion planting is an excellent way to hack your harvest. Choosing plants that grow well together can help prevents pests, improve output and even affect the taste of your final produce. It helps to think of something you really want to grow and then work backwards from it when deciding companion plant combos.
3. Always, always think about drainage.
We love a beautiful container as much as the next person, but does it have drainage? Especially for beginner gardeners, figuring out the right amount of water for your plants can be tricky. If your container has good drainage, you will know it’s been watered enough when it starts to drain. Your plant will also be able to better withstand severe storms, if that is an issue in your area.
4. Give your plants what they want.
Your plants want sun, water, and nutrients. Move your container garden to a sunny spot throughout the day to ensure that it gets enough light. Water it often enough that the soil stays relatively moist. Use a loamy, nutrient-rich soil as your base and fertilize frequently to provide nutrients. If your plants get what they want, they will provide you with what you want: a big, beautiful, bountiful harvest.
5. Build gardening into your schedule.
Gardening is a lifestyle. Carve out a little time each day to water your plants, get your hands in the soil and breathe in the fresh air around your garden. It’s a meditative practice just as much as it is a growing practice.
6. How do you create a container garden from scratch?
Start out your container garden by selecting a large, well-draining pot or garden bag. Think terracotta with a large drainage hole in the bottom, if you are looking for an inexpensive option. You can also choose a hanging basket if you find yourself with extremely limited space on your balcony.
You’ll want to fill it with loamy, nutrient-dense potting soil, preferably something that drains well, and whatever fertilizer your garden center recommends. We like starting off with saplings as opposed to seeds so that you are able to reap the benefits of your garden faster. Plant each sapling so that their roots are completely buried in the soil and the sprouts are between three and six inches apart.
Once your plants are in the ground, give everything a good watering until your container begins to drain. Wait a few minutes, then repeat, ensuring that every bit of your garden has been thoroughly saturated.
Seem like a lot to handle? You can always skip the hassle with a Grow Kit from Gardenuity. Our kits come with plants tailored to your individual zip code, a large garden bag, and all the soil and fertilizer you need to start a successful container garden. Shop Grow Kits!
How do you layout a container garden?
Some articles will tell you that you need a garden design with a focal point, with one plant that is “filler” (it fills out the pot) and another that is “spiller” (it grows outside of its container). If you are planning on entering your container in a gardening competition, this is pretty good advice. However, at Gardenuity, we just want you to fill your container with something.
The great thing about container gardens is that you will have a hard time messing up the planting. As long as you have chosen a container combination that includes well-matched companion plants, you can’t go wrong when it comes to planting them.
We recommend spacing your plants between two and six inches apart, depending on the size of your container. This will give everything a bit of room to breathe in the beginning and allow for plants to have space to fill in once they begin the flourish.
What are some plants that work well together in a container garden?
While there are tons of companion plants out there, we’re going to focus on pairings of our two favorite things to grow: vegetables and flowers.
Vegetables have a beautiful symbiotic growing relationship. Flowers like marigolds help keep pests away from your gorgeous veggies, while vegetable plants help make the soil more hospitable to gardens.
Here are some of our favorite container gardening ideas:
- Nasturtium and cucumber
- Melons or squash and flowering herbs (lavender, bee balm, Thai basil, dill)
- Broccoli and calendula
- Chives and geraniums
- Cabbage and chamomile
- Eggplant and dahlias
- Tomatoes and gerbera daisy
- Parsley and pansies
- Cauliflower and zinnias
- Asparagus fern or sweet potato vine and impatiens
Vegetable Combination Ideas For Container Gardens
If you are looking to grow an all-veggie garden, you’re in luck: there are many varietals of vegetables that work well together in container gardens. Some of our favorite combinations include:
- Beans with beets, cabbage, corn, and cucumber (avoid garlic and onions)
- Potatoes with beans, lettuce, spinach, marigold, and onions (avoid asparagus, Brassica family plants, and berries)
- Tomatoes with asparagus, celery, and peppers (avoid potatoes, corn, and dill)
- Squash with corn, nasturtiums, peas, and radishes (avoid potatoes)
Herb Combination Ideas For Container Gardens
We love growing herbs! Delicious, nutritious, and easy to cultivate, they are the perfect addition to any garden.
Here are some of our favorite herb combinations:
- Basil with parsley, cilantro, and tarragon
- Lemon balm with lemon thyme and lemon verbena
- Marjoram with rosemary, oregano, sage, and lavender
- Rosemary with sage, oregano, and lemon thyme
- Dill with cilantro and lemon verbena
What are some vegetables & herbs that grow well together in a container garden?
Chefs rejoice: you can grow all the vegetables and herbs you need in the same container garden! As long as you stick with growing within certain plant families, there is no reason that you cannot make an entire green salad using the contents of a single container garden.
Our Favorite Herb & Vegetable Combinations for Container Gardens
When we set up container gardens, these are the herb-vegetable combinations we turn to:
- Basil, tomatoes, and asparagus
- Chives, broccoli, parsley, and tomatoes
- Cilantro, radishes, and peppers
- Dill, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, and onion
- Lemon balm and squash
- Parsley, corn, and tomatoes
- Rosemary, beans, carrots, and sage
- Thyme, chives, parsley, and marigold
Why We Chose These Vegetable & Herb Combinations
As we mentioned before, while many herbs and vegetables grow very well together, some do not get along as well. Dill comes to mind as being a particularly finicky companion plant. We like these companion planting options because we know that they will not only grow in the same container, they will also help each other to become healthier, stronger plants over time. Kind of like how your friends help you grow.
What Vegetables & Herbs Can Not Be Planted Together In A Container Garden?
As we mentioned, not all plants get along (kind of like people). If you are a more of an avoidant person than a proactive one, here’s a quick list of combinations to stay far, far away from:
- Chives with beans and peas
- Dill with cabbage, sage, and tomatoes
- Peppermint with parsley and chamomile
- Sage with cucumber
- Rosemary with carrots and squash (particularly pumpkins)
Plant Combination Ideas For Container Gardens Full Sun
If you live on the sunny side of the street, you’ll want to be sure that you select container plants that can withstand a little bit of heat. If you are growing a shade garden or have partial shade, these combinations may not be the best for you;
- Tomato, basil, parsley, and marigolds
- Corn, parsley, cucumbers, and geraniums
- Lettuce, cucumber, rosemary, and sage
Container Garden Plant Combination Ideas For Your Patio
If you are looking to brighten up a very small space with a container garden, you’ll want to be sure to select plants that won’t turn your balcony into a jungle. Here are some of our favorite combinations that need less sun and won’t overcrowd your patio before harvest.
- Basil, tomatoes, thyme, and garlic
- Broccoli, oregano, and rosemary
- Strawberries, mint, spinach, and lettuce
- Chives, parsley, and beets
So You’ve Decided Your Vegetable & Herb Combination – Now How Do You Grow?
You’re ready to get some plants into the ground—yay! Here’s what you need to set up the rest of your container garden.
What Soil Should Be Used For Container Gardens?
You should select a loamy, well-draining soil for your garden, preferably something with nutrients that will keep your plants healthy. We suggest a combination of 1/2 potting soil, 1/4 compost or other fertile matter, and 1/4 organic matter such as moss or mulch.
What are some fertilizer tips for container gardens?
Gardenuity Grow Kits come with the fertilizer included to take the guesswork out of when and how to give your garden additional nutrients. If you are growing on your own, try fertilizing with compost. You can put compost on your gardens as often as every two to four weeks.
What are some watering tips for container gardening?
Unlike succulents or other houseplants, your outdoor container garden should get some extra moisture from rain. However, you will need to be just as vigilant about watering it.
We suggest starting off by watering your garden whenever the soil looks dry or every two the three days. Take a hose or a watering can and pour enough water onto the container so that it starts draining out of the bottom. Wait about five minutes, then repeat the process. This ensures that every bit of your garden, all the way down to the roots, has received some hydration.
How can you prevent pests in your container garden?
You’ll want to keep an eye out for pests in the garden. Companion plants such as marigold, tansy, marigold, geraniums, and catmint are all good at keeping unwanted critters at bay. You should also regularly check your garden for signs of insects. Making sure that your container gets enough sunlight will keep it less moist, therefore making it a less hospitable environment for pests.
Start Planting & Growing Your Own Container Garden!
Are you ready to tackle container gardening? Learn more about Gardenuity Garden Kits for the easiest, most fun way to get started on your garden.