Container gardening is pretty straightforward, it is simply growing plants in containers or pots rather than in the ground.
It is something that has been practiced for hundreds of years and has many benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Container Gardening?
There are lots, but the main ones are:
Controlling weeds is easier
You can grow a wider variety of plants
You can move your plants around more easily
Your use of water will be more economical.
What Can You Grow?
Generally you will want to limit yourself to plants that can’t grow any higher than three feet.
That means you can grow most vegetables, pretty much all herbs, a range of fruits and lots of flowers.
What Container Should I Use?
Containers used in container gardening come in all shapes, sizes and materials. For a thorough run down of what type might be best for you, jump to the ‘What type of container is best for me?’ section in this post?
BEST FOR… Those wanting the perfect container gardening system
Size (H x D): 43″ x 24.5″
Footprint: 4 square feet
Weight Empty: 36lbs
Supports up to 1,000lbs
PRICE GUIDE: $$$
If you are looking for a container gardening system that packs a lot into a small footprint I really don’t think you will find anything better than the Garden Tower 2.
So let’s take a look:
At 43 inches high and 24.5 inches in diameter, you will need around 4 square feet of floor space for the Garden Tower 2.
This can grow up to 50 plants at once and supports up to 1,000lbs. It comes with a five-year warranty.
So where did it start:
Back in April 2012 three friends had a dream to let people quickly and easily grow organic food – regardless of their circumstances. They launched their Garden Tower Project on Kickstarter and received enough funding to make their dream a reality.
Two years later they improved on the concept with the Garden Tower 2 and believe me this thing rocks!
It is an all-in-one vertical, self-contained, garden and composting system. It’s innovative design uild means you don’t need to weed and it converts kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer to produce delicious fruit and veg and wonderful plants.
But more than that:
It’s clever build means you can easily rotate it 360 degrees so every plant gets the right amount of time in the shade and sun.
Even if you have a tiny backyard, as this only takes up four square feet of space you can use it anywhere.
It produces highly nutritious compost that collects in the bottom tray and is very beneficial to your garden.
Plants grow more quickly than in traditional gardening as they have direct access to the compost tube.
It is 100% USA made – in fact it is nearly all made in Indiana where the Garden Tower Project was founded.
A word of warning:
This is a bit more expensive than the other options on my list, but remember it is built to last and will produce up to 50 flourishing plants.
There are two trays at the bottom – one that strains and the other beneath it that collects the nutrients. It is quite easy to accidentally pull out the strainer trainer when you don’t mean to – so just be careful.
In a nutshell:
This is a wonderful container garden – and it makes it so easy to grow practically anything! It is eco-friendly and so simple to use and it will last you practically forever.
This Adams Manufacturing Garden Planter is a great space saver and perfect for growing smaller items like tomatoes or herbs.
So let’s get down to it:
Half the size of the Outland Vertical Garden reviewed above, this is still a wonderful use of space and the planter that holds 1.25 cubic feet of potting soil is the perfect size for anyone whose gardening ambitions aren’t too big!
It is ideal for herbs, pepper plants, tomatoes, strawberries, and the planter is neither too big nor too small – to give you an idea of the size, you could probably fit about six to eight plants into it.
On top of that:
Because of the plastic finish, it is actually extremely easy to clean – just wipe it with a damp cloth and all dirt is quickly removed.
This has a plug accessible from the bottom so you can easily drain water – leaving you with nothing to worry about apart from your plants.
Just a small touch but the bottom shelf is great – it is a really handy storage area for things like gardening tools, a watering can, etc, etc.
It is actually made of plastic resin, so it is lightweight and easy to move but still feels sturdy.
You can quickly remove the legs and the bottom shelf, making it easy to store away in the winter months.
A word of caution:
The planter trough is actually a little shallow – this limits what you can grow in it as those plants that need more root space will struggle.
The plastic it is made of won’t be to everyone’s taste, it makes it easy to clean but some won’t like the cheapness of it.
It is easy to see why this has so many great reviews. It is simple, but looks nice, is sturdy but easy to move around and is a great option for growing smaller plants.
If you are looking for a 40cc chainsaw that offers amazing value for money then you can’t look much further than the Remington RM2414.
MY RATING: 91%
Great for growing smaller items
Easy to clean
Handy drainage plug
Love the additional bottom shelf
Lightweight but sturdy
Trough is shallow
Some people won’t like the plastic material it is made of
BEST FOR… Those wanting an authentic looking whiskey barrel planter at a budget price.
Size (H x D): 12.5″ at bottom, 20.5″ at top x 14″
Weight Empty: 3.45lbs
Volume 13.2 gallons
PRICE GUIDE: $
This classic whiskey barrel planter has a wonderful distressed oak finish and will look great in any location.
Let’s dive in:
This measures 20.5 inches in diameter at the top and 14 inches in diameter at the bottom. It is 12.5 inches high and has a volume of 13.2 gallons. Empty it weighs 3.45lbs.
The kicker here is:
How good this looks! It is well made and attractive and not as cheap as the price tag would suggest it is.
Even though it is made of plastic it looks very authentic and does a wonderful job of imitating real wood.
And it gets better:
The fact it isn’t wood is a bonus in some respects as wood planters will decay over time, whereas this one won’t.
It is very affordable indeed – a great price.
Although it is made of plastic it is nice and sturdy and difficult to damage.
With a volume of 13.2 gallons it is large and roomy – plenty of space to tend to your favorite plants.
Comes with drainage holes to prevent over watering.
But also a warning:
Remember this is plastic – when you see the photos it does look very much like wood, but it isn’t. For some this might be a deal breaker – so be aware.
Also you will most probably need to get some kind of saucer or elevation for this – to allow the water to drain effectively from the drainage holes at the bottom.
Budget price, but premium look. This looks like a much more expensive wooden planter. It is hard to tell they are plastic, especially from a distance or when you have flowers or plants growing from them.
There still many other options when it comes to container gardening, so let’s take a look at a few of them:
Fabric Grow Bags
The technique of growing plants in grow bags has been around since the 1970s after commercial farmers adopted it as an alternative to using a greenhouse.
It simply involves laying the bag down, cutting a hole or two in the top and planting whatever you wish.
What are the advantages of fabric grow bags?
They are breathable
Fabric grow bags are aerated – that is they have small holes in them, allowing air to circulate freely and benefit whatever you are growing in them.
Allowing air and in particular oxygen to the roots of what you are growing is hugely important. Unlike in plastic containers, where the surface is sealed, roots can absorb water and nutrients more easily from the soil thanks to the circulation of air that fabric grow bags encourage.
Fabric grow bags also allow plants to ‘exhale’ excess moisture as well – and this prevents root rot.
They encourage more efficient and healthy growth
Fabric grow bags encourage plants to self prune.
Sounds pretty crazy right? Allow me to explain…
With sealed containers/pots roots will grow up to the edge of the pot and then circle back in as they can’t grow any further. The plant becomes root-bound and the roots die off.
Fabric grow bags are, as previously mentioned, aerated. When the root of whatever you are growing hits an air pocket it will automatically ‘self prune’ the root and create a side bud. The plant will continue to develop into a solid, fibrous root system.
Effectively fabric grow bags allow the root system to be hugely efficient and pick up lots of nutrients.
They are easy to water
Because fabric grow bags are aerated – the holes and small pores in the fabric allow any excess water to drain, reducing the risk of you overwatering.
Remember that due to the efficient method of air circulation you will need to water your plants regularly to prevent them from drying out.
They are good for growing a variety of plants
The complex root systems, as well as the aerated soil encouraging a mix of soil microbes, means you can grow a variety of similar plants together.
Acting as a small ecosystem the plants should help feed each other.
Plants can grow from anywhere in the bag
Plants don’t just have to grow from the top of the bag, but anywhere around the side of the bag as well because you can cut them without damaging their structure.
Grow bags are estimated to last 7 to 8 seasons, and because their fabric is pressed together, not woven, they are even more durable. This means you will get good value for money.
What are the disadvantages of fabric grow bags?
Drainage can be an issue
With some grow bags drainage can be an issue, and they might retain water. A solution is simply to make additional holes at the bottom of the bag.
They can be difficult to move
Larger grow bags can be difficult to move due to their weight, lack of sturdiness and awkward shape or size.
They aren’t as durable as other methods
They don’t have the structural strength of other containers, so may suffer in areas that are prone to heavy rain or flooding.
You might struggle with soil depth
Depending upon the size and capacity of your grow bag soil depth might be a problem – a few inches of soil is fine for growing salad greens but not for vegetables that require more root space.
There is no doubt that growing plants in fabric grow bags is an excellent option. It will encourage more efficient growth and it is really simple.
There are no doubts about it, plastic is durable. Thicket plastic especially won’t buckle. As it doesn’t absorb water it doesn’t rot either. Even when dropped they may resist cracking.
They are reasonably cheap
Plastic is manufactured in big quantities, so overall plastic pots are usually reasonably cheap to buy.
They retain soil moisture well
Plastic pots hold soil moisture for a longer period of time. Depending upon the plant this can be good or bad, but for plants that have high water demands it is a good thing.
They are easy to move
Plastic pots, even the larger ones, are generally lightweight and easy to move.
There are lots of styles
Plastic containers come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and all styles. Some even mimic other materials like wood, concrete or stone. They can be traditional or modern.
There are probably more options of plastic containers than any other material.
What are the disadvantages of plastic containers?
They absorb heat
Especially black or dark colored plastic pots. These can get very warm and cause plants to die.
They might crack in the sun
Whilst plastic is, on the whole, fairly durable, when in the sun for a long period of time they might turn brittle and crack.
They look cheap
Let’s be honest, they are not going to win any awards for their aesthetic appeal. Generally plastic containers look cheap.
They are bad for the environment.
Plastics are petroleum based products. They are not very sustainable and are difficult to degrade and not good for the environment
Plant roots are constricted
Solid plastic containers will restrict the growth of plant roots which will curl up and die of root rot.
Plastic plant pots are most people’s go to choices for container gardening and it is easy to understand why – they are lightweight, durable and come in a huge range of shapes, sizes, colors and styles.
Want to buy?
There are plenty of options when it comes to plastic plant pots, but I like the Viagrow 2 gallon plastic nursery pots that come in a 20 pack. They are resilient, inexpensive – even by the standards of plastic pots and have drainage holes!
What are the advantages of wooden containers?
They look good
Of all the different materials that can be used for planters wood is possibly the most elegant and timeless. You can also buy wooden planting containers to fit in with other garden furniture.
They keep soil cool
Wooden planters are great at keeping soil and plants at a good temperature. In the summer they warm up less so the soil and roots are protected from the heat. In the winter they protect plants from the cold.
They are easy to move
Whilst they aren’t quite as lightweight as plastic pots, wooden planters are still generally quite easy to move from place to place.
You can make them yourself
If you are reasonably handy and have the tools and spare wood you can make them yourself.
They are cheap
Linked in with the above they are cheap! In fact you can use lots of every day containers such as wine boxes or other wooden storage boxes as planting containers.
What are the disadvantages of wooden containers?
They will decay
Whilst you can take steps to making wood more resistant to the elements, they generally will decay over time as they are sensitive to the environment.
The range is a little more limited
You can buy plastic containers in all shapes and sizes and designs – this obviously isn’t the case with wood.
They will require regular maintenance.
Wood containers are more high maintenance. To keep them in top shame you will need to reseal them occasionally.
An elegant and ever popular choice, wooden planters can be found in the vast majority of gardens as their cheap price makes them a big seller
Stone or concrete planters often look ornate, elegant and beautiful. The natural stone look is very attractive and visually they really enhance any garden.
They will last a long time
Perhaps more durable than any other material you might use for a planter, concrete containers are super durable and won’t become brittle over time.
Therefore they are great if you live in a damp climate
As concrete won’t be damaged by lots of rain or excessive humidity they are a great option if you are familiar with those climates.
They are also great if you live in a windy climate
As they are so stable and difficult to move!
They keep the soil temperature stable
With their thick walls and being a reliable insulator they provide less fluctuation in soil temperature and will protect the roots of plants when the temperature fluctuates.
They are usually spacious
More often than not concrete or stone planters are fairly large and sufficiently strong enough that large roots won’t break them. This also benefits smaller plants by virtue of less root crowding.
They are less likely to be stolen
They are so heavy it is unlikely anyone will try and run off with your prizer concrete planter!
What are the disadvantages of stone containers?
They are heavy
Stone planters are the heaviest planters you can get, and they are difficult to move. Make sure you are happy with where you place your planter in your garden as you might not be able to move it!
Soil might dry out more quickly
As concrete is porous it means the soil inside it may well dry out more quickly than other containers. You can seal the inside of the container to prevent this or simply water your plants more frequently
They are more expensive
Concrete planters are often more expensive than other options.
If you want a classic look and are happy to leave your planter be once you have decided where it goes, then a concrete planter might be for you. They last forever too.
Metal planters often have an unusual look – they can really serve as an accent piece in any backyard and draw attention to particular details.
They are often very decorative
Adding to the above metal planters have a decorative look no matter what format they come in – from tin cans to giant water troughs.
They are are hard to break
They won’t chip, crack or break.
They often improve with age
Whereas wood might decay and plastic fade in the sun, metal containers often age well as they are in the sun and develop a wonderful worn look that makes them look even better.
You can upcycle old metal items
You can use old metal items such as watering cans, or big tins and use them as planting containers – cheap and easy!
What are the disadvantages of metal containers?
They get very hot, very quickly
Metal heats up very quickly indeed, which will dry soil out and increase the risk of root damage to your plant. You will need to use some form of insulation to reduce the risk of this, or place them in a shady area.
Drainage could be a problem
Metal is what you call non-porous, which means it won’t drain naturally. You will need to drill some drainage holes in the bottom of it otherwise you are going to risk overwatering your plants.
Rust never sleeps!
Rust will always be a factor with metal containers, unless you keep it under cover or add something to protect it from rust.
They can be heavy
Depending upon the type of metal your planter is made ofit might be heavy – cast iron planters for instance will require a couple of people to shift it.
Metal planters have a truly unique look that can add to any yard, just be aware of the fact they conduct heat quickly.
I am sure we will all agree that walking into a yard and seeing a number of hanging baskets overflowing with an abundance of colorful plants catches your eye immediately.
They save you space
If you have a small backyard, or don’t have one at all, you can hang them from your patio or porch, etc and enjoy plants you otherwise might not be able to.
Pests are less of a pest
Hanging baskets are in their own little world. Whereas the soil at ground level may be filled with slugs, snails and bugs, hanging baskets won’t have that problem due to their lofty position.
Also other animals that could damage your plants, such as rabbits, raccoons or cats won’t be able to get to them.
Maintaining good soil quality is easier
Maintaining soil in a hanging basket is much easier than in a large garden bed. Simply buy some organic potting soil, fill your hanging basket and you are ready to grow!
Easier to access
With hanging baskets there is no more getting down on your knees to tend to your plants. Deadheading, weeding, pruning and much more can all be done from a standing position.
What are the disadvantages of hanging baskets?
They require more maintenance
A hanging basket will deteriorate much quicker if essential tasks are not carried out in comparison to normal plants. They dry out more quickly and need watering more often, you will need to add some form of fertilizer more often as the nutrients in the basket will deplete more quickly and deadheading needs to be done more often too.
Watch out for storms and high winds
In their suspended positions hanging baskets are susceptible to storms and high winds. Not only that high wind will dry the soil more rapidly and could cause damage to plants if they are whipped against the chains of the hanging basket.
Watch where you water
Something that isn’t obvious is watering a hanging basket can damage the surface below. If you have it hanging about a wooden porch for instance you will cause the wood to rot more quickly.
Hanging baskets are the eye-candy of the gardening world – producing lush, colorful foliage. Just be aware they will need more maintenance than other forms of container gardening.
Hanging baskets are the eye-candy of the gardening world – producing lush, colorful foliage. Just be aware they will need more maintenance than other forms of container gardening.
What are the advantages of self-watering containers?
They save time
Perhaps the most obvious advantage of self-watering containers is that they will save you time. You can forget about watering the plants because the container will do it for you.
They help retain essential nutrients
When you water a plant in a normal plant container excess water drains out through the drainage holes. The problem is as the water drains out so do the nutrients the soil needs to thrive.
Self-watering containers have a closed system, this keeps the nutrients inside the soil, meaning your plants will flourish.
They encourage healthy root growth
Self watering planters enable consistent watering at every depth throughout the pot rather than just at the surface. This will stimulate the roots to grow deep and you will have a healthy root system and a plant that has an abundance of flowers.
They conserve water
Self-watering planters are very intelligent and are designed to reduce water losses. Water is slowly released into the soil and monitored by a water level indicator, so there should be no excess water that needs to drain off.
They are great for people who don’t have much space
Self-watering planters come in all shapes and sizes, so even if you have a tiny yard, or no yard at all you can buy some small self-watering planters for your windowsill, your patio, or just about anywhere.
Some plants will really benefit from them
Certain plants require a steady supply of water to survive in more extreme climates. Often this can be difficult to regulate, but with self-watering planters ensuring a regular supply of water it is made much easier.
What are the disadvantages of self-watering containers?
They aren’t suitable for all plants
Whereas some plants will thrive with self-watering containers some others won’t – any plant that needs to dry out between waterings won’t be suitable for instance.
You need to watch out for fertilizer build up
Self-watering planters are prone to a build up of salt or fertilizer. This is because water doesn’t drain through holes in the bottom of the container. Your best bet to reduce this risk is to use compost fertilizer in your container.
Some self-watering planters have an open water reservoir, and this can be very attractive to mosquitos who will be drawn to lay their eggs in the water. You will need to make sure you regularly clean your container.
If you aren’t a traditional gardener and happy to try something new then self-watering planters can be a great option – especially if you want the minimum of fuss!
Want to buy?
Self-watering planters are becoming more and more popular, with new models consistently being introduced to the market.
I really love the Lechuza Balconera planter – it looks fantastic, is hugely spacious and has a lot of features most self-watering planters don’t.
There are of course other options available when considering the best container for container gardening – materials such as terracotta, fiberglass and hypertufa all being popular as well. I have linked to resources for further information below.
As you can tell I am a big fan of the Garden Tower Project – they produce a wonderful container garden and various other fantastic products.
Steve is a one time gardening hater turned into gardening obsessive. This was all thanks to going to University where a two year stint spent transforming the previously horrific garden of the student house he lived in left him addicted to all things horticultural! Now with a new house in tow and due to some fortunate circumstances he is free to test out a whole host of gardening equipment. Find out more about Steve or drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.