Container Gardening

by Holly Warren

My husband and I rent our home, so I have an extensive container garden. For anyone interested in this type of gardening I would give the following tips:

  1. Dunkin Donuts is a wonderful source of food quality 3.5 - 5 gallon buckets. We live in Vermont & pay $1 per bucket, including the lid. You should be able to reuse them forever!
  2. Drill two sets of holes about an inch apart around the bottom of the container, space the holes 3-4 inches apart.
  3. Repeatedly mulching plants with compost is important, not only because it encourages water retention but because plants will use up the nutrients in the container and you must replace them. My container garden is organic only, so I don't use artifical fertilizers, but this is another option if you're not growing organically.
  4. You might also like: French Intensive Container Gardening

  5. Container gardens will dry out much quicker than regular gardens, so you must be very diligent about watering them. If you've provided good drainage you should not have to really worry about overwatering. Broken terra cotta pots can be recycled by laying the pieces over the soil. This helps retain moisture.
  6. To keep my garden well watered, and so I don't have to water it every day, I use an "irrigation" system of sorts. Take any 16-24 oz bottle (plastic or glass is fine, just make sure it's food quality). Fill this bottle with water, quickly turn it upside down, and insert into the soil. One bottle per container is adequate. Not only does this water your plants at the roots (reducing water lost through evaporation), but it's a lifesaver when you need to leave town during a hot weekend!
  7. Finally, keep in mind that for a container garden to be successful you must make the container size fit the plant. Below are some basic planting guidelines.
    • Beans, Snap - 5 gal. window box/bucket -follow planting instructions for spacing plants
    • Broccoli - 1 plant/5 gal. pot
    • Tomatoes - 1 plant/5 gal. pot
    • Squash - 1 plant/2 gal. pot
    • Radish - 5 gal. window box/bucket - follow planting instructions for spacing plants
    • Pepper - 1 plant/2 gal pot or 5 plants/ 15 gal. pot
    • Garlic - 8 inch deep container
    • Cucumber - 1 plant/1 gal. pot
    • Carrott - 5 gal window box at least 12" deep
    • Onion - 5 gal. window box

There are hundreds of sources on container gardening out there! is an excellent place to start, as is your local extension office. I am a Master Gardener Intern through the Vermont extension office.

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