Plant a Container Garden

Get started on planting your container garden by following these tips on container weight, selecting the right potting soil, and planting a container garden.

  • edible plants
    Growing edibles on porches and patios puts them close to the site of consumption.
    Photo by Shuttershock
  • unusual containers
    Check architectural salvage shops for unusual containers.
    Photo by Mark Highland
  • wheeled container garden
    Placing large containers on feet or wheels helps protect the surface upon which the plant rests.
    Photo by Jessica Walliser
  • window box
    Window boxes are making a comeback, particularly for urban gardeners.
    Photo by Katie Elzer-Peters
  • cover
    “Practical Organic Gardening” by Mark Highland provides readers with a modern perspective to organic practices, methods, and products that any home gardener can enjoy.
    Cover courtesy Cool Spring Press

  • edible plants
  • unusual containers
  • wheeled container garden
  • window box
  • cover

Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally (Cool Springs Press, 2017), by Mark Highland is a modern visual guide to growing organically. The book provides step-by-step photography and how-to projects so readers can take a hands-on look at updated popular gardening techniques. The following excerpt is from Chapter 10, "Organic Container Gardens."

Just as following the proper planting technique is important to ensure the health of in-ground plants, so it goes with container garden plants.

Consider Container Weight

When considering container options, don't forget the weight factor. Ceramic containers are much heavier than plastic, and once they are filled with soil they are even heavier. If potting large ceramic containers, place them empty in their final location before adding potting soil. One way to make containers lighter is to reduce the amount of soil added. For containers larger than 24 inches tall, you can place something in the bottom of the container to reduce the amount of soil needed. There are products specifically designed for this purpose, such as pot inserts that come in a variety of sizes. Even a 2- to 3-inch reduction in the amount of soil in the bottom of the pot will help reduce weight.

There are also planter movers that, like appliance movers, have straps that "hug" the pot and allow you to safely move it. The straps go over your shoulders and allow you to lift the pot with your legs and not your back. Always test the lift before putting the full weight of a pot on yourself, and ask a friend for help. If in doubt, leave the pot where it is until the season is over, then remove the soil before moving the pot to a new location.

You can also buy a base with locking wheels and place the container on it before filling with soil. Wheels allow you to move the container around easily. Don't forget to lock the wheels back in place when you're done moving so it doesn't run away. Wheeled bases also keep the pot off the deck or patio, which helps reduce the incidence of "pot stains" that inevitably occur when any container sits long enough on a deck or patio surface. These pot stains can be scrubbed or pressure-washed off a deck easily, but the staining can also be reduced by using "pot feet." There are many different manufacturers of pot feet, but they all function the same way, by elevating the pot slightly off the deck surface to minimize any staining. All potting soils have a tendency to stain slightly, as they are made from organic matter that is constantly breaking down.

Select the Right Potting Soil

Container gardens require potting soil, which is not the same as garden soil. Remember, garden soil consists of sand, silt, and clay. Potting soil, on the other hand, is actually a soilless mix with specific properties formulated to perform well in container gardens.



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