Container garden
Updated: June 1, 2021

How to plant a container garden

  • Don’t fill the bottom of the container with pebbles, gravel, or rocks unless you need the added weight to prevent tipping. Cover drainage holes with mesh, gravel, paper towel, or a coffee filter, to prevent soil from washing away.
  • Prior to planting, use a trowel or your hands (wear gloves) to thoroughly work water into the growing medium. This is especially important for soilless mixes containing peat moss.
  • Don’t cram media into the container. Fill to within an inch or so of the top of the container. Follow seed packet directions for planting, spacing, and care. After germination seed transplants as necessary for proper spacing. 
  • For attractive and versatile containers, mix herbs and annual flowers in with the vegetable plants.
  • Herbs such as lavender, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and chives require a loose growing medium and dry conditions. Plant them together in porous clay pots and add some coarse sand to the mix.
  • Keep containers together to increase humidity, water retention, and for watering ease. 
  • Give them support. Cucumbers, pole beans, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant will all benefit from some type of vertical support.

Diagnosing container plant problems

  • Container-grown plants are subject to the same insect and disease problems as garden-grown plants. However, container gardens tend to have fewer problems. The biggest causes of plant problems are lack of water and nutrients and overcrowding. Plants can also suffer root rot from too much water, especially if the growing mix does not drain well. 
  • Go to 'Vegetable Problems' for additional help in diagnosing vegetable problems, or send your questions and photos to our extension specialists: Ask Extension.