Pot Growing 101: Container Gardening Basics

By Jason Woods

February 28, 2019

Last Updated: October 3, 2019

Pot Growing 101: Container Gardening Basics

Pot growing — It’s completely legal in at least 10 states and the District of Columbia, and lots of people do it to relax or for medical reasons. But it can be a little daunting to start. What kind of pot do you need? What’s the best way to do it? Don’t sweat it, we’re here to help! 

First of all … … wait. Nope, that’s not right. A quick Google search informs me pot growing is a different thing. We’re doing “container gardening” today. My mistake.

Gardening elicits a host of great health benefits, from reducing stress to helping you sleep. Growing your own food can also save you money and make your diet healthier. If you don’t have a green thumb, that’s OK: Here are a few tips to get you started.

Decide what to grow.

Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash

Do you want something that looks pretty, or are you trying to grow something you can eat? Or maybe you want both? Are you growing from seed, or are you going to transplant seedlings or maybe a more mature plant? These decisions will affect the rest of your choices.

Container Gardening with Vegetables

Get your pot.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The most important thing is that your container has drainage in the bottom — you’re more likely to overwater than underwater your plant, and that’s doubly true if your container doesn’t drain. In general, you want a pot a little bigger than the roots of the plant. 

How to Pick Pots for Container Gardens

Buyer’s Guide to Plant Containers

Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

Grab some dirt.

The soil you use for container gardening is a little different than garden soil. Container soil needs to drain and aerate better than garden soil while still retaining moisture.

Good potting soils are usually made of things like sand, peat moss and bark. Look for bags of soil labeled for use in pots, or make your own potting soil.

Using Soil and Soil Mixes

Photo by Squarely on Unsplash

Put it somewhere nice.

Don’t forget to take sunlight into account when you’re looking for a good place to put your plants. If you’re keeping your potted plant outside, find a spot with good sunlight (although different plants require different amounts) and air circulation. It also helps if there’s a convenient water source nearby.

For indoor plants, find a window that doesn’t face north, and you probably don’t want to put your plants near a heat source.

In either situation, inside or outside, you might also want to consider getting a rolling plant stand or plant caddyfor more flexibility and variety.

Where to Put Houseplants

Selecting the Best Location for a Garden

What Does Full Sun and Partial Shade Mean?

Photo by Cassidy Phillips on Unsplash

Don't forget to take care of it!

Obviously, this is very important, but it’s easy to forget. Plants need water! Make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. For big pots, you might consider adding mulch an inch away from plant stems to retain moisture. 

Your plants also need to be fed. According to Good Housekeeping, you can start by using diluted fish emulsion, seaweed extract or compost tea every couple of weeks and adjust as necessary.

Container Gardening Basics