How to set up your own container garden in 7 easy steps

container gardening

Container gardening has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with good reason: it is cost-effective, water-wise, space efficient and super easy! Plants, and especially veggies, are happy to grow in pretty much anything, whether it’s a bucket or a bag. You really don’t need a lot of space for it either. As long as you have a sunny spot, you can grow something. Let’s take you through the steps to setting up your own container garden.

Step 1: Find a suitable container

Veggies are happy to grow in pretty much anything, from a bucket or old wheelbarrow to a compost bag. A container garden is the perfect solution for a small garden because you can move it easily and it hardly requires any maintenance apart from watering.

I had an old metal baby bath that seemed the perfect size for a herb garden by the kitchen door.

You will need to ensure that your container has sufficient drainage holes in the bottom. If it doesn’t, make sure that you drill a few into the base. If your container is going to stand on a patio, also then make sure that you place it on top of a tray or other suitable surface that can catch any overflow.

Read the instructions on the back of your seed packets to determine the amount of sun your plants are going to need and where you need to place your container. As a general rule, however, vegetables and herbs prefer full sun.

 Step 2: Ensure good drainage

container gardening

It is a common misconception that you should put gravel or small stones in the bottom of a container to assist with drainage. A few old kitchen sponges in the bottom will help water drain sufficiently as well as keep moisture in the soil for longer. This is also a great way to recycle!

Step 3: Add water funnels

container gardening

This is such a clever addition to your container garden that you will want to add it to every pot you have! Cut some PVC pipe to at least 10cm longer than the depth of your container. Drill several holes into the pipe and cap the bottom before you push it into the prepared soil. While 1 pipe for an average pot will be sufficient, you should add more pipes for a larger pot.

Step 4 : Fill with potting soil

container gardening

Make sure that you get great quality, certified weed-free potting soil to fill your container with. Throw the potting soil on top of the sponges, and mix with compost to ensure good, healthy soil for your plants and seedlings.

 Step 5: Give things a bit of a boost

container gardening

Adding a nutrient mix like Wonder Shake ‘N Grow plant food will give your new seedlings or seeds a little bit of a boost to start with. Lightly sprinkle over the prepared soil and work it in just a bit. You can also add water retention crystals like Wonder Stockosorb to create a continuous water reservoir for your plants.

 Step 6: Plant!

container gardening

Whether you add seedlings, established plants or seeds, ensure that you allow for sufficient spacing between plants. You may need to thin the plants out in a few weeks if things are getting too crowded. Try companion planting with veggies and herbs: tomatoes work very well with basil!

Step 7: Water

container gardening

Because containers cannot hold as much water, you may need to water daily during the dry season and much less in the rainy season. Always ensure that the soil feels moist to the touch, but not wet. Fill up the funnels and water well all around the container without allowing water to stand on the surface of the soil.

Remember that most herbs and leafy veggies flourish when they are being regularly cut, so don’t be afraid to start harvesting immediately.

Happy container gardening!

This article was first published for Efekto.

Comments · 11

  1. Thank you this is such a great idea I’ve been wanting to make a little garden just like this and this tells me how. But I do have a question won’t the sponges get moldy? Thanks

    1. Hi Beth, I am so glad that you feel inspired! Great question as well! In short – I am not a horticulturist, so I don’t know. But, if you consider that soil has its own ecosystem with natural mold and micro-organisms, then a sponge might fit in well. Just to be sure, microwave your sponge in some water, vinegar and dish soap for 2 mins to sterilise it. Let me know how your garden turns out! G

    1. Great question, and also one that has unleashed quite a debate. PVC has been approved for household water ducting but some studies claim that it can be harmful. I am not in any position to make a call, so I suggest that if you are not comfortable with PVC, that you use something more natural like rubber or copper. Good luck!

  2. Could you paint the PVC pipe that’s above the soil to make it blend in and add more color?

  3. The PVC pipe that is above the soil looks to be more than 2 3/4 inchs which is my understanding of 7 cm.

  4. The sponge is a great idea. I’m wondering if a sponge type fabric could be wrapped around the PVC for better absorbing through the soil ? Just a thought.

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