Got Container Gardening Questions?

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Are there additional things you’d like to know about container gardening?

If you feel I missed something about container gardening or would like to know something that isn’t on this site, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer your question or point you to the best resource if I don’t know the answer.

This way, I can work on improving the site for everyone else who may be looking for the same information. It’s my goal to continue to bring everyone great information on container gardening!

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Rollo March 12, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Is masonite a safe material to use in lining a vegetable planter box? My wife is concerned that masonite may contain some preservaties that would leach into the soil and vegetables. Thank you.

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lars March 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm

I’m no expert on Masonite, but I feel like it would be fine after reading this.

http://www.ehow.com/about_4600628_what-is-masonite.html

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eliza March 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm

can i grow a night jasmine in a container?

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lars March 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

@eliza,

Yes, night jasmine will work in a container.

Here’s a page where someone has reported how well they are doing with it in a container.

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2128/

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Ann March 18, 2010 at 5:31 am

Can you successully grow strawberries in containers?

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lars March 18, 2010 at 7:12 am

@Ann,

Thanks for your question!

Yes, you can certainly grow strawberries in containers. There’s even a special kind of container that’s especially suited to it, called a Strawberry Jar.

Here’s what they look like.
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/strawberryjar.html

There’s even a Topsy Turvy kind of upside down planter designed for strawberries, if you’re into that kind of thing.
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/upside-down-strawberries.html

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Jamie July 25, 2013 at 10:21 am

what do you have to do with the containers in the winter so they regrow next year.
thank you
Jamie

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Matt March 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

Is it best to start with fresh potting soil for any annuals that I plant, or is it ok to use last years soil?

Thanks!

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lars March 24, 2010 at 2:55 pm

@Matt,

Ideally, fresh potting soil is best.

If you grow the same type of plant in the same soil over and over again, the soil can get depleted of nutrients.

But if you’re growing a different plant, then it’s not the end of the world to use last year’s soil. And really, it probably wouldn’t hurt even to plant the same thing twice. The third year I’d be more wary though.

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juanita March 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm

I heard of making starter pots from newspapers and i want to learn how .can u help me

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lars March 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm

@juanita,

Here’s a page with some instructions for you!

http://gardeningchannel.com/how-to-make-sturdy-recycled-newspaper-pots/

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Liz Copeland March 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I purchases several large pots for veggies. If I fill entire container with potting or seed starting soil, I won’t be able to move it… How can I use less potting material but still keep same pots. What can I use as filler that is light weight.

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lars March 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm

@Liz Copeland,

Here’s a cool product that would work for you.

http://www.cleanairgardening.com/planter-drainage.html

But the cheapo version is to stomp flat a bunch of plastic water bottles, or aluminum cans, and put them in the bottom.

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Liz Copeland June 3, 2010 at 11:02 am

@lars,
Thanks, I stomped the plastic bottles and used shipping peanuts……….
Liz

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dee June 3, 2010 at 9:41 am

@Liz Copeland,
supplement your potting soil with perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss.
fill the pot where it will stay, or get casters to put under your pots if you must move them.

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Dedic March 27, 2010 at 7:28 am

I was told to use charcoal in a pot to stop bactaria growth, can I use the cheap grill type, or do I have to buy something speacial?

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lars March 27, 2010 at 8:11 am

@Dedic,

No, don’t use the barbecue type of charcoal, because it can have chemicals in it that will harm your plants.

Here’s a good page with more detailed information:
http://www.paghat.com/charcoal.html

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Roxanne Lindeman March 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Hello,
Is it true that some plants do not like being planted in a metal container? If so, what kinds of plants do not thrive in metal? And why is that? Thanks!

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lars March 29, 2010 at 6:32 am

@Roxanne Lindeman,

I have never seen any kind of specific list, unfortunately. I think it’s unlikely that it would hurt most plants, but you could always line the container with plastic if you are worried about it. (Don’t forget to make drainage holes somewhere in the bottom!)

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BuddingGardener April 3, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I am a COMPLETE rookie when it comes to gardening, but I really want to grow some of my own vegetables and herbs.
I recently purchased two plastic/resin 30″ planter boxes for use on my apartment balcony. I also purchased some bags of Miracle-Gro Potting Mix, along with some seeds for jalapeños, cilantro, and basil. The seed packages have recommendations for spacing, but this will limit how many seeds I can plant in these small spaces. For instance, the jalapeño pepper seeds recommend a spacing of 18 inches, however the recommendation is based on planting in an actual garden. Can I place the seeds closer in a container? Is it important that I water my seeds every day (if there is no rain)? Do they need to be in direct sunlight? (My balcony faces WNW and gets direct sunlight from about 3 pm to sunset) Please offer me any advice that you can. Thanks!

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lars April 4, 2010 at 10:29 am

@BuddingGardener,

The Square Foot Gardening method lets you plant things a lot closer together. I’d say that you’d be pretty safe using that spacing as a guide for your container.

http://www.essene.com/Vegetarian/PlantSpacingsInASquareFootGarden.htm

Yes, you’ll need to make sure the seeds don’t dry out until the seedlings come up. And you’ll want full, direct sunlight.

Good luck!

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SweetAmbrosia April 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I am a farm girl living in the city, and lucky enough to find an apartment with a 9×9 cement deck with a fair amount of privacy.
But what I’d really like is a little bit of green grass, or something i can cool my feet on and the cat can rest on on those really hot, can fry an egg on my deck, summer days.
Any idea’s?

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kate April 13, 2010 at 9:57 am

I bought plastic containers to plant impatients in. Do the containers require holes in the bottoms for drainage? And if so, should they then be placed directly on the ground or on some sort of tray or liner?

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Lynne Mahan April 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

I am president of our local garden club. We plant wooden planters/whiskey barrels along main street each year and want to use perennial ornamental grasses in the center of each container. I have a list of five perennial grasses, but we’re in Zone 3 (sometimes 2). Question: is there a liner or something we can do to prevent winterkill of the ornamental grasses?

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Caroline April 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm

I have to repot a couple of my container plants. When is the best time of year to do this, in the spring or fall?

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Lynn Dallaire April 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm

What do you know about fibre pots? I was told there are pots (I think fibre pots) that keep your pots watered for weeks. They are set inside other pots and the water seeps up from the bottom, keeps the pot wet and the soil moist for weeks without watering.
Do you know of these pots?
Thank you.

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There are a couple of products that you can plant your plant in and then set into a pot: coco fiber pots, cow manure pots, and fabric pots. Typically, fiber pots are used for transplanting. But, they do absorb and retain moisture to help keep the soil moist. Fabric pots work a little bit differently, as they protect the root system by shrinking around the soil, keeping the roots from drying out as the moisture leaves the soil. All of these are good products, but I would be concerned leaving them sitting in water because of root rot. Have you looked into a self watering planter? These you can water and the plant will absorb the moisture it needs but keeps the water off the root system.

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Jacob April 20, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I built some wood containers for growing strawberries. Only after I painted them (inside and out) did it occur to me that it may not be safe. Is it safe to grow vegetables in a container that is coated in latex (non-lead based) paint?

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To be on the safe side, you might want to line the planters with plastic or another nontoxic material to keep chemicals from the paint leaching into the soil. Usually, when painting/staining planters it is recommended to only do the outside. If you were planting flowers, I would say it’s no big deal. But, because it’s an edible crop, I would always be on the safe side. You definitely don’t want to be eating an awesome strawberry and be worried about.

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Denise April 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

I am trying to find small, slow growing shrubs for large containers that will be going alongside my outdoor deck in Connecticut. Could you please suggest what shrubs/trees
I might be able to use without stunting them and what type
of containers might be best.

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Annette May 3, 2010 at 10:31 am

Hi,

I am starting a container garden on my balcony and I am having a hard time figuring out how I am going to drain my various hanging baskets (both rail baskets and hanging ones). See, I have neighbours below and the water runs through my balcony on to theirs (not good). Everything I read about container gardening says that all pots must have proper drainage holes. Can I not just fill the bottom of the pot with styrofoam (without having any drainage holes) to keep the excess water off the roots (and therefore not have to worry about water my neighbours below)? I have no problem with pots that I am putting on my balcony floor as I will just put a tray under the pot.

Thanks!

Annette

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lars May 3, 2010 at 10:40 am

@Annette,

Good question!

You could theoretically do something like that. But the problem with no drainage holes at all is that the water that goes down in the area where you have the rocks or styrofoam can’t really evaporate because it’s under a bunch of dirt.

It’s way too easy to end up overwatering a little bit and giving your plants wet feet and root rot.

Maybe you could water your hanging baskets one at a time, with a 5 gallon bucket underneath until they finish draining?

But I’m not really sure how you’d solve the issue with the baskets you have hanging on your rail, unless you want to lift them off and water them, and then put them back up.

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Rebecca May 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I have some unused big plastic storage bins and I want to plant some organic vegetables/herbs in them. One are clear plastic and others are black in color. Is it safe to use them?

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lars May 5, 2010 at 8:32 am

@Rebecca,

Yes, they are safe to use.

You’ll just want to make sure you have some holes drilled in the bottom so that you can get drainage. Otherwise, they’ll fill up with water at the bottom and rot the roots.

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Lynda Jo May 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I have a vast paver patio, you know the one with sand in the cracks to promote draining. I want to plant a raised garden on top of them. Do I need to give attention to the pavers, take them up where I will be placing my planter or can I just build my planter right on top of them. Will the drainage be adequate for the plants?

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lars May 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm

@Lynda Jo,

I think that if you are getting good drainage now on those pavers, then it should probably be okay to build the raised bed right on top. If it slows down the drainage a little bit, it’s no big deal. You just don’t want it to sit there with water in the bottom, waterlogging all of your plants.

It would also work to take them up and build the raised bed on the soil instead, but I don’t think it would be necessary.

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Trish May 17, 2010 at 10:00 am

I would like some planters in my holiday house in the south of France, but I’m only there twice a year. Is there anything at all that could survive without me there to water?

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Sharon Swanson May 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Each year I plant 20 feet of wave petunias in planter boxes along my deck. For the last few years, by mid-July, they are over run by aphids. I have sprayed them w/ Lemon Joy Dish Detergent & water to no avail. I’m afraid that if I try Ladybugs, my deck will be over run w/ them or they will fly off to another deck. Does anyone have the name of a good deterent for aphids? Thanks!
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Remember you can try to spray them off with a water hose, too, and knock them off. Also, here are some organic aphid sprays: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/aphid-control.html.

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raja faisal May 23, 2010 at 4:08 am

dear lars i lived far away from your country i live in karachi, pakistan and i am fond of home gardening my problem is first i had started using 2 liters empty bottles of fresh water bottles. i cut them from top and fill with dirt and manore and make holes on bottom. but my plants started to die after week or so. i was watering regularly. the leaves getting burn. what is cause. i had normal sunlight. please guide.

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lars May 24, 2010 at 1:48 pm

@Raja

Could it be that the manure is too fresh and strong, and providing too much nitrogen and burning up your plants?

Fresh manure can burn plants, so that is my best guess.

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Deborah May 30, 2010 at 8:54 am

I have planted tomatoes and cucumbers in plastic buckets, I also drilled holes near the bottom for drainage. My plants started off growing and looking really good. But when they started blooming most of the blooms dry up and fall off. What am I doing wrong?

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April June 10, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Hello,

What soil ph tester would you suggest for vegetable plants grown in containers?

Thanks!

April

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Lilly June 13, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I just recently planted a few vegetable seeds in biodegradable seed starting pots. To avoid washing the seeds away, I used a spray bottle that previously had all purpose house cleaner in it. Before using this on my vegetables, I thoroughly cleaned it and ran it through the dishwasher several times. If I use it, will it harm my seeds?

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Lisa June 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

This is such a nice blog!

I have a question- is it safe to plant a squash plant in a glazed pot, or is it possible the pot will have lead that leaches out into the soil?

Thanks!

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alexis July 2, 2010 at 5:21 pm

ber (blossom end rot) on my patio (potted) tomatoes. best way to get rid of it? if i add calcium how do i know how much to add, is it per size of the plant or container? we have tomatoes in a raised bed as well, should i add calcim to them as well? thanks for any help/ advise on this!

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monica maria July 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Hello, we live in an apartment and started a container garden on our balcony. We have five 5 gallon buckets, with drainage holes, on two rails with the water dripping into smaller buckets underneath. We planted the cucumbers, a bell pepper plant and a straight neck squash in Miracle Grow Potting Mix. We re-use the water in the buckets and add fresh water from the house. They get full sun for at least 6-7 hours a day. We water in the early morning, late afternoon, and if it has been very hot, we will water them before we go to bed. They all were growing real good but now the some of the cucumber leaves are pale, and look kind of yellow and they have spots on top of the leaves. Also, the yield is low. It seems like there are plenty of blooms, but many of the little cucumbers are not growing. We have harvested a few. Also, the squash had lots of blooms, but only 2 grew at all. I notice that when we water in the late afternoon, the squash leaves are slightly wilted. Are we doing anything wrong? We have sold lots of produce but have not grown much. Thank you, Monica

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louise waters August 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm

At one time I had 2 very large white vinyl square containers with no drainage. They were great on looks and stood up very well always looking very stylish and never left marks on the cement entry way. I seem to remember they were from France the instructions said to put rocks on the bottom then a layer of towels and then the soil. I was so pleased because it seemed that everything I planted in those pots grew unbelievably well. Is this a good idea or was I just lucky? Is it possible to duplicate the instructions and expect the same or was it just the pot.

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madelaine cohen September 27, 2010 at 11:29 am

I planted grass plants along with other perennials in containers this summer. I’d like to know the best method of keeping them for the winter. They are in plastic containers and I live in southern NJ.

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Elaine Tanner October 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I live in Ohio and am interested in starting a fruit and veggie container garden. I would like to know which fruits and veggies do well in a 1 or 5 gallon container?

I have a small yard but a nice-sized balcony that gets a lot of sun.

I’ve been given and purchased seeds from various melons, meyer lemon, cabbage, collards, lettuce, green beans, etc.

Any guidance would be appreciated..

Thanks in advance.

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Cindy October 18, 2010 at 10:03 am

I’m a relatively new container gardener. What I’d like to know is what do I do now, October, to my containers and plants in them, to ensure their health during the coming winter and next season?

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Bonnie October 26, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I;have 2 variegated Privet Ligustrum sinensis “Variegatum” in pots. I live in zone 7. Will they survive the winter? Thank you!

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jdoom March 18, 2011 at 9:14 am

I live in Houston, which is subject to freezing temperatures in the winter. I have 2 large, almost immovable, containers on my full-sun, west facing deck. In the past I have planted braided hibiscus in the containers and they do great in the summer. They can take the heat and bloom all summer. However they die in the cold even if I cover them.

I am tired of wasting my money on the hibiscus every year and would like to know if anyone has suggestions for a blooming plant for my situation. Thank you in advance for your help.

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ray April 15, 2011 at 11:45 am

we have a terrace garden (essentially a conrete slab). so far we have japanese maples, hibiscus and clematis growing successfully in containers. we want to plant a cornus florida in a container. would it grow? would it flower? if this is not a good idea, what would be alternative, something that has pink flowers, fall color and a light, spreading branching habit.

thanks.

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Gene Statler May 3, 2011 at 2:53 pm

My container garden is not doing very well. I used 24 inch black drain pipe cut in half. I live in Fl where it is very hot. I have been watering every day. The temperature of the soil is 87, is this my problem? If I used shade cloth would that help? I my using fish fertilizer through my irrigation.

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marianne August 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm

My cement planter with geraniums is no longer draining properly. I took out the old plants and replaced with new ones and new dirt, made sure drainage hole was not plugged and put gravel in the bottom of planter and underneath the planter to aid drainage. Still, the dirt is always moist even with no watering for days.
I’ve had these planters for years and the exact same one next to it is doing fine.
What do you think the problem is?

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Hector August 31, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Hi
I was reading you tips on how to make rabbit pellets into liquid fertilizer the only problem I have is how much rabbit pellets to how much water to let brew and is it distal water

Thank you

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DePrator March 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Good Morning,
I have two grey 2×3′ bins, probably would have been used for storage by someone. They’re new. I found them. YEAH! Well, as they have a solid bottom, I’d like to know how to prepare the for planting vegg/herbs. in these shallow 3-4inches pans. Thanks, DePrator

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lars January 16, 2013 at 6:09 am

Sounds too shallow to be used to grow vegetables to me. You’d want something with at least 6 to 12 inches of depth for the best results.

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Linda June 20, 2012 at 7:19 am

I thought you needed to use Organic Soil for planting your vegetables ?

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lars January 16, 2013 at 6:08 am

Organic is great, but it isn’t required unless you want to go completely organic.

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Erin August 3, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Hi! Is it safe to paint terracotta plants with acrylic or latex just on the outside of the pot, if you are still planting edibles? I am worried about toxins leaching through to the plants, but would love to decorate the outside of them!

Thanks!

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lars January 16, 2013 at 6:09 am

Yes, painting the outside of the pots is fine.

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Ann September 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Are pots made of a special material or type required for shrubs that are to live multiple years…like camilla….so their roots don’t freeze in winter?

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