How to Start a Container Garden

If you live in an urban area with little to no outdoor space, a container garden is the perfect solution for you. Container gardening is an approach to gardening that requires using pots as your growing medium, as opposed to raised beds or in-ground garden beds. Many folks living in cities place their container garden on a patio, or even a doorstep. The other great option for container gardning is to build a windowsill container garden, with cooking herbs like thyme, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, basil, sage, and lavender.

Some people call mini gardens of this nature a “salsa garden.” I love this term because it denotes the idea that you’ll grow just what you need to make yummy garden-fresh salsa. A few tomatoes, a few onions, maybe some pepper, and lots of culinary herbs. All you need are a few pots, some sunlight, some fertilizer, and a watering routine to get started on this sort of charming salsa garden.

The 5 Steps to Starting a Container Garden

Step 1 – Find Pots for Your Container Garden

Finding pots for your container garden is pretty simple. You can buy new pots at any hardware store or garden center, but we recommend checking your local thrift stores and buy, sell, trade sites to find used pots in your area. There are several things to look for when purchasing pots.


When it comes to the necessary size pots for your container garden, think about what you want to grow. Typically, your container should be about triple the size of the starter plant, with some variation. When in doubt, find pots that are on the bigger size. Although you can use 6″ by 8″ pots for culinary herbs, most veggies are going to require something much larger.


One of the most important thing to look for in pots is good drainage. This is typically a hole drilled into the bottom of a pot. This allows water to pass through and prevent plants from becoming imbalanced, which can lead to disease. If you find a container without a hole, there are often ways to drill a hole. However, this is a bit of a pain, so we suggest finding pots with drainage from the get-go.


No two plants are the same size. Gather a variety of sizes, shapes, and even colors and designs of pots to make your container garden the most efficient–and the most visually appealing.

Step 2 – Prepare Your Soil

Much like you would for raised beds or an in-ground garden, you need to prepare your soil. For a container garden, fill your pots about 3/4 of the way full with quality, organic soil produced for container gardening, then fill the other 3/4 with a quality compost blend, leaving a few inches toward the top of your pot. Then, add a healthy dose of quality fertilizer. The fertilizer will make a world of a difference!

Step 3 – Add a Drainage System

Once again, you’ll need a hole in the bottom of your pots so that your plants can be properly drained. You can use a drill to add holes to the bottom of a pot if need be, but it’s much easier to start out with the right pots. Once you’ve added your plants, be sure to add a mulch layer that will protect your soil from drying out. Do not neglect this step. With the small size of the pots involved, it’s very easy for your soil to get dried out or overly moist. That’s why having a drainage system, and a cover like mulch, are non-negotiable.

Step 4 – Plant Starter Plants, or Start Seeds

For a newer urban gardener, we suggest starting with strong starter plants. You can purchase these at any local nursery. Alternatively, you can start seeds indoors or outdoors. Just like any other style of gardening, you’ll need to know your gardening zone and the basics of gardening for beginners. Simply plant your plants once frost is no longer a threat, and you’ll be on your way to a thriving garden season!

Psst! Here’s a garden planner that will help you stay organized in your companion gardening.

Step 5 – Maintain Your Container Garden

Now that you’ve planted your container garden, simply stay on a regular watering and pruning schedule. Add fertilizer every month or so to ensure a lovely harvest!

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