Greetings Grow Appalachians! Holly, VISTA at Grow App HQ, and although it is very wet here in Berea, at least it isn’t cold.  There are so many beautiful flowers in bloom all over campus and hearing the ringing choruses of birds each morning makes me swear that I will never live in a big city.

We’re digging into container gardening for HQ’s weekly blog.  On a personal level, I am quite interested in this subject, seeing as I am an apartment-dweller and I don’t think my landlord would be too pleased with me if I started tilling up my yard.  That, and I’ve been quite successful at keeping my 100+ year old Christmas cactus alive, which finally bloomed this past winter after 2 and a half years!


I’ll get this show on the road by sharing that, while doing some research for this topic, I decided to consult my go-to source for any and all information, and that would be Pinterest.  Hi, I’m Holly, and I am a Pin-aholic.  All right, now that I got that out of the way: There are some AWESOME container gardening/planter ideas out there.  Seriously.  Maybe during a slow day or over the weekend, waste some time and be inspired.  I’ll share a few of my favorites a bit later.

So what exactly is container gardening? Simply put, it is the concept of growing plants exclusively in containers (pots, bins, etc) instead of directly in the ground.  This is a great idea if you have limited space, if you are perhaps unable to keep up with a conventional outdoor garden, or if you just want to grow a few things here and there.

First things first:

When it comes to container gardening, the container itself might be one of the most crucial decisions you will make.  When choosing a container(s), ask yourself the following questions:

-Is it porous? That is, does it absorb water? Clay, terra cotta, and lined wire pots all are porous.  Non-porous materials would be your plastic and metal containers.  Keep in mind that porous materials lose water faster than non-porous materials. It’s also important to consider this depending on your location’s climate.  Is it often humid, or does it tend to be dry?

-Is it heavy? If you will need to move your container frequently, consider a lighter material, such as plastic.  004Otherwise, keep your container in a permanent location.

-Will the container’s material or size result in fluctuating soil temperatures? Like a conventional garden, container gardens require at least six hours of full sun.  Dark colored or metal containers get hot during the summer, and that heat transfers to the soil.  Soil that is too warm will dry out much faster than normal and can damage roots.  Fluctuating temperatures also occur more frequently in smaller containers.

-How much will it cost, and can the material be reused or recycled? Try shopping at thrift stores or secondhand stores for containers (In addition to being a Pin-aholic, I am also an avid Goodwiller).  See if stores such as Lowe’s or Home Depot will donate buckets or other containers.  Use items you may already have: old pots, paint cans, bricks…the possibilities are endless! More on that later.


Almost as important as the container itself is the level of drainage it will provide- sufficient drainage is essential to overall plant health.  At the very least, your container should have at least a hole in the bottom, either already in place or done yourself. Too-wet soil can cause root rot, a condition that plants often do not recover from.  Avoid containers with attached saucers, as roots can become waterlogged.  Also, it is not recommended that you use garden soil for your containers; it’s much too dense.  Instead, use a potting mix and incorporate compost or other organic matter into it later.

For containers  that don’t have drainage holes, adding a liner, such as foil (pictured below), keeps water from leaking where it isn’t wanted.  Pierce a hole in the bottom of the liner and take the plant to a sink or add a saucer, water, and allow the water to drain.  When the plant is fully drained, return to the container.


I’m sure many of you have heard that adding a layer of gravel inside the container, beneath the soil, aids in proper drainage. How this works is that instead of immediately draining into the gravel below, the water sort of collects in the soil just above the gravel.  Once all the air space is  occupied, then the water drains into the gravel. Unfortunately, this does little in allowing for complete drainage to occur.  You can read more about “debunking” this concept here.  If this method, in fact, does work for you, let us know!

 What to grow?

With proper care and maintenance, you can incorporate anything that you would grow in a conventional garden in a container garden.  Herbs are a favorite among container gardens, as are flowers, but you can also grow vegetables as part of a container garden.  Some good container garden veggies:

Peas- Peas are an ideal container vegetable because not only can you plant them early, they stop growing when it becomes too warm.  As soon as your crop is finished, harvest entirely and then plant something else in the container, since it will have an added boost of nitrogen in the soil.  Peas are also a fun plant to grow with kids!

Lettuces/salad greens/arugula- These vegs germinate quickly, and are easy to harvest once they reach full maturity.  Their roots are also shallower, which allows for more container options- be creative!

Tomatoes- Tomatoes need good soil, plenty of sun and consistent watering.  You also need very large containers for these, even if you decide to grow a dwarf or cherry variety, because they will need staked in order to accommodate the vines and fruit as they grow.

Radishes- Radishes grow very quickly and they come in many varieties; try growing two or three in the same container! They don’t like to get too warm, though.

Herbs- These are also ideal if you are restricted in space because they do just that- they don’t take up much space at all.  Because of that, you can even grow them inside if you wish.  Try basil, mint, rosemary, parsley, or thyme.

Have any of you taken a stab at container gardening? If you have, what did you grow? Did it work?


So pretty! (c/o


(c/o Burpee)

“These are a few of my favorite things…”

As I mentioned earlier, I consulted the wonderful world of  Pinterest for all things container gardening, and in the midst of my quest I came across so many wonderful, unique, and creative ideas for containers that I just could not resist sharing some of my favorites.  A few of these are actually quite doable!  Source here. 

And finally, check out this link on DIY indoor herb gardens.  I seriously can’t handle all the charm and creativity going on here- time to raid my apartment!

Sources/Further Reading:

Successful Container Gardening from University of Illinois Extension

Ten Great Container Garden Vegetables

Choosing Right Container Plants

Cornell Factsheet

Feature image c/o 3squaremeals