beginner’s herb plant garden

How To Start a Container Garden: Container Gardening for Beginners

Container gardening isn’t particularly difficult and can produce as much joy, beauty, and food as a regular outdoor garden. If you don’t have the space for an exterior garden, a container garden may be the perfect solution for balconies and patios. Learn more about container gardening for beginners at Patio Growers today!

Table of Contents

  • Benefits of a Container Garden
  • Tools & Equipment
  • Your Soil
  • Containers & Drainage
  • Choosing Plants
  • Designing Your Garden

Benefits of Container Gardens

Container gardening for beginners is a choice many casual plant lovers make because it has a number of benefits that improve the results of your garden and beautify your space. Some of the benefits of container gardens include:

  • More control over the soil or potting mix per plant
  • Environmental control for non-native or specialized plants
  • Easy redesign and remodeling by moving pots around
  • Protect delicate plants from the weather by moving them indoors
  • No need for large areas of land – just a balcony or patio

Whether you’re an apartment dweller or you just don’t want to deal with taking care of an entire garden space, learning how to start a container garden could be the answer to so many of your plant concerns.

Tools & Equipment

plants and tools for container gardens

Depending on the size of your space, the types of plants you want to grow, and the climate in your region, tools, materials, and equipment may vary. At the most basic level, a container garden for beginners requires the following:

  • Preferred Plants
  • Various Containers
  • Gardening Trowel
  • Potting Mat
  • Potting Mix or Soil
  • Fertilizer Ideal for Your Choice of Plant
  • Watering Can or Automated Watering System
  • Mister (For Some Plants)

With these tools at hand, even without plants or soil, you’re ready to learn how to start a container garden.

Choosing Soil

One of the earliest mistakes of container gardening for beginners is soil. Many people don’t know there’s a difference between potting mix and soil, or they choose the wrong option for their specific plant preference. You’ll want to avoid digging up soil from gardens or outdoor areas, as they can be nutrient deficient – or worse, be contaminated with disease and pests, which will cause your plants to die. Always buy your potting mix or soil from a nursery or hardware store and check the labels to determine their purpose. Some mixes are designed for herbs, others are made with succulents in mind.

You’ll also need to keep in mind that some plants require yearly repotting because the old soil no longer has adequate nutrients or doesn’t drain as well as it used to —  risking slow growth, root rot, or even death of the plant. Soil and potting mix can both go “bad” and must be well-stored and replaced on a regular basis.

Containers & Drainage

variety of potted plants in a container garden

There are so many options for plant pots that it can be tough to choose what’s best for a beginner’s container garden. If you want your pots to look pretty with ceramic or metallic finishes, you may want to shop for smaller basic plastic containers to ensure your plants still have the drainage they need to thrive. Many fully grown plants already come in an appropriately sized plastic container, ready to be repotted with new soil in the same pot and placed in some ornate decorative piece in your home. The pots that come with our home grow kits are the simple plastic options you’ll see in any nursery with drainage holes at the bottom.

Drainage is important because overwatering is a serious concern. Plants can drown, and roots can rot, leading to a quick death. Allowing water to escape the pot completely onto a separate tray or attached lip ensures your plant takes in what it needs, and the rest of the water evaporates. If you’re concerned about underwatering, you can monitor soil moisture by touch or with tools to guarantee you’re watering appropriately. Some plants also have various warning signs for over and underwatering, including wilting, browning, or discoloration on the leaves.

Choosing Plants

Now comes the hard part of container gardening for beginners — choosing your plants. You might have a particular aesthetic in mind, but it may take some trial and error to discover which plants do best in your climate and which are sensitive to native pests. When learning how to start a container garden, you should consider the light availability, seasonality, temperature, and even your budget.

You might think you want a flowering garden and splurge on a bunch of florals, only to find out they’re perennials that you’ll need to buy new every year. Or maybe you want an herb garden full of basil and rosemary, but your balcony doesn’t get the required amount of sunlight to grow herbs! You’ll end up wasting money, killing plants, and suffering disappointment when plants don’t thrive in an environment that isn’t made for them.

But have hope! There are ways to get around the most common container gardening issues for beginners. Once you know what plants you like and where your environment might be lacking, you can make up for it with humidifiers for tropical plants in dry climates, grow lights for plants that need full sun, and even awnings for plants with leaves that burn easily.

Designing Your Garden

brass pots beginner’s container garden

Container gardening for beginners is a lot of trial and error based on your personal space and experience. You might want to start looking online at examples of other container gardens to see what you can put together, find an aesthetic, and learn what others do to ensure their gardens thrive.

Start Planting

Now that you know how to start a container garden, you can experiment with smaller plants of the varieties you prefer. If they’re annuals, they’ll be around for years, growing bigger all the time! It’s also a lot easier to replace smaller plants in your beginner’s container garden than to buy a massive piece that dies before you really know how to care for it!

Looking for more advice? Check out our grow guides to learn more about what various plants need to survive.