Great ideas for container gardening (Willem Van Cotthem)

Who is who in container gardening?

Many people are directly interested in container gardening:

  • People in desert-like areas or in the drylands.
  • People without garden space or with bad soil in their garden.
  • Urban people living in apartments or studios.
  • People with limited time for gardening.
  • Elderly or disabled people with limited mobility.
  • Flowers or herb lovers.

Benefits and advantages of container gardening

As container gardening can be practiced anywhere, benefits and advantages are extremely diverse:

  • It helps saving irrigation water (water conservation).
  • It avoids a lot of hosing and weeding (time and labour saving).
  • It enables gardening on all floors of apartment blocks and high buildings.
  • It avoids competition with wildlife.
  • Container gardens are close to the kitchen (fresh homegrown herbs).
  • Possibility to intersperse containers with food crops and flowering plants (repelling insects).
  • Easy to create good looking spaces (esthetics).

Choice of containers

Almost any type of container can be used for growing plants: flower pots, planter boxes, pails, buckets, bushel baskets, wire baskets, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, drums, nursery flats, gallon cans, window planters, washtubs, strawberry pots, tubs, plastic bottles and bags, large food cans, an old discarded wheelbarrow with soil and drain holes in the bottom or any number of other things. Containers can be purchased, built or recycled from all kinds of materials, even plastic bottles or plastic bags. It is always important to choose containers that best accommodate the chosen plant species. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials. The choice will depend upon the type of plant and the location. The size of the container will vary according to the crop selection and space available. Keep in mind that the size, material and shape of the container should be conducive to your plant’s health. Consider the following guidelines when choosing your container:

  • Generally, avoid containers with narrow openings.
  • Plastic containers are lighter weight, but can become brittle in lower temperatures or they may deteriorate in UV of the sunlight. They are not porous and keep water over a longer period, but this may be an advantage in dry areas (see vegetable production in desert-like regions or in the drylands).
  • Terracotta containers are porous, but heavy; they break easily and tend to dry out more rapidly.
  • Glazed ceramic pots require several drainage holes.
  • Wooden containers can be built to sizes and shapes suiting the location. However, many are susceptible to rot. Redwood and cedar are relatively rot resistant.
  • Hanging baskets, often made of wood or wire, can drizzle onto furniture or the floor.
  • Metal containers heat up rapidly which can cause root damage. Using a clay or plastic pot as a liner can help.
  • Wrought-iron stands can minimize wood rot.
  • Window boxes are usually made of wood or plastic.
  • Stone containers create a natural effect, are often difficult to move and break easily.
  • Sunken containers work well for plants that spread easily. One can either bury the whole container or embed the rim to restrain the plant.
  • Use containers with sufficient capacity, according to the size and number of plants to be grown in them. Small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly. Deep-rooted vegetables require deeper containers. For larger vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants, use a five-gallon container for each plant.


The text below was already published back in 2007.

For additional ideas on container gardening see on this blog :

BOTTLE REFORESTATION – Part 1 (Willem Van Cotthem) – Archives Jan. 2010

Urban farming in containers (sacks) – (IRIN) -Archives Febr. 2010

You don’t need tons of room to grow a garden (Google / The Starpress) – Archives Febr. 2010

Plan the Best Container Garden Ever! (Fine Gardening) – Archives Jan. 2010

Success booked at the “Container Gardening Project of Malawi” – Archives Nov. 2009

Sustainable school gardens and container gardening key incentives for food security – Archives Nov. 2009

Container gardening on saline soils (Willem VAN COTTHEM) – Archives Oct. 2009

Splendid container garden on a fire escape in New York – Archives Aug. 2009

Success With Vegetable Container Gardening (Google / Flower Garden Care) – Archives Nov. 2008


My experiments on growing vegetables in plastic bottles have been very convincing…

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