Want to see if you’re any good at gardening before making a large investment? Love to garden but just don’t have space? Live in New Orleans and don’t trust the toxic soil? Have a pet that pees on everything? Want veggies right outside your back door? These are all great reasons to start a container garden. Even if you have the space for a garden bed, starting more sensitive plants in containers and then moving them into the ground will help nurture the plant. No matter your rationale, there are many advantages to gardening with planters. Here are 11 quick reasons why The Garden Gates loves garden planters:
1. It’s easy - get a container, get some soil + fertilizer, get some seeds and get started. Oh wait, you’re already done.
2. It’s cheap - you can use almost anything for a container (by why would you with such beautiful planters from The Garden Gates) as long as you punch drainage holes in the bottom. Plus, containers use less soil and fertilizer than a garden bed.
3. It’s small - planter gardens don’t require tons of space, meaning you can easily turn your fire escape, front stoop, back steps, or windows into your private plant oasis.
4. It’s versatile - when you can choose the spot, you can choose the plant. Grow non-native plants in different climates (a cactus in Alaska, perhaps?) as long as you have the right plant in the right place (i.e., sun, shade, etc. actually ).
5. It’s kid-friend like eating what they have a hand in growing. If they can take pride in it, chances are they will want to eat it. We’d offer you quotes from satisfied kids, but they are too busy stuffing their faces with homegrown carrots.
6. It’s critter-repellent - if local animals are disturbing your plants, you can move them to higher ground or safer areas (i.e., closer to the dog’s house).
7. It’s instantly gratifying - if you despise long-term projects, you can buy planters, buy flowering plants, fill the containers, and have a beautiful container garden all within a day’s work.
8. It’s personal - show off your style and various moods; put plants where you want them instead of just where you can plant them. Want bright green grass in a white container? Who’s stopping you? Want to fill an urn with cascading flowers? Go for it. The possibilities are endless.
9. It works - you can grow anything in a container: veggies, herbs, flowers, and even trees.
10. It’s flexible - you can make your garden bigger or smaller as wish. Want to start with just a couple pansies? That’s fine. Want to fill your entire yard with planters? That’s fine too.
11. It’s weedless - you control the environment within the planter, meaning you can say goodbye to the endless battle with weeds in your garden bed.
What Are the Benefits of a Planter?
There are many benefits of garden planters. You can grow indoor and outdoor plants. You can increase your gardening space. You can grow plants that otherwise might not survive in your area’s climate. You can use planters as home decor and personal pieces of heaven. But most importantly, you can grow your garden anywhere! The Garden Gates wants you to reap the many rewards of garden planters.
Portability: You can move your garden wherever you want it when you have a container garden. From the garden to the patio, or from the patio to the front porch, you can move your container in and out of sunlight and shade, depending on what’s best for the plant. You can also spare your plants from an untimely and bitter death by moving them indoors when incredibly cold weather threatens their life. Add wheels or casters to the bottom of the container to facilitate your changing desires and easily move plants when you need more space for entertaining guests.
Containment: Take the invasion out of invasive plants with a container garden! You need not fear mint, bee balm, lemon balm, Japanese wisteria, or periwinkle procreating throughout your entire backyard. Instead of allowing a plant to spread and choke the roots of other plants, using a container will let you enjoy that invasive species while controlling its rapid distribution.
Decoration: Garden and decorate at the same time! Add color, dimension and design to your indoor and outdoor decor. You can buy hand-painted pots, mosaic tile pots, embossed and stenciled pots, or you can even show off your talents on the blank canvas of a terracotta pot. You can even create focal points that show off your creativity: watering cans, wagons, old buckets, window boxes, barrels, and baskets will make your garden unique and unexpected. Arrange the pots on different levels, hang them from trees, posts, or hooks, station them outside your door to greet guests.
Flexibility: If you take a break from gardening, bought too many pots, or are just in between seasons, you can use your planter pots in many other ways. Sealed planters can be converted into tabletop fountains, and terra cotta planters and basins transform into bird baths. You can even construct garden statues out of extra planters - it’s all up to your imagination. Of course, you can also just try a different plant in the same pot.
Time and Effort: Spend less time preparing, watering, weeding, tending and worrying about your garden bed. There is significantly less maintenance (heavy tilling and soil prep) required of container gardening. If you have limited time or heavy-lifting abilities, try container gardening before committing to a larger garden bed.
What Kind of Planter Should I Buy?
You may be surprised, but the size, shape and type of planter used affects the look, cost, and care of your container garden. While almost any container can work as a suitable planter (as long as you can drill drainage holes in the bottom and think it will last one growing season), you still might want to think about what type of planter will help you create the garden you’ve always imagined. There are many kinds of planters to choose from, including window boxes, trough and rectangular planters, urns, fiberglass planters, pottery/decorative planters, and cast-stone planters.
There are four main things to consider when buying a planter:
1. SIZE: Large containers hold more soil and water than small planters, so if you forget to water your plants every day, you might want to choose a larger pot over a smaller pot. Smaller pots may even need watering twice a day in the summer. Also, the container should be able to support the plant when full grown and in the elements, such as wind. Some plants have large, deep root systems and growth will be stunted if there isn’t adequate space.
2. SHAPE: If you plant a shrub in a pot with a slim neck, when the roots spread they could lock into the pot, forcing you to break the pot if you wish to repot the plant. If the pot is fun but awkward, a growing plant could cause it to topple over.
3. GROUPING: To create the most appealing container garden display, think about size, shape and material. If you want a modern, elegant display, choose a few identical planters made of the same material. If you want an informal yet harmonious display, try a collection of different shapes and sizes.
4. MATERIAL: The material of a pot affects its durability and maintenance. From plastic to clay, from metal to wood, containers come in a wide variety of materials. The Garden Gates has detailed the pros and cons of each planter material below.
- Terra Cotta: Available in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and colors (if glazed), terra cotta is versatile and usually somewhat inexpensive. Terra cotta is porous, which is both good and bad. It’s great that air can pass through the terra cotta to the plant roots, but it’s not so great that the terra cotta can absorb water from the soil and dry it out. Terra cotta is also vulnerable to frost damage unless it is fired at very high temperatures, meaning it will be much more expensive.
- Wood: Wood is natural, frost-proof, porous and great for insulating plant roots, but wood decays and must be painted or treated to increase longevity. Wood offers great water retention, and hard wood is better suited to deter rot. Make sure the wooden planter is well constructed, as wood shrinks and expands with moisture. Wood is also good for winter as long as it doesn’t sit directly on the ground.
- Baskets: Less durable but equally as natural-looking as wood, baskets only last a few years before falling apart. However, baskets do provide great drainage. If the basket is not made of wood, it should last longer. You can also try a hanging basket made of moss!
- Metal: Popular for its versatility and array of sizes, shapes, styles and coats, metal containers can create any style of garden, from rustic to cottage-style, from modern to minimalist. However, thin metal planters offer little insulation for plant roots, meaning they could overheat or be susceptible to frost damage. Heavy ones will stabilize tall plants, but metal drys out and heats up, meaning you could cook the roots. Be careful where you put metal containers because they can corrode and leave rust stains on light-colored surfaces. Thick metal is often a good choice for a winter planter.
- Stone and concrete: Stone and concrete pots are nearly perfect for plants. Strong, incredibly durable, frost-proof and insulating, stone and concrete are less porous but extremely heavy (so remember to fill them where you want them). Best for tall, top-heavy plants due to their stability, concrete and stone are hard to move. Concrete and stone maintain soil temperature well and can be left out in the winter. Concrete tends to be inexpensive while the stone is a bit more pricey. If you want the stone look for a lower price, try a synthetic stone compound.
- Synthetics: Plastics, polymers, resin, and fiberglass are all synthetics (man-made) and available in a wide range of frost-proof and durable sizes, styles and colors. Plastic is lightweight, moisture-conserving, and good for winter. Plastic also works well as a liner inside other decorative planters. Fiberglass is well-made and can trick the eye into believing they are any number of other materials. Light, durable, inexpensive and frost-resistant, fiberglass planters are great for any garden.
What Should I Consider Before Buying a Planters?
The Garden Gates is here to help you choose the best planters for your garden. You should not decide based on personal taste alone, as the types of plants you wish to grow will need more than just style. Of course, all pots should have drainage holes, but here are other things to consider:
1. Can the plant survive in dry conditions? If not, a bigger pot will retain more water.
2. Can you water everyday? If not, does the pot have a drip tray or reservoir? If a plant gets stressed from lack of water, it may never recover.
3. How big does the plant get? Make sure the pot is big enough for the root system and stable enough to support vertical growth.
4. How much sun does the plant need? If the pot is in the sun all day, choose a pot that is non-porous to maintain moisture. Synthetic pots stay cooler and retain moisture longer.
5. Will it be exposed to the wind? Make sure the planter is stable enough to stay upright.
6. Does your climate experience harsh winter? Do you leave town for winter? Colder climates require frost-proof containers such as stone, cement, and wood.
7. Do you need to move this pot? Whatever the reason (sun, shade, more space, redecorating), if you want to move your pot, think twice before buying a heavy and awkward planter. Concrete is gorgeous, but it should stay where it sits.
How Do I Plant in a Garden Container?
Our landscaping genius advises putting an inch and a half thick layer of gravel in the bottom of the planter to facilitate drainage. Then, put a piece of cloth or a screen to keep the soil off the gravel. Otherwise, the soil might pack in and make it hard for water to escape. You can also use old fish tank gravel or plastic bottles (in larger planters).
For the healthiest growth possible, The Garden Gates has made a list of minimum soil depths for certain plants:
4-5 inches: chives, lettuce, radishes, other salad greens, basil, coriander
6-7 inches: bush beans, garlic, kohlrabi, onions, Asian greens, peas, mint, thyme
8-9 inches: pole beans, carrots, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary
10-12 inches: beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, dill, lemongrass
There are four rules of (green) thumb to remember: sun, water, fertilizer, drainage. These four things will help you create the garden you always hoped for.
1. Most vegetables need full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Try to time how long your spots of choice are exposed to sunlight. Put wheels on your container if you need to move your plant to keep up with the sun.
2. Properly watering your garden is the single most important and hardest part of gardening. Stick your finger in the soil up to your first knuckle, if the soil feels dry, add water.
3. While you may be tempted to use soil from your backyard, it’s not the best idea. You could transport weeds and (if you live in New Orleans) toxic chemicals to your container. Plants need food to survive, and that food is fertilizer. Try organic potting soil with fertilizer, or use Metro Mix 360 from The Garden Gates. You can also try diluted liquid fish emulsion or liquid seaweed.
4. No one appreciates a soggy bottom, and that includes plants. Drainage is key to healthy plants, so make sure you pot has drainage holes.
What Are Common Garden Planter Mistakes?
We all make mistakes sometimes - which is just another reason to try garden planters before possibly ruining your entire garden bed. The Garden Gates has learned a few lessons in our time, and we would like to share them with you.
1. Don’t fill your container until it’s placed where you want it. Lifting dirt, especially a dirt-filled concrete or stone planter, is not the easiest task.
2. Don’t drown your plants. Make sure your planter has drainage holes and be sure to read moisture requirements for every plant.
3. Don’t underwater your plants. Most need water at least once a day in summer. You should water until you see liquid coming out the bottom of the pot.
4. Don’t forget your pot to plant ratio. The planters must be big enough to support the future size and root system of whatever plant it contains.
5. Don’t buy sick or weak plants. Buy from a nursery or plant store if you can. If a “big box” plant store is your only choice, buy the plants as close as you can to their arrival date.
6. Don’t be afraid to prune. If that plant gets unruly, trim it back and allow for new growth.
7. Don’t forget to use fertilizer. There is nothing else to say about this one!
8. Don’t forget about your lifestyle! You must manage the expectations you have of your garden and garden how you live. Are you more casual or formal? Do you travel? Can you care to take daily? Or will you be lucky if you remember to water? Do you need self-sustaining plants or do you want high-maintenance plants? It’s all up to how you live.
9. Don’t go gothic. Be careful if you are using dark colored containers because they will absorb heat more easily and possibly lead to root damage. If you already have dark planters, try painting them a lighter color or try shading the container, not the plants.
10. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Experiment! The glory of a planter is that you can only mess up one plant at a time instead of your entire garden! Be bold. Test your green thumb.
Where Should I Put My Planter?
Before thinking about decoration, you need to consider the health of the plant. That means you need to assess the plant’s exposure to sun, wind, and water. After that, feel free to get creative!
-Form perimeter around an outdoor gathering spot.
-Add Mediterranean flair with wall planters near an outdoor seating or dining area.
-Greet guests with container plants on each side of an entryway or door.
-Share the love with your neighbors and put window boxes on the street-side of your house.
-Fill an awkward, otherwise seemingly unusable space with a few pots.
-Adorn another outdoor decor with a plant or two.
-Place pots on the ground outside windows to enhance your view from inside the house.
Does The Garden Gates Recommend Specific Plants?
In the case of planters, bigger is better. More soil means more moisture, so don’t bother with containers that are smaller than 12 inches. Simple terracotta pots look great with vibrant, green architectural palms. And palms are low maintenance! Spiky succulents in metal or fiberglass containers will certainly turn heads. Herbs in pots of various sizes and shapes will give your garden a cottage feel. No sun? Fill a terra cotta pot with different colored coleus. Too much sun? A basket of succulents can pretty much take care of themselves.
The best plants for planters: Potatoes, chard, lettuce, cherry and bush tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, summer squash, Asian greens, pole beans. And don't forget herbs!
Plants that take up the least amount of space: carrots, radishes, and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a long period (tomatoes and peppers).
Vegetables that are “easy” to grow: peas, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, eggplant, summer or zucchini squash.
How about grouping your plants by favorite meals? Make a summer salad planter with tomato, cucumber, and parsley or chives in a large container. If you want to save even more space or provide your plant with another plant companion, the following make perfect pairs:
Beans, carrots, squash
Tomatoes, basil, onions
Spinach, chard, onions
Combinations to Avoid:
Beans with onions and garlic
Carrots with dill or fennel
Tomatoes or squash with potatoes
Onions with beans and peas
If you’re going for the most color, the best container plants are:
Flowering kale and cabbage
If you want plants that will survive year-round:
Green Mountain boxwood
Golden creeping Jenny
Variegated redtwig dogwood
Blue Star juniper
If you’re looking for tall plants that need large containers:
Chilean glory flower
Evergreen Japanese aralia
Mexican orange blossom
Chinese fan palm
New Zealand cabbage palm
New Zealand flax
Blue passion flower
Australian bluebell creeper
If you need the easiest flowers to grow in containers:
marigolds & zinnias (for pots)
sweet alyssum & nasturtium (for window boxes)
petunias (for hanging baskets)
lobelia & impatiens (for shady spots)
fragrant sweet peas & black-eyed susans (for pots with support for vines)
lavender, yarrow, coreopsis, salvia, and coneflower (for sunny spots)
astilbe & hellebore (for shady spots)
lily of the valley & white bishop's lace (for pots)
hydrangea, camellia & roses