3 Things I’ve Learned My First Year of Container Gardening

Hello. Remember me?

It’s been a loooong time since I last posted anything. I moved from North Dakota to North Carolina and fell out of sync with everything. Even my kids have been asking “What happened to Pickle Me Too?!”

Well, I finally feel like we are settled into a new home. We traded land for house space, going from a 15 acre homestead with a 1400 sq. ft. house to a neighborhood with a big house and a nice sized yard. The yard feels small to me compared to what I was used to but it’s actually pretty large, about 1 acre. It is plain weird having people surround us.

Gardening makes me happy so once the house was unpacked enough to live it, I got started on my garden. Since we are renting, I decided to simply do a container garden this year and maybe ask if we could put in a few raised bed gardens next year.

I wanted to share with you all the things I’ve learned so far about container gardening. It’s not as straight forward as I thought it would be and there has been a lot of trial and error. Here are 3 mistakes I’ve made and learned from this year. I still have so much to learn and am learning more every week that goes by.

#1 Get a Good Potting Soil.

Miracle Grow potting soil sucks. Sucks big time. I had heard this before starting but it was all I could find when I was desperate to get started. I thought if they are still selling it, it can’t be that bad. No, it is. It sucks. The problem with it is the soil pieces are too small and they compact pretty fast. With container gardening, you want very loose soil or you end up with rotten roots. And that is exactly what began to happen to my little garden within weeks of transplanting. My tomato leaves began to curl and stop growing. My peppers all but died. And the same went for the flowers and herbs. The cucumbers and watermelon are the only plants that didn’t seem to mind the potting soil. I almost lost everything before figuring out what was going on.

I found a local nursery with good potting soil and moved my plants to the good soil. I wasn’t able to save all of the plants. Some of them stank when I pulled them out of their pots. The roots were too rotten to save. With the bad soil I had left over, I added coconut coir (fiber from the husks of coconuts) to it and that did the trick. I even used straight coconut coir for some pots (if you do that, you will need to fertilize it regularly).

So, my advice, find a good nursery (not Walmart or Lowes or Home Depot) with real gardeners who know what they are doing. Ask them what they use and get that stuff. Maybe one day I’ll get to the point where I’ll mix my own soil but I’m not there yet.

#2 Get Good Pots

For some reason I had it in my head that 5 gallon buckets with holes drilled in the bottom would be an awesome and cheap way to go. I quickly changed my mind. I might have saved a little money but not much but they are ugly. They worked ok, especially with deeper rooted plants like tomatoes, but not so much with more shallow rooted plants like watermelon and cucumbers.

The plastic pots I got on clearance at Target and Walmart worked great, looked prettier, and were about the same price as my 5 gallon buckets. I loved them until I found these…

Container Gardening

*Cue ethereal music*  Smart Pots. Oh my. Smart Pots. I love these pots. I love them so much that next season I plan on getting rid of most of my plastic containers and using only Smart Pots.

What makes them so wonderful?

  • Perfect drainage so no more rotting roots. They are nearly impossible to over water which can be a problem in the very wet climate I moved to.
  • The roots self-prune. Part of the problem with container gardening is the plants get root bound. They spread, hit the plastic (or ceramic) wall and then begin to wind around the pot in search of open space to spread to. With the fabric, they hit the wall feel the air and stop. You end up with a much healthier root system.
  • They come in all sorts of sizes from 1 gallon to 7 gallon pots. They also have a raised bed garden that provides 13.5 square feet of growing space.
  • The raised bed is much cheaper and easier to install than a wooden framed raised bed.

#3 Read the Instructions on the Fertilizer

I know, this should be a no brainer. I skimmed the instructions but didn’t read them carefully. I ended up “burning” a bunch of plants. I lost a few pepper plants, killed my strawberries off and had a few pole bean casualties. I wounded some flowers and but they made a slow recovery; I’m starting to see fresh growth under the burned leaves. Please take a minute to make sure you are doing it right.

And the rest of my garden…

Container Gardening

I call this the jungle. It has all my plastic pots to keep the wood from getting yucky. I lined the wood railing with a plastic netting for the cucumbers and watermelon to climb. Next year the watermelon will go in the raised bed garden. The cucumbers did great here and are so pretty. I also have a blueberry bush, pomegranate tree, olive tree, banana tree, ginger, mango tree (grown from a pit), peppers, eggplant, more tomatoes, herbs, and flowers.

Container Gardening


Here are more Smart Pots and another fabric raised bed called and EZ-Gro Garden. They are a little more expensive than the smart pots but come in square and rectangular shapes. Here I have okra, tomatoes, peppers, Okinawa spinach, and cucumbers growing.

Container Gardening


And this is my on my screen-in porch. Clockwise from top left, our cat Snirt tasting the Okinawa spinach, succulents, Moujean Tea, and a Pitcher plant which might be the coolest plant I have ever seen (it’s carnivorous and eats wasps).

Flash your garden! I’d love to see what you are growing. Post a pic on my Facebook page Pickle Me Too and follow me on Instagram pickle_me_too Instagram

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