Plants growing in small containers
Organic Gardening

The Pros and Cons of Container Gardening

So you want to start a garden but want to know the different styles of gardening, and what’s right for you? Let’s talk about container gardening. This post covers the pros and cons of container gardening.

My family’s garden growing days started out with containers. Containers are a great solution for those that have a limited amount of space! My dad grew tomatoes on the porch of our apartment every summer. Even though our garden was small, we absolutely loved having fresh tomatoes right outside our door! Not only can you use them when space is tight, but some prefer to grow in containers for a few reasons.

Why Have a Container Garden

A container garden is a great option when growing your own food. It’s helpful though to know the pros and cons before deciding whether it’s right for you or not. Here’s a list of pros and cons that I’ve put together.

Plants growing in small containers
Plants growing in small containers

The Pros of Container Gardening

  1. Control the growing conditions.

Growing in a container allows the gardener more control over the conditions in the container. In-ground gardens certainly have their challenges. The soil may need to be amended which can take a bit of time. Amending poor soil won’t happen overnight and could take as long as 5 years or more, depending on the soil conditions. Placing good soil in the container and growing your veggies can get you started sooner. You can even protect them from soil-borne diseases and contaminated soil.

  1. A container garden can be almost anywhere and you can move it around.

Raised beds are semi-permanent. I say semi-permanent since they’re difficult to just up and move them. For example, my raised beds are 2 feet wide and 8 feet long. The wood alone to move is heavy enough. Not only that, but they’d have to be unloaded of all the dirt in order to move them. In-ground gardens are in a fixed position.

  1. There’s more control of weeds.

Weeding is one of my least favorite things to do in the garden. In fact, I might even loathe it. One minute you’ve cleared all the weeds in the garden, and then next minute they’re re-populating. Or so it seems, especially after rain! Container gardens allow you to control weeds and there’s less area for weeds to accumulate.

  1. It can be easier to control pests.

If your container garden is right outside your door, it can be easy to monitor for pests.

  1. Containers can help with drainage.

The container you used should have a hole, or multiple holes in the bottom, for proper drainage. Without the holes, water collects in the bottom of the container and can cause root rot. If you also place a dish under the container to catch the water, be sure to dump out the water from the dish. Most plants don’t like to sit in water.

  1. They keep invasive plants under control.

Plants like thyme and mint can get out of control with their growth and spreading. Opting to put them in a container is a great way to keep them under control.

  1. Cost of starting up may be less.

Depending on what’s going on with your in-ground garden (if you have the option to have one) container gardening may be an easier and cheaper option. Amending soil and bringing in dirt can be costly. A raised bed setup can be expensive too, depending on the materials used and how many are in your setup. Plus you can use a wide range of containers for your garden from kiddie pools to buckets. You may not need as many tools and the tools aren’t as expensive. 

For in-ground gardening, gardeners could be using tillers, weed whackers, and other tools. Tools like tillers can be quite expensive.

For container gardening, you may only need a drill and trowel. Tools that are relatively inexpensive in comparison.

While we’re talking about the pros, I also like to know the cons to anything I decide to try. It just prepares you for what to expect when gardening in containers.

Container with vegetables growing

Cons of Container Gardening

  1. Containers require more frequent waterings. The soil in the container will dry out a lot quicker in comparison to a raised bed or in-ground garden. You’ll need good quality soil to help retain moisture. Make sure that the container has proper drainage. By having proper drainage you can reduce the risk of water-logging the plant.

  2. There may not be enough space for the plant.

There is a limited amount of space in a container. Be cautious of what you’re planting in the container. The container may be too small for the plant you’re growing. An example is pumpkins. Pumpkins need a lot of room. They like to sprawl out and creep everywhere. They are not a good candidate for growing in. In containers, there is a lack of space for root development.

  1. Container gardens may need extra care in extreme temperatures.

Special attention is needed to plants growing in containers. The soil dries out a lot quicker. Plants are vulnerable to sudden changes in temperature and may not have enough time to adjust like it would if it had more room.

  1. The initial cost of container gardening may be costly.

The cost of container gardening was listed as a “pro” too. The initial start up may be high. You’ll need to buy the containers, soil, and other things. The cost varies depending on the containers you use. There are a lot of cheap options out there.

  1. Plants may require more nutrient management.

There’s more control of the soil and nutrients that are put into it. Frequent watering causes loss of nutrients in the soil. Be cognizant not to over-fertilize. Over-fertilizing causes a wide range of issues, such as stunting and burnt leaves.

  1. Plants may have lower productivity.

Productivity may be lower in container gardens. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to figure out how to grow plants with high productivity. It may take some time to figure out what the right balance is for each plant.

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