Garden Like a Master – Introduction to Container Gardening

Garden Like a Master – Introduction to Container Gardening

Garden Like a Master

I completed the Kentucky Master Gardener course last fall.

I decided it should be called “The Master Botany Class” instead.

Good Grief.

The amount of information we covered was astounding.  I would describe the Kentucky Master Gardener Class like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant.

I may have retained 3% of it.  Luckily they gave us The-Internet-in-book-form concerning Botany – So I have a reference guide the size of my couch to help me remember everything I forgot.

I learned so much.

There were so many “Ah Ha!” moments during the class for me.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself,

“That’s what I did wrong.”


“Yikes, I’ll have to stop doing that.”


“That’s why they died.”

Good times.

I obviously can’t share everything from the class – but I’m going to tell you some of my biggest takeaways.

These tips will be able to help even novice gardeners.

One VERY important element that was stated and restated was that anything and everything we share as “Master Gardeners” must be “research-based information.”

When it comes to giving advice, help or garden pointers, as a Master Gardener I need to be sure I am giving you facts and not opinions.

Not old wives tales or gimmicks.

Cool eh?

Another important element reiterated during the class was:  It’s OK to not know the answer.  Nobody knows everything. 

The next thing they said was:

The biggest problem with Master Gardeners are the ones who “Don’t know that they don’t know.”

So, here goes nothing.

I’m going to share some of the best tips I learned from the Kentucky Master Gardener Course.

Starting with…..


This is my back deck

Container gardening was one of 80,000 topics covered in the 4-month class.

I should also tell you that I have been growing plants in containers for at least 15 years.  Yes, I’ve been doing it wrong.

Why containers?

ONE:  It’s Easy to Get Started

Growing plants in containers is a great way to begin gardening.  Containers are typically small and easy to tend.

TWO:  No Yard Necessary

Container gardening allows people who don’t have land or space to experience the joys of gardening.  With a porch, terrace or small lanai a person can grow in containers.

THREE:  No Back Pain

Container gardens are also great for folks who don’t like to bend over or squat down.  A large pot or barrel can make a wonderful (high) place to grow your favorite plants.

FOUR: It Doesn’t Take Much Time

If you are short on time, a few plants in containers may be the perfect shortcut to fresh food or flowers.

Growing with Boundaries

It doesn’t matter if you are growing petunias or tomatoes, container gardening has a few rules that apply across the board.

Growing in containers is very different from growing in gardens.

What Are Containers?

Start with the right containers.

Just about anything that holds dirt can be used for a container garden.

  • 5-gallon buckets (with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage)
  • Ceramic Pots
  • Plastic containers
  • Wooden boxes
  • Wood barrels
  • Crates
  • DIY – even build your own containers with wood, pallets, or other supplies
  • Concrete planters
  • Large raised beds

Important Factors when choosing containers:

Drainage – be sure the container has holes in the bottom or sides for drainage.  Wet feet can kill just about any plant.

Leeching – consider what the container is made of or has been soaked in.  If you plan to grow edible plants be sure the pot is organic.

Size – generally speaking, larger containers are easier to maintain and more successful.  A larger container will require less watering and provide more soil (thus more nutrition) for the plants growing in it.

Location – Be sure to place your containers in a sunny location for full sun varieties.

DIY – I have constructed several containers from wood over the years.  Making your own containers can be a great, enjoyable activity.

Anything from an old hat to a boot can be used for a small container.  Keep in mind that the tougher the materials, the longer the containers will last.

I have dumped many wood flower pots into the burn pile over the years because they rotted.  Organic materials will not last forever.

For containers that will last, chose ceramic or concrete pots.  They are my favorite.

Another consideration when choosing pots is – don’t be too choosy.  Once the plants really get going, no one is going to notice it.  Promise.

If a pot is huge and on clearance, I’ll buy it.  I don’t’ care much what it looks like or if it matches the rest of my containers.  Once I get them overflowing – it’s not gonna matter what the pot looks like.

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