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Container gardening is a terrific option for gardeners who are wrestling with limited time or space. Planting in containers also sidesteps the issue of poor soil quality - by buying or make your own potting mix, you can ensure a healthy soil.

Container GardenContainer gardens may be located in classrooms or rooftops, courtyards or walkways. You can grow vegetables and herbs in containers, along with flowers that attract butterflies and pollinators. You will be amazed at how much you can grow and harvest.

GEF’s Turn-Key Garden approach narrows gardening down to a set of easy steps. While all kinds of sizes and types of containers can be used as planters, the GEF approach recommends a specific plan to minimize the gray area for beginner gardeners. This section makes suggestions for 20” plastic pots. Also note that all supplies have been priced at Lowe’s, and prices may vary from store to store.

Everything you need to start your own container garden is right here at your fingertips – read on, and get started!

Step 1: Choose a convenient planting location with plenty of light. Nearly all vegetable plants require full direct sunlight – at least six to eight hours a day. However, leafy crops (lettuce, cabbage, spinach) and root crops (radishes, beets, turnips, onions) can tolerate more shade than the vegetable plants that bear fruit (i.e. tomatoes).

Luckily, another advantage to container gardening is mobility.  Planters filled with soil are often heavy to lift, but with an adult’s help container gardening makes it possible to re-position the vegetables as needed to areas where they can receive the best possible growing conditions.

Step 2: Select your growing containers.  GEF recommends the use of plastic pots for growing – they are kid-friendly, budget-friendly and allow for good drainage (be sure to purchase a pot with holes in the bottom). If you choose a container without drainage, an adult can use a drill or a hammer and nail to poke 1-inch-diameter openings in the bottom before filling with soil. 

Buy or reuse:

  • 20” plastic planter with drainage holes - $17.48

Step 3: Soil. The soil for your containers can’t be dug up from the yard – it is too heavy to use in container gardens.  Instead, purchase potting mix or try making your own. Compost is a great addition to average potting soil and enormously helpful to your plants’ growth. Bagged compost can be found at garden stores, but it is something you can easily make yourself.  Note that
compost usually takes at least three months to “cook” before it is ready for use. Visit the composting section of the website for more information.


  • Miracle Gro Organic Garden Soil 1.5 cu ft - $6.99/bag
  • Cedar Grove 100% Organic Compost: 1 cu. ft – n/a