Growing in Pots
Tips and techniques for raising healthy, nutritious vegetables, indoors and outdoors, in pots.
Best Grow Light
for Indoor Plants
It’s utterly forbidden to be half-hearted about gardening. You’ve got to love your garden whether you like it or not. – Sellar & Yeatman, 1936
If you don’t have the space for a vegetable plot, or you miss the taste of fresh greens in the middle of winter, container gardening is a great solution. Using pots and planters allows you to have a portable garden that can bloom and fruit all year (see How to Grow Vegetables in Pots). Keep plants outside during the warm summer months, and once it turns cool, simply bring them indoors! By protecting plants from the cold, you’ll always have a fresh supply of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and other tasty garden goods. Container grown vegetables can also work as ornate centerpieces for your table.
With the right equipment, growing fresh and flavorful vegetables is easy! At Planet Natural we have everything you need: pots, soils and seeds to get started, plus grow lights to bring the green-giving magic of the sun indoors. Now, let’s grow!
What type of container should you plant in? A general rule of thumb is, the bigger the plant — the bigger the pot. However, the type of planter is pretty much up to you as long as it drains well and won’t get too hot sitting in the sun all day. There are plenty of good choices, but consider the downfalls and plan accordingly. For example, ceramic looks great and drains well but tends to dry out quickly and requires frequent watering. Old wooden barrels retain water much better and don’t heat up as much but are often heavy and subject to rotting. Be creative. Try anything from discarded boots and teapots to old plumbing fixtures. Some vegetable plants that are better suited to pots include kale, lettuce, green onions, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. Herbs are another great idea.
When selecting plants for pots, consider the amount of light that is available for a particular spot and read the lighting requirements found on individual seed packets and plant labels. If planting several containers in one area, or several plants in a pot, do not mix plants with different lighting requirements.
With that said, it is wonderfully easy to provide plants with the light they need when your using pots. If you notice that they are not getting enough sun, just pick them up and move them to a sunnier spot. If they are in too much sun, move them to a shadier location. Shifting container locations is also desirable as the amount of available sunlight changes with the seasons.
If growing indoors, many plants will do fine on a south facing windowsill. However, if the amount of light is not enough, you can supplement light with T5 fluorescent lamps or a CFL grow light, especially during the winter months. Flowering plants — tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. — grow best in bright light, and, in most cases, supplemental lighting will be required to have a year-round harvest.
Regardless of whether your indoor/outdoor plants are flowers, herbs or vegetables, the soil that you use is very important. If the soil is bad then your plants will be too. I know, I know, you have piles of dirt outside, but spend a little money on the “good stuff” from a local nursery or gardening store. The problem with regular old garden soil is that it’s often too heavy and compacts easily. It may also contain diseases, weed seeds and insect pests.
Most commercial potting soil (not really soil at all) are the seller’s best attempt to provide for aeration, water retention and nutrients. Of course, not all commercial soils are the same. The old adage “you get what you pay for” can really come into play here. Avoid inexpensive soils that just say “topsoil” or “compost” on the label (see What’s in Commercial Compost). That mysterious topsoil may be anything and could very well be old, tired soil that comes from land that’s been farmed to death. Poor topsoil can be completely depleted of nutrients, but rich in nasty chemical pesticides and herbicides, another leftover from life down on the farm. Something merely labeled “compost” could very well be made from toxic sludge (often called biosolids) or just ground up wood chips and nothing else. Play it safe and buy quality organic potting soil or make your own.
Make Your Own Potting Soil
Why purchase potting soil when you can make your own. A good potting mix recipe contains sterile garden soil and compost, peat moss (or coconut coir) and other additives as needed.
The organic material in this mix provides structure and the perlite will keep it light. A balanced, slow-release organic fertilizer may also be added to the mix.
Because potting soil is lighter and less compact than regular garden soil, you will need to water more often when growing in pots. To test soil moisture, let your fingers do the walking! Press a finger into the potting mix to a depth of at least two inches. If it’s dry, then it’s time to water. If your containers are outside make sure to check moisture levels often, they tend to dry out quickly in all that sun and wind.
The easiest way to water potted plants is with a watering can or gentle hose. However, when you water make sure that you are watering the soil and not just the plant’s leaves. Continue watering until it runs out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. The idea is to water thoroughly but allow enough time between waterings for the soil to begin drying out.
Tip: Water tends to wash nutrients out of potting mixes, which means you will have to fertilize on a regular basis. To help with this, you can “top dress” container grown plants with a good slow-release organic fertilizer.
You can design a potted garden just like you would a backyard garden, except it’s much easier because you can move it around. Try grouping different sizes and heights together for a design that is pleasing to the eye. Also, if you have the right plants, like herbs, you can plant several of them together in the same container, just make sure you allow enough room for them to grow.
For those of us with short growing seasons and long winters, bringing plants inside in the fall can be a great way to continue to enjoy them and lengthen their lives. Take the time to inspect all plants before bringing them inside — you don’t want any uninvited insect “guests.” Read our article Overwintering Plants Indoors for tips to keep your potted plants thriving during the colder months.
Create your own 2 in. biodegradable plant starters out of recycled newspaper.
A grow-anywhere planting kit that includes strong casters so it can be easily moved.
A favorite! This ready to use formula is made with only the finest ingredients.
Slim & Light
Durable, kink-free, lightweight and drinking water safe. It's what you're looking for!
Winner of several gardening awards, CowPots are made by American dairy farmers.
Rolling Plant Stands
Use indoors or out to move and rotate heavy plants -- supports up to 500 lbs.
Made for all plants including houseplants, patio pots and hanging baskets.