Tips for Container Gardening

container flower garden by Valerie Ferrier

Like most other things this year, the garden workshops and tours I booked have been cancelled. While in person events are on hold, zoom has filled some of the void. Karen Shea, a therapeutic gardener, garden educator and Congregational Care Minister in Toronto, recently led some online workshops. If you are not up for reading all the tips below, I’ve summarized them in the infographic.


  • Almost any kind of container can be used providing it has adequate drainage. Some varied examples include children’s boots, reused pop bottles, plastic pails and tubs, eavestrough material all with holes drilled at the bottom.
  • If your container doesn’t have holes, add small stones or clay shards to the bottom.
  • Cocoa and moss liners and porous clay pots can help keep moisture in hanging baskets and containers.
  • While ceramic planters are attractive, they may not be able to withstand large variations in temperature. In colder climates, it is best to empty and clean ceramic containers and bring them indoors.


  • Use a potting mix, not top soil. Mycorrhizal formulations may help with root growth.


  1. 15-30-15 water soluble fertilizer for containers should be applied every 10 days.
  2. Worm castings and sea compost may also lead to great results. If you don’t vermi-compost yourself, they are available commercially.
  3. Karen recommends planting with ¾ soil and ¼ sea compost for good results.

Watering Dos

  • Since many containers are subject to a lot of sun and wind and have limited amounts of soil, they may need to be watered daily or even more frequently.
  • Watering by hand at the base of the plant, not the leaves is best. Watering leaves can lead to leaf mold and other diseases.

Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers

  • When planning your containers, consider middle plants for height; spiller plants like potato vines, creeping Jenny and lobelia to trail over the edges and mid-size plants such as impatiens, begonia, dusty miller in between the two.


  • In addition to flowers, consider herb gardens and vegetables for containers.


  • Rabbits, squirrels and mice can wreak havoc on your garden. Animal, plant and human safer options which repel animals due to smell and taste aversion such are commercially available. Friends of mine have also recommended a mixture of cayenne pepper and garlic though I have not found it to be long-lasting.
  • Physical barriers such as chicken wire, squirrel spikes or reused plastic forks and sporks might help.
Good Stuff for Containers – V. Ferrier


  • Slugs and snails may be deterred by diatomaceous earth. I have also had some success using dried, ground eggshells around the base of plants.

Thanks for the tips Karen! My backyard geraniums are blooming again.



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