Home GardeningCity Gardening 6 Simple Steps on How to Create a Container Garden in the City

6 Simple Steps on How to Create a Container Garden in the City

By Sophia W. Martin
1.9K views 2 mins read

You can call me envious, but that thought was literally tough to skip.

I was looking out of the window and feeling like I was living in a desert when everyone else around me was doing quite the opposite.

In my busy neighborhood, ‘everyone’ had their own garden.

And I, who came from a green landscape, was living with a constant urge to have it but not being able to get it.

Suddenly, my neighbor Jack told me one day to get started with a container garden and showed me some tricks on how to create a container garden in the city.

And guess what? Now, my yard is looking more beautiful than ever.

No, Jack didn’t show me any ‘magic potion’ kind of tricks.

What he passed me that day, I am going to pass to you today.

Keep reading if you’re tired of missing the green too.

Key Takeaways:
The steps to creating a container garden is planning the garden with space, picking the right plants, preparing the container, and planting it.
The container garden requirements for water and fertilizer change according to the season.
The best ways to maintain a container garden are to water and fertilize carefully and prevent pests and diseases at the initial stage with organic methods.

The Basics of Urban Container Gardening

Urban container gardening is nothing. It’s basically another way of starting city gardening in apartments. In fact, it’s been here for decades since the shortage of gardening space has popped up in urban areas.

It’s basically growing plants in containers and pots. So, if you’ve got a balcony, patio, or windowsill, this is how you can meet the urge for green.

Benefits of Container Gardening in Urban Settings

There are a whole bunch of reasons why I love the idea of container gardening.

Benefits of Container Gardening in Urban Settings
Benefits of Container Gardening

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Containers are easy to move. So, wherever you’re moving next time, you can take your garden with you.
  • Due to being movable, you can let the plants do zero struggle with sunlight.
  • It’s easy to control the soil quality in a container garden to ensure optimal conditions for your plants.
  • You can easily grow your own vegetables, herbs, and fruits (at least a few of them).
  • It boosts the aesthetics of your place and makes it look way better.

Planning Your Container Garden

This is the first part of the game. So, as a beginner, you need to start with:

Assessing Available Space

First off, check out the size of your balcony, patio, or windowsill to be sure if they can take in your desired containers.

If the place is tight, pick smaller pots, and feel free to grab large pots otherwise. And don’t forget about the weight restrictions, especially when you’re living in a high-rise.

Sunlight and Shade Measurement

6 hours of sunlight daily—that can simply make most plants thrive.

So, to ensure that, check the sun angle and identify the shady and sunny areas of the place where you want your garden. To make the best use of the sun, keep the plants together.

Selecting Plants Suited for Urban Container Gardening

When you’re a vegetable lover, pick the right plants from bush or dwarf varieties, such as tomatoes or eggplants. But I won’t suggest the ones with deeper roots, such as carrots, as they need containers with more depth.

Selecting Plants Suited for Urban Container Gardening
Selecting Plants Suited for Urban Container Gardening

And if you’re asking about fruits—cherries, apples, blueberries, lemons, plums, raspberries, peaches, pears, and strawberries—all can be grown in container gardens.

By the way, you need to think ‘vertically’ if you’re planning about flowers and ornamentals. Plus, they’re more of a seasonal thing. So, you’ll have to keep rotating them if you want continuous blooms.

Foxglove, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, geraniums, marigolds, hosta, lavender, petunias, and primrose—these kinds of plants are great for container gardens.

Preparation for Container Garden

This is where the laborious part starts. Or, should I say, this is the part where you start feeling like a gardener? Don’t worry; I bet you’re going to enjoy the process.

Essential Supplies and Tools

Make a list first and get the following things before you get started:

  • Plant food
  • Hand trowel
  • Watering can
  • Pruners
  • Thriller (optional)

Choosing the Right Soil Mix

Always go for a well-draining potting mix. Don’t even think about garden soil as an alternative to potting soil.

They’re too dense for the plants and hold in too much moisture. Also, make sure the mix you’re picking is lightweight. Otherwise, it won’t be able to ensure good aeration and will lead the root to rot.

Choosing the Right Containers

Plastic pots or hanging baskets are a perfectly lightweight and cheap option, but they’re not the best for extreme temperatures.

So, pick them if you’re not living in a desert. On the other hand, though a bit expensive, you can also use clay and terracotta.

Plus, determine the size based on your space. But make sure they can handle the plant when it’s mature.

Ensuring a Good Drainage System

If you’re getting recycled containers, make drainage holes in them to prevent waterlogging. To stay on the safe side, rather than putting the container directly on the ground, put pot saucers under it. This will ease up the water drainage.

How to Create a Container Garden in the City: 6 Simple Steps to Follow

So, you’re ready to bring in some greenery? Here’s the next thing you need to do:

Steps to Create a Container Garden in the City
Container Garden in the City

Step#1 Prepare the Plant Pots

If you’ve got new pots, give them a proper wash with soapy water and get rid of all the dust and debris. Do the same if you’re utilizing used pots. This will eliminate the chance of transferring disease from the older plants.

Step#2 Cover the Drainage Holes

Sounding a bit contrary to the common concept? Well, it’s true that keeping the hole wide open will make it easy for the water to escape.

But this can wash away some soil and also let insects in. So, it’s better to use a mesh or screening fabric to prevent it all.

Step#3 Fill the Container with Potting Mix

Here, you’ve already done the potting mix arrangement, I guess.

If yes, fill up your containers with the mix. Make sure you’re leaving some space on the rim. My suggestion would be to keep it 1-2 inches.

Step#4 Add Good Plant Food

Indeed, water and fertilizer are essential for a plant’s growth. But I won’t suggest keeping fertilizer on hold initially if you’re using a good potting mix.

That’s because the mixture comes with enough nutrients to keep your plants going for a while. But if you’re using regular soil, introduce a good fertilizer after you fill up the container.

Step#5 Remove the Plants From Nursery Pots

Next up, loosen the root ball. You might have to gently squeeze the nursery pot to do that. If it’s got a stronger grip, tip that pot upside down. Now tap on it lightly, as that should release the plant.

Step#6 Place the Plants in the Container

Now dig a hole in the container and place the root ball in there. Make sure the hole is deep enough to match the plant’s depth in its nursery pot.

Once you’ve done that, fill in around the plants with the potting soil. Lastly, press the soil around the plants to empty the air pockets.

Maintaining Your Container Garden

You wanted to know how to create a container garden in the city? That’s done!

Maintaining Your Container Garden
Maintaining Your Container Garden

But knowing how to maintain it is equally important. So, here are a few tips to help you with that:

Tip 1: Care More for Seeds

If you’re starting from seeds, be more patient and care properly for germination. Young plants will require a bit less care than that and yet will give faster results.

Tip 2: Keep It Aesthetic and Practical

Arrange it all by height, color, and texture to make it visually aesthetic. But don’t forget to be practical and keep the sunlight needs in mind.

Keep the sun-loving plants together, and feel free to leave the shade-tolerant ones in the comparatively shady part.

Tip 3: Water Carefully

Make sure the potting mix is not wet, just damp. To be sure about the moisture, stick your finger in the pot. If it feels moist, skip watering and stay extra cautious if you’re using thrillers.

Water the plant based on the climate. If it’s summer and the plants get sunlight for 6-8 hours, you’ll have to water more frequently.

Tip 4: Careful Use of Fertilizer

As potting mixes come with enough nutrients, you don’t need anything extra for young plants. But after a while, when you’ll start using fertilizer, make sure you’re picking something trustworthy.

Check if it’s ‘good to go’ for container plants or not, and follow the label where the recommended dilution and application frequency are mentioned. But if you want to keep it organic, I’d say compost tea will be a more reliable option.

Tip 5: Take Pests and Diseases Seriously

Keep your plants under regular inspection. This should help you detect the signs of disease or pests early. Try using organic methods like neem oil or insecticidal soap at that time.

But if things are beyond your control and you need to use chemical pesticides, check first if there’s any pesticide restriction in your area.

Seasonal Considerations for Your Container Garden

The seasons are not always going to be kind to your plants. So, below is a list of the few things you need to keep in mind to deal with them:

Summer Vs. Winter

When the sun is at its hottest mode of the day, make sure you provide shade to the plants and increase the frequency of watering.

For plants with similar water needs, group them to ease up the water work. On the other hand, for the hard-cold winter, you better insulate the plants with frost clothes or burlap. You don’t have to do this for evergreen plants like pansies.

Planting with Seasons

Spring is the best time to sow lettuce, peas, and spinach seeds. So, these are what you want in your garden; write down the time.

With the season warming up—I mean, the summer—you can go for summer herbs and flowering plants. And yes, you better plant heat-tolerant plants like peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a great way to maintain the health of the soil. Plus, it helps a lot with preventing pests and diseases as well. But make sure you’re doing it according to the season’s needs.

The End


Now you know how to create a container garden in the city. To keep it all in one place, I’ve tried to explain everything, from the basics to seasonal considerations.

So, I hope this step-by-step guide will ease it all up for you. Don’t worry; you’re going to know a lot more once you get started.

Happy Gardening!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the disadvantage of container gardening?

It needs more maintenance compared to in-ground gardens, especially in the growing season. Plus, sometimes the limited space of the container restricts the growth of the plants.

How do I start a cheap container garden?

You can use repurposed containers and frugal or free soil to start gardening. Besides, rather than starting with plants, you can start with seeds, as they’re comparatively cheaper.

Is container gardening better than raised beds?

In some ways, they are. Raised beds don’t have the limited space issue. Plus, they offer more space for the plants and require less maintenance.

What is the most common mistake made with container plants?

Well, it’s improper watering. Sometimes the gardeners overwater, which makes the plant roots rot. On the contrary, sometimes they’re underwater, which can stunt the plant’s growth and mess with the root systems.

Should I put rocks at the bottom of my container?

No, you shouldn’t. This can prevent the water from draining properly and make the roots rot.

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