Growing a Wintertime Container Garden

container gardening

Picture by Rex Trulove

What do you do when summer gives way to fall and fall to winter, when you want fresh herbs and produce? Many people think that they are out of luck and must wait until the next growing season. That means that they resign themselves to eating the flavorless produce and dried herbs from the store. There is a better way.

Imagine; it is the middle of winter and outside the wind and snow is blowing hard. The landscape is covered with its blanket of snow, and the dim light filtering through the clouds is gloomy. But in your living room, it is like a scene out of a tropical paradise. Plants are growing and blooming, the scent of herbs brighten the atmosphere of the room and fresh vegetables grace the table.

Another scenario; you have a small place such as an apartment, with no yard or flower beds, yet you have fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers that you’ve grown yourself.

Not only are both of these possible, they are not difficult to accomplish, through container gardening. You don’t even need to have a green thumb.

Nearly everyone is aware of people who have houseplants and while this qualifies as container gardening, it will be taken further here. The benefits far outweigh the difficulties.

Container gardening

First, look at the term, “container gardening”. It is exactly as it sounds, growing plants in pots or other containers. The pots can indeed be outdoors, on a patio, a balcony, or they can be indoors. For someone with garden space, they can be an easy way to increase that garden space, and for the person who has none or who doesn’t have the time to garden conventionally, they can be the only way that they can produce flowers, herbs or vegetables, especially in the winter.


The containers can be plant pots, window boxes, baskets, aquariums and almost anything else that allows proper drainage so that the roots of the plant do not end up sitting in water. The container should be large enough for the adult plants. It wouldn’t make a great deal of sense to try to grow full-sized carrots, for instance, in a window box that was only 3 inches deep. On the other hand, it is needless waste to grow a single radish in a 20 inch pot. As always, common sense dictates the need of the plant and allows a person to act accordingly.

The soil

Store bought potting soil works well for most flowers and many other plants, however a person should keep in mind the type of soil the plant grows in naturally. Cactus grows better in sandy, nutrient poor soil than it does in rich potting mix, Oregano grows better in rocky soil than loamy soil, but tomatoes don’t do well in soil that isn’t full of plenty of nutrients. If you are going to grow all three of these, then, it would be a good idea to have sandy, rocky and rich soil to use, and to adjust it respectively according to the plant that is being grown.

Light level

For winter gardening especially, light is a crucial point. Most plants know when to go dormant by the amount of light they receive. A grow light or similar can make up for the shorter days of winter and allow the plant to continue to grow.


This is another essential. Plants must be kept at the right temperature or they will probably either struggle or die. Hardy plants tend to do well over a very wide range, but the more sensitive the plant, the more constant the temperature should be. Tomatoes do best with warm or hot temperatures, while cactus can flourish if there is an occasional time of cold temperatures. Most plants will also tolerate great fluctuations. This is true of plants such as garden sage.


Container plants are actually far easier to water than is a regular garden, normally. The reason is that the water is contained. The general rule is that the plant should be well watered, but not allowed to sit in water, and the soil should at least partly dry out between waterings. Naturally, some plants require more water than others, but most people will have fairly good luck if they follow the general rule.


Usually, fertilizing isn’t a big concern, especially if the plants are occasionally repotted with fresh soil and if the soil is in proper shape prior to planting. If fertilizer is needed, though, there are plenty of commercial products available and even used coffee ground sprinkled over the soil often works well.

Container gardening can be done by almost anyone and the results can be striking. Flowers, fresh herbs and fresh vegetables in the middle of winter are only some of the benefits. If you want to impress any visitors you may have, try having a small productive container garden. But the greatest “secret” is that the container garden is something that you can enjoy, day after day. Start making your container garden today.

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