What’s the Hardest Part About Starting Your Container Garden?

Posted on Apr 2 2012 - 1:13am by Mike Lieberman

You want to start container gardening, but there is one thing that’s stopping you?

What is it?

I’ve been asking for your feedback over the last few weeks through surveys and on the Urban Organic Gardener Facebook page.

The reason for asking is because I’m starting to develop an online vegetable container gardening training course for you that will empower you to easily start growing your own food.

Based on what you have told me, the hardest part about starting…is just that. It’s starting.

Reasons why you aren’t starting your container garden

  • It’s too overwhelming.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Not knowing where to start.
  • I have a black thumb and history of killing plants.
  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
  • I want to know exactly what to do.

Any of those sound familiar to you?

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Your turn

In order to help you start growing your own food without the confusion and provide the best value for you with this this training, in the comments below let me know what else are the hardest parts about starting your container garden?

Photo courtesy of Music2Work2 on Flickr.

40 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. megan April 2, 2012 at 2:09 am -

    I was hesitant to start because my balcony is in the shade. I did some research and found out what climate zone I’m in and what will grow in that zone. Just taking that step helped me a lot. I bought a compact fluorescent bulb for my balcony light, which seems to be working out well. I have thyme, mint, rosemary, Calabrese broccoli, and garlic all thriving out there now, despite a freak snow storm last week. I have snow peas, watercress, alpine strawberries and lemon basil in the dirt, but not yet sprouted. I also thought I had a “brown thumb,” having killed several houseplants over the years, but doing my homework has really paid off. My local library has a great gardening section, I definitely suggest to everyone to utilize their libraries. Seeing those first little sprouts poke up out of the soil is very satisfying!

  2. Runa Elara-Sulwen April 2, 2012 at 8:49 am -

    I am lucky enough to have a backyard this year – but the owner of my place is waiting for permits to tear the place down so there’s no point in creating an elaborate garden. A friend gave me a bunch of wooden wine boxes – about 14 or so of them. She said all I’d have to do was drill holes in the bottom of them. Then Iooked on line and instructions for preparing these boxes get quite complex. I am living on a very small disability income so I don’t exactly have the money, (or a car  to carry lots of soil and other stuff) or the ability to engage in any time/energy/expense/skilled labour to create container gardens. Maybe the most I can do is drill holes in the bottom and fill them with a soil mixture that a friend gave me. I don’t have a bunch of gardener’s cloth or pebbles for the bottom on hand. The boxes are maybe 6 to 8 inches deep. So I figure I won’t be able to grow much more than salad type stuff. I’ve never done this before, so anything I’m going to try doing is what I can look up online. But I feel daunted…overwhelmed…scared to even begin…I don’t even know how to start the seedlings first…I have been saving up a few egg cartons here and there…and, to be honest, I’m not a big salad girl. I prefer to eat stuff like tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and a few herbs like basil and oregano…but I would not be likely to eat a lot of lettuce…

  3. Mxqueen April 2, 2012 at 8:49 am -

    I want to keep my veggies totally organic and don’t want to use anything that could possibly leech chemicals into my organic soil, like plastic. But the terracotta pots add up and get expensive. So, oddly enough, its the containers that are stopping me from container gardening!

  4. Mike Lieberman April 2, 2012 at 8:56 am -

    Good job!

  5. Sandri G. April 2, 2012 at 9:17 am -

    I used to have a large garden when I owned my own house. Now that I rent, I’m going to try a container garden. The initial cost for the soil seems daunting. I generally can everything in the garden, so I don’t plant much lettuce. I do make lots of relishes from zucchini and anything else that will work.  🙂  Where can I get cheap soil and possibly vermiculite and fertilizer. I want to be as organic as possible, but that is even more expensive.

  6. Mike Lieberman April 2, 2012 at 9:28 am -

    You got this!

  7. Mike Lieberman April 2, 2012 at 9:29 am -

    The containers with the recycling number 5 aren’t known to leach chemicals. Also there is no need to be perfect. Is the stuff you buy from the store perfect? What you grow on your own will surely be better than that…even if it’s grown in plastic.

  8. Mike Lieberman April 2, 2012 at 9:29 am -

    You can do it!

  9. Onie April 2, 2012 at 11:15 am -

    The cost of soil for the containers!  What is the best way to get a good growing mix with little cost?  

  10. Mwill39209 April 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm -

    this person just asked several questions and all u can give her is “you got this!” soooo, u really r no help huh?

  11. Mike Lieberman April 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm -

    Hmmm. Not sure on that one.

  12. Alaina Delabruere April 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm -

    I’ve started growing some flowers indoors in my containers. I just don’t know if or when I should start growing my vegetables (lettuce, wax beans, & carrots) – should I indoors or wait until after the last front to start outdoors, do I need to do them in a seed starting kit or can I just put them in the container – I just kind of picked up seeds that were “container” approved and didn’t really pay attention to the sun light part so I’m not sure if they will even grow. I got miracle grow potting soil and some fertilizer granules – is that good? I’m just really hesitant about the hole thing. I live in zone 4 if that makes a difference.

  13. Mike Lieberman April 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm -

    Generally you want to wait until that last frost to put stuff outdoors. As for Miracle-Gro I personally stay away from it https://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/2011/07/is-miracle-gro-organic-who-cares/

  14. Seedling April 2, 2012 at 11:13 pm -

     Check if you can get old manure from somewhere… they usually give it for free 😉 Old one wont smell at all and you can put in in bottom of pots and then normal soil on top if u are afraid of the possible smell. It is usually free..and 100% organic 😉

  15. Jessica Donaldson April 4, 2012 at 9:31 am -

    I think the hardest part about starting my garden was the fear that everything I plant is going to die. Although I have so many seed in order to plant more, I still think I have that black thumb.

    One thing that also caused me to put it off was that I was having a hard time choosing what plants to plant and how I would put them together.

    The things that helped me start was your videos and the fact that my grandfather was an avid gardener. I could use all his leftover potting soil and gardening tools. Any way to save a few dollars.

  16. Christensenju April 4, 2012 at 11:41 am -

    Omg! I ended up in your website, cause i was looking for a crash course on how to grow my own vegetable garden( I dont know anything about it), and just seeing your posts aand videos, made me realize thats not that dificult, but…the start! You are doing a wonderful job, keep on the good vibe!!!

  17. Mike Lieberman April 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm -

    Keepin it simple is always best.

  18. Mike Lieberman April 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm -

    That’s what’s up. Keep me updated.

  19. Nojocoq April 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm -

    I have some experience with gardening organically, and am excited about trying again in containers.  The thing that i am stuck on is finding a way to drill the holes in the inner containers to fit the watering pipe, and wonder if there is another way to effectively water my veggies without having access to the electric tools.

  20. Alberta knudtsen April 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm -

    I want to compost on my porch, but I’m not sure what will work in a small drum about 10 gal. Will the stuff decompose as well as in a larger drum? Should I shred stuff more? Should I add liquids? How wet or dry should it be? I’d like to have some compost before starting my container garden, but maybe that will take too long?

  21. Mike Lieberman April 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm -

    Hmmm…not sure on that one.

  22. Mike Lieberman April 8, 2012 at 7:48 pm -

    You can compost in a 10gallon pail. Just can’t take that many scraps. Blend em down to speed up the decomposition.

  23. Catherine Bouzide April 9, 2012 at 6:50 am -

    I am not sure of what soil to use.  Pre packaged seems full of chemicals.  I also have a lot of wonderful stuff from my urban hens that has sat around for 6 months.  What do you think of me just mixing that up… let/s say 3 to 1 ration for containers and vegetables?

  24. Mike Lieberman April 9, 2012 at 7:30 am -

    I’ve been using Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest and like it.

  25. ScottfromtheBK April 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm -

    I’m experimenting with a 1:1:1 mix of Johnny’s 512 mix, compost from my worm bin, and coir.  The results have been pretty fantastic so far – my seedlings look a lot better at this point than where they were last year.

    Hope this helps…

  26. Kelly April 11, 2012 at 9:15 pm -

    I live in Az and container gardens always die in the intense heat.  I’ve just about given up.  Any recommendations on how to keep a garden cool and to not dry out too quickly?  Love your site!

  27. Mike Lieberman April 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm -

    Rain barrel and soaker hoses?

  28. Nescett April 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm -

    I’ll be eagerly awaiting this!  I guess I’d love step by step instructions:  pots, soil, seeds, watering, time of year etc.  Everything!  🙂

  29. Mike Lieberman April 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm -

    Everything…that’s a good starting point.

  30. Resistancediaryof1 April 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm -

    The hardest part so far for me has been finding/planning the right containers and supplies. Pots are expensive. Those of us without cars have trouble getting and transporting things, soil especially. The more you can show me how to get the what I need within walking distance, the better.

    Also really discouraging was finding out all the stuff I planted from the grocery store was CMS (cytoplasmic male sterile). Again, this is a problem of easily getting the proper supplies. And easily is important. Full-time jobs and family take nearly all a person’s time; and being simply too exhausted is a real barrier for most in getting started.

    Most helpful so far have been your ghetto-fixes- genius ways of turning household trash into containers. For example, the upside-down 3-Liter coke bottles with rocks in the bottom, suspended by strings. I’ve had a steady supply of carrots for a month now on that tip- since I just go outside and raid our recycle bin whenever I need new containers.

    Mike rocks!!

  31. Sbg4evr April 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm -

    How to get rid of squirrels.  The tree rats climb onto my patio and eat everything growing in my containers.  

  32. Kidswriter April 15, 2012 at 8:07 am -

    What soil mixture and plant food to use. I need a ‘recipe’ for the soil and a recommendation on the fertilizer or plant food..

  33. Mike Lieberman April 15, 2012 at 8:49 pm -

    That’s what’s up!

  34. Mike Lieberman April 15, 2012 at 8:49 pm -

    Shotgun does it everytime.

  35. Mike Lieberman April 15, 2012 at 8:49 pm -

    Check this post https://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/2009/06/making-potting-soil/

  36. Jjrb07 April 20, 2012 at 3:43 am -

    We use an airsoft gun.  Gives them a nice little bruise without risk of serious injury to them or anyone in the area and you wont damage anything on the balcony either.  Scares them out of their minds, they dont come back for a couple of months.  Keep it by the back door.

  37. Mike Lieberman April 20, 2012 at 8:02 am -

    Ohhh I like that idea.

  38. Kristin May 23, 2012 at 9:07 am -

    Hello, Thank you for all the amazing tips and information. I’m about to start my first container garden. I’m wondering about cold climates. In New York, did you plant year round, or only in warm months? If you still used your garden in the winter, how did you deal with the cold?
    Thank you!

  39. Mike Lieberman May 23, 2012 at 9:36 am -

    I’m putting together some info on this now.

  40. Growingfromtheinside June 22, 2012 at 11:14 pm -


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