How to Start a Container Garden Like a Pro {With an Organic Fertilizer Recipe}

Do you have a container garden? I love them! They’re perfect for when I want to add a splash of color to my patio or for someone who is just learning how to grow herbs indoors. Container gardens are awesome for people with small spaces or for those that may not have a yard and instead only have a balcony or patio. They can be a fantastic way for someone who wants to save money on groceries since it allows you to grow at least a few of the items that you eat rather than buy them.

Thinking about starting a container garden? Read this first! I'll give you the secret to learning how to grow a container garden like a pro!

When you first start to take a look at how to start a container garden, you’ll most likely be really tempted to jump right in and start planting. While it would be great for you to get your plants started, there are a few things that you will want to know beforehand. Doing research before you get started can really go a long way toward helping your container garden grow lush and full. When we started making things homemade instead of buying them, the second thing we did was to look at the supplies that we could possibly grow here at home.  Could we grow lavender for my homemade lavender deodorant? Yes! Could we grow mint for my green tea & peppermint bath soak? Yes! While it changes the recipe a bit to use the dried herb over the essential oil, the effects and benefits are still the same.Doing this has helped us to cut our expenses quite a bit and as a result of having our indoor garden, our family budget is sitting even happier than it was before.

How to Grow a Container Garden Like a Pro

Do you know what you will be growing in your indoor garden? Will it be flowers? Small vegetables? Herbs? Whichever you go with, you’ll need to start your garden seeds before you transfer them to their permanent containers. Be sure that you get your seeds from a reputable source and start them 4-6 weeks before you want to transplant them into their permanent containers. I get all of my seeds from Ohio Heirloom Seeds. We’ve never had a single issue with getting them to germinate and they always produce exactly how I want them to. No, they didn’t pay me to tell you that. I just love their seeds.

When you go to choose your containers for your new container garden, you’ll have quite a bit to choose from. You can use anything from a classic terra cotta pot to a vegetable oil bottle to an old tire and even recycled pallets. Just remember to rinse all of your containers out very well, especially if you’re using one that used to contain food. There are thousands of different upcycling ideas for the garden that you could grow your container garden in. As long as they are the proper size, you shouldn’t have too many issues using them. There are a few things you’ll need to look for in your container before you get started.

When you go to plan what you’ll be growing in your container garden, you’ll want to take a look at how much space the plant needs to grow. You’ll find this info on the seed packet. For instance, if you want to grow tomatoes then you will need a container that will hold 3-5 gallons, but with herbs you can fit 4-6 herb plants into a 12″ saucer pot as long as you give it space to trail over the side if needed. Making sure that you pay attention to this will ensure that your plant has plenty of room to grow and by default, that your container garden is healthy and productive.

Your container also needs to allow your plants to drain properly so if your chosen container doesn’t have any, you’ll need to drill them. A good measurement to go with is 1/4″ for each hole and you’ll want to have at least three in each container, but for larger containers I would suggest that you use more than three.

With that being said, most plants need at least 6” of potting soil to be truly healthy. You’ll want to make sure that your container has room for that so it may be better to simply skip the smaller options and instead, automatically opt for a larger container. You’ll save money by doing so since you won’t risk your plant not growing properly due to not having enough space.

Using a fertilizer on your indoor garden doesn’t hurt either. We prefer to use a homemade organic fertilizer recipe that we make up ourselves. It is a mixture of organic potting soil, bone meal, blood meal and a few other ingredients that help help provide the plant with the nutrients it needs without adding chemicals that could be harmful to the mix since too many synthetic ingredients can burn the plant and hinder growth or fruit production.

As far as the ingredients in our organic fertilizer recipe,  organic potting soil is the base. Bone meal helps with root development so that the plant can get itself established. Blood meal gives the leaves, fruit, and flowers it’s much needed nutrients and we all know how much compost can help a plant.

Organic Fertilizer Recipe

In whatever container you’re using, create a mixture that is one-third potting soil, vermiculite and compost evenly. Use whatever container you’ll be using as a permanent container for your plant as your measure. Add 1 cup bone meal and 1 cup blood meal and mix well. Use this to plant your indoor garden with.

Once your seeds are started and the plants are hardy, you’re ready to transfer them to the container you chose in the beginning. Layer an inch of rocks or pebbles in the bottom of the container and thin fill ¾ full with the potting soil/organic fertilizer mix and create a hole or depression big enough for the roots in the dirt wherever you will be putting your seedling.

Gently tap the side of the container that your seedling is currently in and slide it up and out of the temporary container. Tease the roots gently to help free them and spread them out. Place the seedling into its permanent home making sure that the roots are spread out a bit and not all bunched together. Gently cover the roots with the potting soil to finish transplanting it. If the plant you’re transplanting is one that you want to have vines hanging over, tilt it at a 45 degree angle before you cover the roots of and if you’re planting multiple plants per pot, taller plants should go toward the center of the pot with leafy or bushy plants around the center to allow for maximum growth.

After your plants are happy in their new home, they will need watered. Water them heavily this first time for 60-90 seconds after the water runs out of the drainage holes. This will allow you to wash away any salt deposits that might be on the roots.  The key to correct watering is to water long and slow than fast and shallow so be sure to take your time. You’ll want to water your container garden once a day for the first week unless the temperature is above 90 degrees where you are storing them. If that is the case, water them twice a day. Whatever you do, don’t let your plant dry out or become a soggy mess. Improper watering will kill your plant faster than you can say “water the garden.”

Don't buy chemical filled fertilizer for your garden! This homemade organic fertilizer recipe is easy to make and so much better for your plants!

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Stacy Barr
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Stacy Barr

Stacy Barr is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family . By the age of 30, she had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Her book, also called Six Dollar Family, has sold more than 7,000 copies since its release.

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