organic container gardening

Six Issues in Successful Organic Container Gardening

Organic container gardening is a natural offshoot of general organic gardening. Let’s take a look at how this system would work.

The Container

The first thing to deal with is the container. We’re looking for a natural container here – one made of wood, clay, pressed papers (although this last one could be debatable)

I’m not overly interested in plastics and others made of non-renewable resources. But if that’s your thing – then go for it.


The most important component of a container garden is the soil. The next little bit of advice is heretical in the container gardening world but it does come from my own experience.

You can grow container gardens in straight peat moss. (It’s tricky but it can be done)  Or – better –  you can use up to 20% of composted manure in peat moss

Do not go above the 20% line when you’re adding it to other materials. My practical trials this summer showed that drainage was not adversely influenced when 15-20% bagged manure was added to the peat. Above this number, plant growth was no better.

Real compost – made yourself using a hot system can be added at greater quantities but I still recommend being careful about going over 20%.

I Use A Soilless Mix

You can also use a soil-less potting soil such as Pro-Mix – these are the only ones I use.  Note these would not pass an organic certification program because they usually contain a wetting agent.

Do Not Use Real Garden Soil or Potting Soil

Using a garden soil-based mix can lead to major drainage problems and aeration problems as the soil based mix tends to turn to concrete under repeated waterings.
Using a potting soil for houseplants that contains real soil creates the same issues as above.

Plants to Grow

Plants can be anything you can grow in the ground. Seriously, I have no idea why some folks recommend this plant or that plant as “container plants” (other than perhaps they’re smaller) but I grow anything I want in a container. From full size banana plants to rare alpines, they’ve all lived in a container in my garden at one time or the other.

And yes, that includes full size tomatoes and other vegetables.


The single best fertilizer for organic container gardening (imho) would be fish emulsion. Because it has a relatively high nitrogen count, using fish emulsion replaces the nitrogen that gets flushed out of the container during watering.

Reusing Container Soil

I reuse my container soil from year to year. Watch the video below and don’t do what I do and drive the shovel in so hard it cracks the pot. 🙂  But do add compost or composted manure to a freshly loosened up container to give it some life.  I’ve used the same soil in my current containers for at least 5 years now.

Insect control

Control of insects and garden pests in organic container gardening is no different than for regular organic controls.

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My Bottom Line

The bottom line when it comes to organic container gardening is to ensure you have a good soil, feed it using the organic supplies above and follow basic environmentally sound methods of garden pest control.

You can grow anything you like this way and it’s not much different than organic gardening in the main garden.

If you have questions about container gardening, I’ve written an ebook about those and you can find that here.

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