Best Container Garden Guide (Affordable + Renter-Friendly)

Whether you’re renting a home in the city or own a homestead, this guide will help you create a container garden of your own! Gardening is such a great skill and guess what you can learn it too! In this blog, I’m walking you through each step, from the best affordable containers to tips for a successful gardening season.

car back opened up with soil bags, planters, and plants
Source: Plum Branch Home

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Growing up, my family always had a garden each summer. I don’t remember a year we didn’t have something growing. Some of my fondest childhood memories are planting seeds in the warm soil and picking zucchini next to my mom. After going to college and moving into rental homes, I’ve always longed to grow my own food again which is what brought me to container gardening.

Gardening not only gives you the power to be more self-sufficient but it also gives you a homemaking skill that is priceless. So many people get discouraged when starting a garden which is why I wanted to write this simple guide to answer any questions. Let’s destroy that self-doubt.

If you are renting an apartment, you can grow a mini container garden on the balcony. If you own a homestead with acres of land, you can choose to grow a container garden. It doesn’t matter where you’re located, as long as you’ve got a will to learn and some patience you’re ready to go!

How To Plan Your Container Garden Design

Before you buckle up and blast off to the store, it’s important to create a basic design for your container garden. First, decide where your container garden will go and measure the space. Once you’ve got the measurements, grab a sheet of paper and write them down.

Next, on that piece of paper create a simple sketch of the layout you’re thinking. If you need ideas, head over to Pinterest and type in “container garden layout”. This will help you create a style you love. For our container garden, I wanted it to be simple and a little rustic looking for a small patio.

Finding the Most Affordable Options

Then you’ll want to get online and search your local stores for containers, soil, and plants. This step will help you find the cheapest options. If you get overwhelmed at the store, this will help a ton! Write down any exact items you want so they’ll be easy to find. Finally, head to the store(s) (Walmart has the best budget-friendly garden items) and get shopping! Also shopping online can be a great idea, especially for containers.

Best Potting Soil for Container Gardening

The soil you choose for container gardening will make an enormous difference in how your plants grow. It’ll also create their nutrition levels because we eat what the plants eat essentially. This may vary from person to person but organic soil is extremely important to me. I will forever recommend going organic for more nutrients, fewer toxins, and a better-tasting harvest.

If you’re looking for organic soil, the most affordable brand I could find is Whitney Farms Organic Potting Soil. The nutrients are truly natural and it feeds the plants for months! Other organic brands had a few interesting additives that I just couldn’t get behind. You can find this soil online or in stores such as your local Walmart.

Affordable Container Ideas for Container Gardening

It took me days to find the cheapest containers for our garden that didn’t look like garbage pales. I ended up going with two different types of planters. We choose a large raised garden bed made of wood and two large rectangle galvanized tubs. These tubs were originally made to store outdoor drinks for parties, for only $18 each! We got both of these items at Walmart. For the tubs, I had my husband drill two drainage holes in the bottoms with a 1/2-inch drill bit. This saved almost $30 per tub by making our own planters! During my research, I found quite a few affordable container options that I’ll share below:

planter full of dirt and plants beside it
Source: Plum Branch Home

Best Fruits and Vegetables for a Container Garden

Now it’s time to choose the plants you’ll grow. You can start from seeds (the most affordable) or get pre-grown starts at a local nursery. There are pros and cons to both but it boils down to what you prefer. For us, we got a late start so we opted for pre-grown.

Choosing Varieties

To decide what varieties you’ll grow make a list of fruits and vegetables you and your family eat the most. Also, make a list of what grows well in your gardening zone for that particular time of year. Finally, find out how many plants can fit in your containers by measuring them. If you’re unsure how many inches a certain plant needs, do a quick Google search.

Choosing Organic vs Regular Plants

When gardening, you’re reducing the toxins present in the food you eat. Choosing organic will give you more nutrients and more flavor. For us, we chose to go organic and are so happy we did! Either way, you’re reducing pesticides and developing a healthier way of eating!

container planters full of plants on back side of house with dog peaking out
Source: Plum Branch Home

How to Keep Your Container Garden Cost-Effective

Container gardening can be as cheap or expensive as you’d like it to be. It’s all about creating something that works for your life. Reuse what you are able to, look for deals, and never settle for something you don’t love.

Reuse What You Can

If the budget is tight, reuse old jugs, pots, and even coffee bean canisters to use as planters. When cutting up bell peppers from the store, lay the seeds out to dry and sprout them for planting. You don’t always have to get new.

Shop Local Nurseries for Plants

When looking for plants, head to local nurseries in your area. Many times you’ll find cheaper plants there compared to stores like Walmart or Home Depot.

Shop Walmart for Gardening Items

For your gardening items like pots, watering cans, etc. shop Walmart and Lowe’s for cheaper options. These items are not necessarily budget-friendly at some nurseries but they can be.

Choose Perennial Plants to Save Next Year

If you can, choose perennial plants such as strawberries, blueberries, and garlic. These plants lay dormant (if protected correctly) and come back next year!

Advantages of Starting a Container Garden

  • You can choose everything that goes into your plants
  • Easier to move the garden
  • Renter-friendly
  • Affordable
  • Fun weekend project
  • Fewer weeds

Disadvantages of Starting a Container Garden

  • More water needed
  • More nutrients and fertilizers needed
  • Cost of containers and soil
  • Needs more attention than a regular garden

Step-By-Step Instructions To Start a Container Garden

  • First, create a container garden design with measurements using Pinterest for inspiration.
  • Second, make a list of fruits and vegetables you’ll grow and decide how many you’ll need.
  • Third, decide how many containers and what kind you want.
  • Forth, head online to price-check local stores and online shops for the best deals.
  • Fifth, head online or go to the store to shop for everything you need.
  • Sixth, assemble your planters, and add soil, plants, and water.
  • Seventh, add any fertilizer and watch them grow!
plants planted in a raised bed
Source: Plum Branch Home

Tips to Have a Successful Container Gardening Season

After planting your container garden, be sure to keep an eye on the plants. You’ll probably need to water them every 1-3 days depending on the heat and temperatures. Since the soil is not part of the ground, it dries out much faster. If the leaves start to wilt it’s time to water.

For strawberries especially, be sure to clip any new start to ensure your plant grows more fruit rather than multiplying the plant itself. For tomatoes, once they start to bloom add a cage or stick to help them stand up straight.

Non-toxic Container Garden Fertilizers

Now that your garden is growing, the last thing you want to do is dump a bunch of chemicals on it. Instead of using store-bought fertilizers, make your own at home! Many times, the fertilizer your plants need is right in the kitchen.

Acidic Loving Plants Natural Fertilizer

For example, strawberries tend to need a slightly acidic fertilizer in the soil. You can use 1-2 Tablespoons of your brewed morning coffee grounds instead of throwing them in the trash. Just be sure not to dump them right on the plants to avoid burning the stems.

Alkaline Loving Plants Natural Fertilizer

For plants that like more alkaline soil, you can fertilize them with eggshell powder. After your morning eggs, let the shells dry out and blend them in a food processor or blender until a powder. Pour this around the soil and you’ve got a homemade fertilizer!

More Imperfect Homemaking Inspiration

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2 Comments

  1. Your garden looks great, love the containers you guys choose! Organic 💚
    I love gardening, gives you great feeling of accomplishment when you pick your vegetables, herbs etc..
    And you know what’s on your vegetables etc. and where they came from!!

    Thanks for this blog, lots of great information!

    1. Thank you so much! Yes it does! We love bringing the fresh fruits and veggies into the kitchen, it’s so rewarding! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!!