Our Northern California home builders at Annadel Builders Inc. love any excuse to be outdoors gardening in beautiful Napa and Sonoma counties! If you’re one of many people who like the idea of gardening but simply don’t have the space or time for an in-ground garden plot, container gardening is the perfect solution. No matter how small your yard or how hectic your schedule, potted plants allow you to reap the benefits of garden fresh vegetables and herbs without the time and resource commitment of a regular garden. All you’ll need are containers, plants, soil, and water—it’s that simple!

  1. Choose the right soil – First off, make sure to start your garden right with the right kind of soil. Many people mistakenly assume that they can use any old soil, dump it in a flower pot, and expect their plants to grow well. Instead, it’s best to use specialized potting mix for the specific plant you’re trying to grow. Do a little research to see what soil mix is best for your plants, then check to see if it’s available at your local garden centers or home improvement stores.
  2. Prep your containers – Make sure to choose containers at least two inches deeper and two inches wider than the potting container the plant came in. Next, check to make sure the pots have drainage holes in the bottom, then cover the bottom with window screening, cheesecloth, or landscape fabric to prevent soil from falling out. Fill your container about two-thirds of the way with soil mix to save room for the plant. 
  3. Water well, but not too well – After you’ve planted, fill the container with soil to within several inches of the top.  Next, water thoroughly. If the container is sitting in a potting basin, fill it several inches deep with water to allow the soil to soak up as much as it can hold. This type of watering is best for plants that don’t do well with getting their leaves wet, such as African violets.  Keep in mind, however, that overwatering can be just as bad for plants as underwatering. Before watering, check the soil moisture by placing your finger in the soil up to your second knuckle. If the soil is dry at this depth, it’s time to water, just make sure to keep the drainage holes in your pot clear to keep plants from “drowning.” 
  4. Choose the right plants – Some plants do better than others in pots. Herbs, for instance, do particularly well in containers, and come in many shapes and sizes, as do salad greens, strawberries, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and more. Simply match the plant size with the appropriate sized container, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your potting! Use an assortment of hanging baskets, ceramic pots, wine barrels, or old wheelbarrows. Flip through gardening magazines for plant combinations and color scheme inspiration, or simply ask for advice at your local gardening shop.
  5. Judge sun exposure – Make sure plants will not be sitting in direct midday sun—even if the plant requires full sun. Containers tend to heat up much more than soil, meaning that potted plants will need some relief from the midday sun. Instead, consider placing your plants in an area with relative shade, but also where they will be able to receive indirect sunlight from reflective surfaces.
  6. Keep the soil fresh – Change potting soil when the soil hardens, or when plants begin to wilt despite regular watering. Depending on what you’re planting, consider supplementing the soil with a mixture of peat moss, manure, garden loam, or perlite. Plant food can also be added to regular potting mix to enhance the amounts of soil nutrients. Finally, consider getting a soil test to ensure your soil is around 6.5 pH.