Save Water with Container Gardening

container gardenGardeners in drought-stricken areas are wondering if they should plant a vegetable garden this season.

It’s a good question because research shows that up to 60 percent of household water is used outside.

And up to 40-50 percent of that water is wasted because of inefficient irrigation systems and methods.

I live in a part of the country that experiences cyclical droughts, so I’ve had plenty of time to rethink my outside water use.

I work hard to make sure every drop of water is put to good use, so my advice to gardeners struggling with that question is to go ahead and plant. But first come up with a plan for using less water in the garden.

One of the best ways I’ve found to save water is by planting in containers instead of an in-ground garden. I’ve found that container planting works in just about any small space garden, it’s more convenient, it saves gardening time, the containers are portable and they’re easier to maintain.

Plus, container gardening helps save water.

One reason planting in containers conserves water is that each container is covered with a thick layer of mulch after planting. I use dried untreated grass clippings and dry shredded leaves. Straw also works as a good, water-conserving mulch.

Another way that planting in containers saves water is the garden is watered deeply and infrequently. I water by hand, but there are drip irrigation systems specially designed to water container gardens. Any water runoff is captured in deep saucers for uptake when the soil starts to dry.

If containers are grouped closely together, it helps reduce evaporation. Most of the containers have three or four sides protected from the sun and wind.

Some of the important points to remember about planting a container garden include:

  • Making sure the container is large enough to support the size of the mature plant.
  • Using a good quality potting soil meant for container growing.
  • Mixing in a slow-release fertilizer before planting.
  • Using mulch to keep soil moist.
  • Watering only when the top several inches of soil is dry.
  • Fertilizing with a liquid fertilizer about once a month.
  • Harvesting fruits and vegetables as soon as they’re ready so plants keep producing.
  • Planting flowers in the vegetable container garden to attract pollinators.

Would you like more tips for planting a water-saving container garden? My small-space vegetable gardening class on Craftsy will help you save water in your container garden, while saving $20, too: Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small-Space Solutions.


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Hi Jodi,

I could not agree with you more. You can grow a lot in containers also. Right now I have celery, collards, cabbage and red mustard growing in containers.

I am looking to try some peppers and tomatoes this year in some larger containers to see how that goes, although last year I did not have much success with zucchini. I think I needed a larger pot.

Thanks for your comments, Mike!

I’ve experimented with growing just about everything in containers–especially tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I’ve found the bigger the container, the better the end result. I’ve grown zucchini, too, but the plants produced only about half of what I grew in the garden bed.

Here’s wishing you a great gardening season!


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