Containers are an easier way to garden

Recent signs of spring are causing many of us to start thinking about gardening. In-ground gardens can be hard on aging backs and knees, though, because of the stooping and kneeling required to plant and maintain them. Container gardens are a great alternative for those who love gardens but find them hard to keep up.

Containers can be elevated on plant stands, tables, window sills or deck railings to make them easier to reach. They can be placed close to the house or indoors, so that bags of soil don’t need to be carried long distances. Their smaller size means easier weeding, feeding and watering. The myriad sizes and styles available allow for creative design options. They also make it easy to bring annuals inside for the winter.

Virtually anything grown in the ground can also grow in a container. Plants, flowers and herbs, and most vegetables and small trees all do well in containers. It’s important to check the instructions for planting, care and growth zones when buying plants to make sure they are suitable for containers and for the amount of sunlight your garden receives.

Avoid strain on your back by buying lightweight containers. Place the containers where you want them before filling them, and locate them so that watering, weeding, deadheading and harvesting are easy for you to do. You might also want to buy smaller bags of soil, which are easier to carry than larger ones. 

Start small with your container garden. It's easy to become overzealous at the garden center and buy more plants than you can handle. Even if buying a whole flat is less expensive, try to buy only as many as you can plant at one time. If your budget is tight, focus on seeds, cuttings and native plants rather than mature or imported plants.

Choose containers with good drainage holes in the bottom. Put a half-inch layer of small pebbles, broken pottery or wood chips in the bottom of the container. Next, fill it with a mixture of two-thirds good quality soil and one-third peat moss. Peat moss adds lightness, nutrients, and helps retain moisture. Fill your containers to one inch below the rim.

An easy way to create an interesting and visually pleasing container arrangement is to follow the “thriller, filler and spiller” method of planting. The thriller is the focal piece that grabs your attention—usually the tallest and showiest plant in the container. Fillers are medium-height plants that fill the space around the thriller. Spillers are trailers that cascade out of the pot and grow toward the ground, acting as a visual anchor for the arrangement. You can have more than one kind of filler and spiller in a container, but they shouldn’t compete with the thriller for attention.

Proper design and care of your container garden will provide you with a relaxing hobby that will continue to produce pleasing results, year after year. Enjoy!

Judith Eugene

Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges through She may be reached at 216-408-5578 or

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 11:08 AM, 03.28.2013