What is the Key to Having A Successful Vegetable & Flower Container Garden?

Posted by Gary Pilarchik on

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop


I am often asked what is the key to having a successful container garden and the answer is consistent even moisture. If a container plant dries out completely, one time, it devastates the future growth and production of that vegetable plant. For instance, tomato plants, can manifest a physiological disease called blossom end rot. The bottoms of the tomato turn brown and rot. This is due to the plant not being able to access calcium through its roots. While fertilizer, sunlight, and pest and disease management are important, success starts with soil.

Visit Beyond Peat's Website to learn more about their products.


The number one reason this occurs, is not because there isn't calcium in the soil, it is because the root system dried out or watering and moisture have been very inconsistent. The bottom line to container gardening success, is making or buying a potting or container mix that holds water and helps the gardener maintain consistent moisture in their containers over the season. This is especially true come summer time when temperatures rise,  plants mature and begin producing fruit. 

I've written extensively on making your own container mixes from peat moss or coco coir but not everyone wants to make their own mixes. People have asked me about alternatives to peat moss as they want a product that is more sustainable. Sometimes people are concerned with coco coir with respect to its green foot print and the cost associated with moving the product across the ocean.  

Beyond Peat checks the bagged product box for moisture management in your containers and it is 100% peat moss free. It uses a Bio-Fiber technology to create up to 25% more air space for plant roots than traditional peat products. This patented process also creates a growing medium that can hold up to 7 times it weight in water. I've been working with this product and like the feel and consistency of the mixes. It is not just wood chips or other chopped natural materials. You can see the fibers in the product.

You will often find three general categories for bagged soils. The first is garden soil and that is best suited for your garden earth beds or the bottom fill of larger raised beds. It is a good product to mix into your existing soil to help build structure for vigorous root growth. Beyond Peat is certified organic, sustainable and locally sourced.  


The next type of bagged product, seen more often now-a-days, is a raised bed mix. This blend sits between garden soil and a potting or container mix. I have found the raised bed mixes are best used for higher sided raised beds and for filling the top 6-8 inches of the raised bed . 

Raised bed mixes are often more expensive and aren't needed to fill the entire bed. You can put more inexpensive materials in the bottom 2/3 of the raised bed and the better quality raised bed mix in the top 1/3 of the bed. That is what the surface roots of your plants will enjoy.


Finally, containers require a better soil product that is porous and drains well, but also holds moisture. That is the key. Excess water can sit in the air spaces of poorer quality container mixes and plants can easily develop root rot. However, plants do need moisture. The Bio-Fiber process Beyond Peat uses to prepare the soil mixes, meets that mark. As mentioned the soil can hold up to 7 times its weight in water. You want the water to be held in the organic matter of your potting or container mix and not sitting is the air spaces between the soil. 

Selecting a soil product like Beyond Peat for your container gardens (and garden needs) is the key to container gardening success. The next steps for success, include setting up a watering and fertilizing schedule that increases in frequency as the season progresses, the plants grow, and the heat of summer rolls in. Many bagged products like Beyond Peat come with organic fertilizer in them and that helps your plants get off to a great start. I recommend fish emulsion as an adjunct water soluble fertilizer for your container gardens. The first step is selecting the right mix for you container gardens, the next step, and a future blog post, is managing watering and fertilizing over an entire season.

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