HOW TO NOT KILL PLANTS: Container Gardening Edition | Richland Library Skip to content

HOW TO NOT KILL PLANTS: Container Gardening Edition

I may be in my mid-30s, but in my heart, I’m that glowing retired lady in the prescription drug commercials who leisurely spends her day roaming her acreage of flower and vegetable gardens trailed by her pack of rescue pups (and a strangely long list of possible side effects).

So when I decided to embrace my inner gardener, I started asking around and was encouraged to hear “Containers are the best place to start. It’s so easy.” After years of stalking porches across the South, I decided to take the plunge, and like any good millennial, I headed straight to Homegoods to buy a giant, blue glazed pot.  

From there, it went something like this…fill pot, buy plant, over water plant, kill plant, buy plant, under water plant, kill plant, buy different type of plant, kill plant, buy new plant - and so on and so forth. 

To state the obvious…I needed an intervention. Cue library. 

Luckily for me (and the ferns in the front of Lowes), the Richland County Master Gardeners were hosting a container gardening program at Cooper. I headed straight to my neighborhood library to get the 411 on not killing my container garden. 

Here’s a tiny snippet of what I learned: 

  1. Container gardening is not easy. 
     
  2. Containers can be anything with GOOD drainage. Don’t be limited by what’s available at the store.
     
  3. Bigger pots protect plants with deeper roots.
     
  4. Be careful with treated lumber container gardens if you have toddlers or are growing food. Ain’t nobody got time for arsenic. 
     
  5. The most common death that houseplants die is overwatering! (Note to self: Look into moisture release soil)
     
  6. Place a coffee filter over the hole in the bottom of the pot to hold the soil in.
     
  7. I should know what pot feet are. 
     
  8. Herbs are great options for containers because they are similar in their water and sun requirements. Keep an eye on Mint—it’s vicious. 
     
  9. One third container to two thirds plant height is visually pleasing. If featuring the container, reverse your proportion. 
     
  10. Odd numbers of plants create symmetrical balance.
     
  11. Thriller, filler, spiller. 
     
  12. Slow release fertilizer won’t incinerate your plants. 
     
  13. Dead foliage from bulbs are actually plant food. Don’t clip off the leaves because they’re ugly.
Wish me luck. Feeling overly confident and headed to the nursery this weekend to grab a new victim/plant. 

P.S. One of my most favorite moments of the day was an amazing conversation between some of the more seasoned gardeners in attendance where I learned that squirrels REALLY don’t like cayenne pepper. I’ll definitely be bringing the heat on those little scavengers soon! 

P.P. S. Want a deep dive into more gardening advice? Here are some library books I plan to read but haven't yet. ↓↓↓ 


Amazon Says: Expert advice for Southern gardeners   A gardener’s plant choice and garden style are inextricably linked to the place they call home. In order to grow a more...
Amazon Says: Expert advice for Southern gardeners   A gardener’s plant choice and garden style are inextricably linked to the place they call home. In order to grow a flourishing garden, every gardener must know the specifics of their region’s climate, soil, and geography. Gardening in the South is comprehensive, enthusiastic, and accessible to gardeners of all levels. It features information on site and plant selection, soil preparation and maintenance, and basic design principles. Plant profiles highlight the region’s best perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs, and bulbs. Color photographs throughout show wonderful examples of southern garden style. Gardening in the South is for home gardeners in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana.  less...
Amazon

Complete Guide to Container Gardening by Better Homes and Gardens
Amazon Says: A simple, lavishly illustrated guide to container gardens of all shapes and sizes You don't need a big back yard to grow a beautiful garden. Container Gardens is a user-friend more...
Amazon Says: A simple, lavishly illustrated guide to container gardens of all shapes and sizes You don't need a big back yard to grow a beautiful garden. Container Gardens is a user-friendly, illustrated guide to everything you need to know about growing beautiful plants, including advice on choosing soils, selecting plants that work together, planting in containers, and caring for your garden.Each garden idea includes a "recipe" and an "ingredients" list that makes shopping and preparing a breeze. The easy-to-follow reference format explains every project in detail and in depth, including helpful hints and essential information on plants, growth, and potting options.Features more than 125 container "recipes," each complete with color photos, planting plans, tips on growing, and shopping listsOver 500 beautiful photos and illustrations, including inspirational garden photos, plant ID photos, how-to instructions, and step-by-step projectsStep-by-step instruction helps you achieve exactly the look you want for any project and bonus tips and hints offer basic gardening advice on plant substitutions and garden design insightsCovers everything from the very basics to more complicated projects, like window box butterfly gardens and containers with seasonal plant change-outsThis easy-to-follow reference is the perfect guide for readers who want to create their own gorgeous container gardens at home. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: For people who don't have space or time for traditional gardening and who need expert advice on choosing and using plants and containers to create their own container garden, more...
Amazon Says: For people who don't have space or time for traditional gardening and who need expert advice on choosing and using plants and containers to create their own container garden, large or small. At long last, a smart and sensible gardening guide from the most trusted name in gardening. Compiled from the pages of Fine Gardening magazine, Container Gardening will inspire readers with dramatic plant combinations as well as provide step-by-step techniques to plant and care for containers under all conditions, including regions with short growing periods. The experts at Fine Gardening will show even a beginning gardener how containers can create boundaries, direct traffic, break up wall space, and soften edges throughout the year. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: More and more people are recognizing the need for nutritious, local, sustainable food, but organic options can be costly, and the produce sections of most supermarkets are pac more...
Amazon Says: More and more people are recognizing the need for nutritious, local, sustainable food, but organic options can be costly, and the produce sections of most supermarkets are packed with fruits and vegetables that have racked up more frequent flier miles than a rock band on world tour. How can urban dwellers without ready access to fertile land enjoy the benefits of traditional gardening? And for those with a yard, how do you maximize the harvest of fresh, healthy edibles?In From Container to Kitchen, D.J. Herda shows that there is a way. Written for the novice home gardener as well as the seasoned pro, this fully illustrated, comprehensive guide will show you how to save up to 70 percent on your produce bill by growing fruits and vegetables in pots. Topics include:Selecting the right container size and location Optimizing soil composition and nutrients Managing light, water, and humidity Choosing the best fruits and vegetables for container gardening Eliminating pests and plant diseases naturally Extending the harvest Dig in to this bumper crop of container gardening tips and techniques and learn how to create your own moveable feast!D.J. Herda is an award-winning freelance author, editor, and photojournalist who has written several thousand articles and more than eighty books, including Zen and the Art of Pond Building. He is an avid organic gardener and test grower and has been writing extensively about growing fruits and vegetables for over forty years. less...
Amazon

Teeny Tiny Gardening by Emma Hardy
Amazon Says: Teeny Tiny Gardening is horticulture on the smallest of scales. No matter how tiny your space - indoor or outdoor, garden, yard, balcony or even just a windowsill or tabletop more...
Amazon Says: Teeny Tiny Gardening is horticulture on the smallest of scales. No matter how tiny your space - indoor or outdoor, garden, yard, balcony or even just a windowsill or tabletop - here you will find original, fun and inspiring ideas. The 35 projects range from an elegant fern terrarium and a scented spring bulb basket to colourful woven bags and hessian sacks filled with cheerful summer blooms. There are edible gardens, including fruit bushes planted in catering-sized kitchen pans and a vertical garden of herbs grown on a wooden stepladder. You will find lots of ideas for using recycled and salvaged containers, such as a metal bathtub filled with vegetable plants, metal food tins used for an indoor garden of wildflowers and a stack of wooden drawers filled with trailing plants. And at the teeniest end of the scale, there are even miniature tabletop gardens created in eggshells and bottle tops! Children can learn basic gardening skills, too, by following the step-by-step photos to make their own magical fairy garden or a mysterious dinosaur den. Whether you are looking for ideas for all-year foliage or for a summer display of flowers, wanting to grow your own veggies and herbs, or needing to revamp your balcony, Teeny Tiny Gardening will provide you with all the inspiration and practical knowledge you need. less...
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