Starting a herb or vegetable garden from seed is an incredibly rewarding experience, but making sure they grow up to be happy and healthy plants does require a little planning regarding their long term ‘accommodation’ arrangements. If you’re wondering how to select the right pot for your herb or vegetable garden, you’ve come to the right place. This article covers the essential information you’ll need to select the right pot for your garden.
Did you know that plants roots need air? It’s critical that you don’t drown them – which is the main reason we recommend using a pot with at least 3 good size (> 1/4″) holes in the bottom to allow the free flow of water. Excess water build up suffocates roots, causing root rot, fungus gnats, and mold. Yuk. Now it is possible to use pots without drainage holes, but if this is the case then you should use a layer of river stones and perhaps also charcoal to help create a zone at the bottom that will allow the water to move away from the roots. This approach is going to require a very controlled approach to watering though, and if this is your first time we wouldn’t recommend it.
The size of your pot will dictate what and how many plants can live happily in your pot. We’ve offered some guidelines below, but remember – these are just a guide. Plants are adaptable, and if you don’t have or can’t afford the right size pot – don’t stress. Plants are adaptable and more important than the perfect size pot is that you take care of your garden and water it regularly.
Most herbs are happy in smaller pots, so you can focus on picking out pots that work for your space. For growing indoors, we recommend something at least 3″ and ideally 4″. For outdoors, where it tends to be warmer, some additional soil will help regular temperatures and a slightly larger pot (say 6″) is a good idea. The table below provides plant-specific guidance. If in doubt, we recommend going larger than smaller.
Vegetables need more space than herbs, and will do best either in the ground (such as a raised bed planter) or a larger container. The table below is for the container-friendly vegetables that come in our Vegetable Seed Collection, which need a bit less space than more generic seeds. If you use a nice big container you can do some companion planting, like our favorite – tomatoes and basil.
You’ll notice pots made from a range of different materials. Some of the biggest differences between these are cost, aesthetics, re-usability, and water efficiency.
- Pros – Plastics are common, inexpensive, lightweight, often have more drainage holes than other pots, and are safer around young children than other pots. They’re usually pretty cheap, too.
- Cons – If single-use, they come with the ecological problems of using plastic. Typically, they do not last more than a few seasons. Over time, plastic pots can leach chemicals into the soil.
- Pros – Biodegradable and eco-friendly, wooden pots also tend to be lightweight and easy to transport. Usually, wooden pots are aesthetically pleasing, especially in comparison to plastic pots.
- Cons – Since wooden pots are biodegradable, this also means they can rot over time if used outdoors and without proper maintenance. In addition, the timber used may not be from a sustainable resource. The pots need to be well-kept.
- Pros – They are usually quite aesthetically pleasing, and regulate temperature a bit. Their weight makes them suitable for windy areas. Generally, they are fairly inexpensive.
- Cons – They are heavy, and need to be watered more frequently due to the porous nature of terracotta. Also, they are easily breakable and often have poor drainage.
- Pros – Fabric pots are inexpensive, have good aeration, and depending on the material – may also be biodegradable.
- Cons – Fabric planters require more frequent water since water will evaporate through their walls. They’re also not very durable – and will probably only last 2-3 seasons.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make the most of your urban garden, sign up for our newsletter below. Or if you’re ready to get going today, why not check out our Herb and Vegetable Seed Collections which have been carefully selected for urban and small-space gardeners.
Note: this article contains affiliate links (for the pots, which are available on Amazon), which means we do generate a small commission if you make a purchase by using them (although it costs you no more).