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Vegetable/fruit container garden... layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot?

  • Last Updated:
  • Jun 16th, 2019 11:45 am
[OP]
Member
Apr 20, 2018
451 posts
52 upvotes
Mississauga, ON

Vegetable/fruit container garden... layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot?

Hi

I want to grow some vegetables/fruits in containers and want to know if I should put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the containers to improve drainage
16 replies
Sr. Member
Mar 22, 2017
542 posts
427 upvotes
Gravel is used to reduce the amount of soil you need to put into the pot, it it's deeper than you need it to be. It's also used to add weight to pots to help keep them from tipping.

It doesn't improve drainage, because fine-textured soil needs to saturate before it lets any water go to coarse-textured soil. Basically gravity isn't as strong as water tension, so the soil will get soaked through regardless of what you do.

To improve drainage, use container soil. This soil tends to be very light and fluffy with excellent drainage and aeration. Costs more, typically, but it works better. If you choose to mix it with garden soil, mix the whole thing together instead of layering it or you'll get the same issue.
Sr. Member
Oct 23, 2017
957 posts
595 upvotes
GTA West
We use Miracle Grow potting soil and find it gives a good crop (it comes on sale at Costco in the spring). Some veggies do better in containers than others. High heat plants such as peppers are excellent in pots, which we put close to a sunny foundation wall to benefit from the heat absorbed and radiated from the wall. Eggplants also do well. Tomatoes get very big so that takes more care and support.

We use the potting soil at least twice, and then recycle it into our natural garden. You can also refresh it by mixing in new soil. We have also used the Pro-Mix BX product but it does not contain nutrients, so you have to use more fertilizer. Sometimes we mix it with the Miracle Grow.

We have never used gravel in the pots. I have self-watering Nutripots and keep the reservoirs full to make them bottom heavy and prevent them from falling over when the plants get top-heavy. But they have stopped making that brand now.

Moisture control is the biggest challenge in pots - they can dry out quickly on a hot day.

One of the great things about container growing is that you can bring them into to garage if it is going to freeze, so you can get them out a bit earlier.
Sr. Member
Dec 25, 2007
948 posts
429 upvotes
GTA
Definitely mulch a container if you can't water it everyday/
Deal Addict
Dec 6, 2006
4384 posts
1071 upvotes
Toronto
I've used loose bricks and styrofoam on bottom of big pots. As other said, just so I don't have to fill up 2feet deep of porting soil for annuals.
[OP]
Member
Apr 20, 2018
451 posts
52 upvotes
Mississauga, ON
Crapper ... Started a few containers already with gravel in them ... I stopped and wanted to ask the question on the forum

Look like I was wrong ... Will pull them out and take the gravel out
Deal Fanatic
Feb 7, 2017
9701 posts
6978 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
Don’t beat yourself up over this
Cuz for years we’ve all seen / heard / read that pots need something in the bottom for drainage
Be it gravel, broken pot shards etc
I definitely did it back in the beginning
Like others, I now just buy better soil
And make sure I use pots with a decent amount of drainage holes

We use ProMix
They have a variety of products for different applications
(like Seed Starting for beginning seeds in smaller flats indoors or out ... as well as different mixes for container gardening outdoors for Herbs, Veggies or Flowers)

This time of year, moving things Outdoors to bigger containers
My go to is Promix Organic for Herbs & Veggies
And I mix in a bit of Promix Organic Moisture Mix as well
So my biggest pots can hold onto the water a bit longer on the hottest summer days

I grow my tomato plants in 5 Gallon Pails
And stake them with bamboo poles

I grow my pepper plants in framed pots
https://www.teris.co/en/catalog/product ... mato-cage/

Or you can use Tomato Cages for both Tomatoes & Peppers

For both of these ... I throw in some crushed up egg shells
To improve calcium, and prevent blossom rot

Other plants I grow in containers (of varying sizes) includes
Lettuce Greens - Beans - Cucumbers - and Radishes
As well as lots of herbs

Gonna look at adding Beets, Carrots and possibly Potatoes this season
But they grow bigger (root veggies) ... so need a variety of bigger containers

Fruits are a whole other game
Most of them need to be planted in the ground... or very large containers
Like Whiskey Barrels ... wood, concrete, metal, and some fibreglass are the only things that can make it thru the winter outdoors with thaw & frost and not crack. Of these wood is usually best for fruits (just be sure an read up about types of wood, and dangers of staining etc)

Fruits are far more persnickety to grow than annual vegetables
And they need a lot more care year round
Like pruning, protection from critters, and to make it through the winter
Some may also require an acidic soil mix (like Blueberries)
Deal Addict
User avatar
Oct 9, 2010
2314 posts
606 upvotes
Windsor
If you're not concerned about water consumption, cloth pots (often called smart pots) are great for ensuring you've got proper "drainage" for your plants. With the permeable outside surface, they act a lot more like the soil in the ground. Cannabis people are all about these things for this reason, since root rot is a common issue with cannabis (soil staying too wet).

I'd not bother with gravel unless you're hoping to weigh down the pot, or your pot doesn't have holes in the bottom (so the rocks act as a buffer).
One who is offended by truth, has no place among those who seek wisdom.
Deal Addict
Aug 18, 2009
1266 posts
554 upvotes
Toronto
grumble wrote:
Jun 13th, 2019 8:29 am
Gravel is used to reduce the amount of soil you need to put into the pot, it it's deeper than you need it to be. It's also used to add weight to pots to help keep them from tipping.

It doesn't improve drainage, because fine-textured soil needs to saturate before it lets any water go to coarse-textured soil. Basically gravity isn't as strong as water tension, so the soil will get soaked through regardless of what you do.

To improve drainage, use container soil. This soil tends to be very light and fluffy with excellent drainage and aeration. Costs more, typically, but it works better. If you choose to mix it with garden soil, mix the whole thing together instead of layering it or you'll get the same issue.
I agree adding gravel does not aid with helping water travel faster through the soil, but I thought the purpose of the gravel was so that there isn't a layer of constantly saturated soil at the bottom of the pot?
[OP]
Member
Apr 20, 2018
451 posts
52 upvotes
Mississauga, ON
Should I pull them out .. only been in the container for under a week

I used triple blend soil from Walmart ... Got humus and couple things I forgot to remember, it designed for vegetables/fruits as well... Will tell u when I get home

Working right now ... Don't want to get busted lol
[OP]
Member
Apr 20, 2018
451 posts
52 upvotes
Mississauga, ON
PointsHubby wrote:
Jun 13th, 2019 2:16 pm
Don’t beat yourself up over this
Cuz for years we’ve all seen / heard / read that pots need something in the bottom for drainage
Be it gravel, broken pot shards etc
I definitely did it back in the beginning
Like others, I now just buy better soil
And make sure I use pots with a decent amount of drainage holes

We use ProMix
They have a variety of products for different applications
(like Seed Starting for beginning seeds in smaller flats indoors or out ... as well as different mixes for container gardening outdoors for Herbs, Veggies or Flowers)

This time of year, moving things Outdoors to bigger containers
My go to is Promix Organic for Herbs & Veggies
And I mix in a bit of Promix Organic Moisture Mix as well
So my biggest pots can hold onto the water a bit longer on the hottest summer days

I grow my tomato plants in 5 Gallon Pails
And stake them with bamboo poles

I grow my pepper plants in framed pots
https://www.teris.co/en/catalog/product ... mato-cage/

Or you can use Tomato Cages for both Tomatoes & Peppers

For both of these ... I throw in some crushed up egg shells
To improve calcium, and prevent blossom rot

Other plants I grow in containers (of varying sizes) includes
Lettuce Greens - Beans - Cucumbers - and Radishes
As well as lots of herbs

Gonna look at adding Beets, Carrots and possibly Potatoes this season
But they grow bigger (root veggies) ... so need a variety of bigger containers

Fruits are a whole other game
Most of them need to be planted in the ground... or very large containers
Like Whiskey Barrels ... wood, concrete, metal, and some fibreglass are the only things that can make it thru the winter outdoors with thaw & frost and not crack. Of these wood is usually best for fruits (just be sure an read up about types of wood, and dangers of staining etc)

Fruits are far more persnickety to grow than annual vegetables
And they need a lot more care year round
Like pruning, protection from critters, and to make it through the winter
Some may also require an acidic soil mix (like Blueberries)
Wow u doing alot of things lol

So far I got a couple hot peppers (habanero and scotch bonnet) and different colour bell peppers, basil, thyme and rosemary. I'm planning to get cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes this weekend.

I was growing cherry and heirloom tomatoes from seeds since mid March and was growing well but it took too long indoor because of the ridiculous month of May with hot and cold weather. So It grew tall, skinny and weak indoor.

The only thing fruit plant I have is strawberry which I'm growing from seeds. I have a couple big plastic container probably 10-15gallon size. I haven't really thought it so far. You mean literally eggshells crumble in the soil? Lol

The bag of soil is what I used to fill the pot and also got cedar mulch as well which I haven't done that yet.
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Deal Addict
Aug 30, 2011
3291 posts
1013 upvotes
Ottawa
VertigoM wrote:
Jun 13th, 2019 2:54 pm
I agree adding gravel does not aid with helping water travel faster through the soil, but I thought the purpose of the gravel was so that there isn't a layer of constantly saturated soil at the bottom of the pot?
This was standard practice for years, and many gardeners still do it. But the science of this is that a layer of gravel results in a perched water table, so the soil remains wet above the gravel. http://www.clematisqueen.com/content/do ... containers

I'm so glad to see RFD'ers are aware of this. Too many garden websites, Facebook groups, and books still promote the "gravel = better drainage" myth.

Some even recommend adding the gravel to pots with no holes for drainage, which is a recipe for a quick plant death by root rot.
Sr. Member
Oct 23, 2017
957 posts
595 upvotes
GTA West
When you grow in a pot with potting mix (mostly peat moss + perlite), it dries out very easily on a hot day as the plants take up all the moisture. When the plants get big, like a tomato, they get top-heavy and fall over easily in the wind. So gravel will add weight in the bottom and prevent this.

Also keep in mind that container growing is a lot like hydroponics, and takes more daily care to ensure the pot is watered. And with the sterile soils, you have to add fertilizer which can be hard to manage in a small volume of growing medium. Go slow.

I am a big fan of self-watering pots to regulate the moisture in the soil but they are crazy expensive. I accumulated a dozen or so over the years from a brand that is defunct. They were 14" in diameter and about 12 inch deep. The water reservoir was underneath and was transferred to the soil above with a wick that lay under the soil and dangled into the water through slits at the end. These were extremely effective, and had the optimum amount of soil for most veggies. Walmart used to have a very cheap 12" pot with a similar wicking system that was excellent for smaller plants like herbs.

I experimented with the cloth pots but did not have success - they seemed to dry out too quickly in the sun. And they cost way more than they should. If you want to experiment, you could experiment making your own from various landscape fabrics.

I have a rented plot this year for my veggies, but if I needed to add more containers I would just use the cheap black growers pots and set them in saucers of water to wick up into the soil.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 7, 2017
9701 posts
6978 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
raptors87 wrote:
Jun 13th, 2019 6:06 pm
Wow u doing alot of things lol

So far I got a couple hot peppers (habanero and scotch bonnet) and different colour bell peppers, basil, thyme and rosemary. I'm planning to get cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes this weekend.

I was growing cherry and heirloom tomatoes from seeds since mid March and was growing well but it took too long indoor because of the ridiculous month of May with hot and cold weather. So It grew tall, skinny and weak indoor.

The only thing fruit plant I have is strawberry which I'm growing from seeds. I have a couple big plastic container probably 10-15gallon size. I haven't really thought it so far. You mean literally eggshells crumble in the soil? Lol

The bag of soil is what I used to fill the pot and also got cedar mulch as well which I haven't done that yet.
Lol, not really
Not nearly as much as someone who has a true garden plot
Everything we grow, we grow in containers
So it’s like just a few pots per item

2 Pepper Plants = 1 Sweet, 1 Spicier
4 or so Tomato Plants = 1 Slicer, 1 Cherry, 2 Roma’s for Sauce
2 Cucumbers = 1 Salad, 1 Pickling
2 Beans = 1 Green, 1 Yellow
And then one container for Salad Greens
And for Radishes
So a dozen altogether

If I am going to grow any root veggies this Summer
Beets, Carrots, Onions Or Potatoes ... i’ll need to get them planted this weekend
(If it stops frickin raining for 5 minutes)

This is literally the worst gardening Spring ever that I recall in Eastern Ontario
Very depressing
Not only is it effing up getting my planting done
But unless things change
All this rain is going to make my plants soggy this summer
And greatly diminish my harvest too

Nice set up you have there with “the cage”
Take it you designed & built it yourself
I was hoping to build me some sort of greenhouse this year
(Basically a 6x3x6 Foot Glass Box ... made out of junk windows ... mostly to “hothouse” the tomatoes & Peppers )
But that hasn’t happened either
It was going to be my April-May Project
But the weather was too horrid to putter outside in the yard
Maybe next year *shrug*

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