Container Gardening Challenge #2: An Interview with Brad Kemp - expert in Container Gardening

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Blog entry by Michal Bulla posted 06-01-2010 04:06 AM 26080 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Announcement Part 2 of Container Gardening Challenge series Part 3: Only 4 days left to enter... »

We’re bringing to you the interview with Brad Kemp – the expert in Container Gardening. Enjoy!

Q1: What is your personal goal re: gardening?

I think I’m always striving to try new things, new varieties of flowers and even new ways to grow them. In my mind, I always have this huge goal of walking through the gate to our backyard and gazing upon a grand display of perennials and annuals with my little raised bed garden in the back just full of vegetables. Have I ever seen that portrait that’s painted in my mind? No. But I sure am striving to get there. I may never make it, but that goal keeps me working, forever attempting to get it just the way I see it in my mind. And in the end, that constant work makes for a pretty decent looking yard that I could just sit and look at all day.
As well, I’m extremely conservative with money. One of my major goals every year is to try and spend as little money as possible. That’s why a few years back I started doing winter sowing and growing my own plants indoors. I’ll do about anything to save a dollar when it comes to gardening. (Like parking by a dumpster and pulling out a perfectly fine container that I can’t believe someone would throw away. Dirty work….but I just can’t stop myself!!)

Q2: Why container gardening?

Of all the various types of gardening, I believe that gardening in containers offers EVERYONE an opportunity to enjoy a garden, regardless of space or ability.
For example, if you have no yard, you can use containers. Or, if you have yard space and want more, use containers. Balconies, porches, small entryways or even a full-blown flower garden that needs just a “touch” of something can benefit from the beauty and diversity of containers.
As well, with container gardening, no weeds! (Well, most of the time!!) How about location? If you don’t like the exact area you have your planter, or it needs more or less sun, it’s so easy to move it to a different spot.

Q3: How has your life changed since the beginning of the “container gardening” strategy?

In my beginning years of gardening, I honestly thought that container gardening “looked” easy. I just figured you got a pot of soil, planted some flowers in it, and a mini-garden would begin. Little did I know at the time, that containers have several challenges that would certainly cause a few gray hairs. But even when I was in the middle of those strong challenges, I took it as just that….a challenge. I just knew that if I could get the hang of growing in containers, that I would open up a whole new door to what our home/garden would look like. And that’s exactly what has happened. So many possibilities have opened up and I always look so forward to planting in them every year!

Q4: Lots of information about container gardening is on your website, but if you could point out the biggest challenge that you’ve had while container gardening, what would it be and how did you/do you work around it?

Still to this day, I’ll have a plant or a whole container just up and die. Most of my projects seem to do well nowadays, especially the plants I grow myself. But every year there is always something that goes wrong somewhere and a single plant or maybe even everything in the container will die. The challenge is to know why and correct it so it won’t happen again.
But, there are so many diseases and fungi out there, that to pin-point what actually happened is hard. Sure we (and every one of our neighbors) can all guess, but to really know the exact cause I believe is very difficult. What I’ll usually do, is discard the soil in that pot and clean it before using it the next time. That will eliminate any soil-borne diseases that might be lingering in the pot. In the end, we may never really know why something died. The plant could have had something wrong with it, if and when, it was purchased at the nursery, etc.

Q5: Any other quick tips for people trying container gardening for the first time?

  • Always make sure the container is large enough for the matured plant/s. Often people will plant a new flower into a pot not considering the size it will be by the end of summer. Plant roots need as much room as possible for the plant to do it’s best.
  • Be creative with what you plant in! Containers can be made from almost any thing…just make sure it has sufficient drainage.
  • Use a good fertilizer. The soil in a container can be leached of much needed nutrients rather quickly. Since the plants can only draw from the soil in the container, if those nutrients are washed away by rain and watering, for example, the only way the plants can get their nutrients is through a fertilizer.
  • Lastly, but probably the most important is…Keep up with watering!! I’ve seen potted flowers die in just a couple of days in the dead of summer. I think the best and easiest thing to do, is to saturate the soil until water is running out the drainage holes. Let the pot stand a day or so, then poke your finger into the top inch or two of soil. If it’s moist, leave it alone. If it’s dry, water it. Just don’t let the container dry out too much. Unlike traditional roots in the ground, the roots of potted plants have such a small amount of soil from which to draw moisture .

In closing, I’ve read and talked to a lot of gardeners who say..”oh, I won’t do container gardening, everything that I plant always dies.” To that I would say, “so what…just try again!” Because design combinations are endless and the benefits of mobility, their sheer beauty, and the numerous places that a container can be placed, are so huge that I think everyone would be glad they tried this amazing and fun way of gardening!


I would like to thank Brad for taking time to answer our questions.

For more information about Container Gardening check Brad's website

-- Michal,

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Michal Bulla

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8 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


14694 posts in 3845 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 06-01-2010 04:30 AM

excellent interview!!
Thanks Brad and thanks Michal.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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Michal Bulla

309 posts in 3861 days
hardiness zone 5

posted 06-01-2010 04:31 AM

...and thanks Debbie as well :)

-- Michal,

View Orchids77's profile


268 posts in 3093 days
hardiness zone 5

posted 06-01-2010 05:37 AM

Lots of great info. Thanks for sharing Michal.
As I grow older I am into container gardening.My biggest problem is care during winter time . I

-- Orchids77

View Radicalfarmergal's profile


4312 posts in 3107 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 06-01-2010 06:05 AM

Thanks for the interesting and inspiring interview about container gardening. I hope we get lots of entries in our container gardening challenge. I mainly use containers for the few plants I keep that cannot survive the winter outside and for young plants that need more time before they can go directly into the garden.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Bon's profile


7374 posts in 3625 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 06-01-2010 08:34 AM

Great interview and I agree with Brad.If at first you don’t succeed try,try again.

-- Bon,Hastings, 5a....Always room for one more

View jroot's profile


5121 posts in 3475 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 06-01-2010 02:11 PM

When one runs out of space in the garden, and one wants more flowers, there is no other choice better than containers. I have containers in the front, containers at the side, and containers at the back of the house. The benefit is that one can move them from place to place as the flowering dictates. Win! Win!

Thanks for posting, Michal.

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

View sharad's profile


1671 posts in 3062 days
hardiness zone 11

posted 06-02-2010 01:37 AM

Michal thanks for the interview with Brad. Being a terrace gardener I have hardly any choice than to use containers and I am doing my best to improve upon them. Brad’s suggestions are very helpful and I hope my container gardening will have a new look. Yesterday I lost five of my earthenware containers because of strong winds and heavy showers. I may shift to plastic containers after this experience although they are expensive.


-- Bagwan-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View davidc61's profile


417 posts in 2878 days
hardiness zone 4

posted 06-05-2010 06:41 PM

Very interesting and very useful imformation thanks for posting.

-- David, Adelaide South Australia. Every day I wake up breathing is a good day!

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