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Container Garden 101

Learn how to make your own container garden using the Wicking Container Method – created by Leon Sloan, and shared by many! Watch Ok Gardening with Leon Sloan and DASNR Video South Central Vegetable Workshop for more information and inspiration to make your own Leon Sloan Wicking Method Container Garden.

Step by Step Instructions


A gentleman using a drill to create hole in a bucket.

Step 1

One hole is drilled in the recycled cattle feed tub side wall, 6 inches up from the bottom of the tub. No holes or cracks in bottom. The diameter of the hole should be ½ or so, use the bit you can find. This is the drain hole for the container. 

For watering, you pour water into the PVC pipe, until water runs out of this hole in the side.  That’s how you know the water reservoir is full!  Do NOT fill until you put this where you want it.  It will be heavy! If it rains, it will still drain out of this hole.

Step 2

Five or six recycled cafeteria size cans (gallon) are placed in the bottom Recycled cafeteria size cans placed in the bottom of a tub.of the tub, leaving the center empty.  These are open on one end, with two holes in the other end. Clean plastic gallon milk jugs will also work.

Remove the lids and make several holes in the bottom of the jug.  These hold the space for the water and air to move.  The holes are needed so you don’t get a vacuum. You want the air and water to move through these.

Step 3

PVC pipe (or use another option) is cut to 24” lengths.  This works much easier if it is 1 to 1 ½ People using a saw to cut PVC pipe.diameter or larger. In some photos, a swim noodle was used, but that would crumble during the season. PVC was not available, so it was my stand in.

This is placed between the landscape fabric and the wall of the tub.

Step 4

The 3 x 3 piece of landscape fabric (the good woven kind works best) is used (like a coffee filter) A tub topped with landscape fabric and a pool noodle stuffed on the side of the separate the water and the soil.  It needs to be able to let water and air move through.  This is put down into the very center of the bottom, all the way to the floor.

This center area only is then filled with good quality potting soil.  Do not over pack the soil.  This column of soil will serve as your wick and will soak up the water from the water reservoir you just created, and move the water to the root zone of the plants.


Step 5

Continue to fill with potting soil, keeping the landscape fabric up on the sides.  This works much Tubs filled with planting soil with the landscape fabric up on the a coffee filter.  Let the sides fall down, and you have grit in your water! You can fold down the points so it looks neat.

Mix slow-release fertilizer in the soil.  (Like Osmocote or Shake and Feed.) Follow the rate on the label.  Use vegetable formula for vegetables and ornamental formula for flowers.

Step 6

Plant in rows or circles.  Follow square foot gardening spacing. One tub is two square feet.  Use A finished container garden with soil, plants and a PVC pipe sticking out the side of the tub.seed for varieties for containers. Look for Bush or Compact types of plants. One tomato plant will work.  It works best with Better Bush, Roma, or other smaller more compact plants. Cucumbers will work, you can trellis if you want them to grow vertically.  Tomato cages work for sugar snap peas and pole beans too.

Plant at the right time, follow HLA- 6004, OSU Oklahoma Planting Guide, for when to plant!

Step 7

For frost protection, a large trash bag will fit snuggly over the top!  Clear ones make a mini greenhouse.  This was done with the late freeze in April 2021. 
Container gardens covered with trash bags to help with frost.








Plant Spacing Tips

Size Extra Large Large Medium Small
Number of plants 1 plant 4 plants 9 plants 16 plants
Spacing Placed 12 inches apart Placed 6 inches apart Placed 4 inches apart Placed 3 inches apart
Examples Broccoli
Leaf lettuce
Swiss Chard
Bush Bean


The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Cooperative Extension Service is implied.

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