Don't have a large enough space on your property to grow a conventional garden in the ground? This doesn't mean you can't grow vegetables and get big yields. In fact, the smaller the space you grow your vegetables in the bigger the yields. This is because you can take better care of a smaller garden space than a larger one. Too often, the beginning vegetable gardener starts out tilling up a huge garden area but by early summer it's overrun with weeds and the plants are drying up due to lack of irrigation. When growing vegetables in containers weed and moisture control is very easy. Too, you can provide the right nutrients less expensively. All this adds up to healthier plants and increased yields.
Not all, but many vegetables lend themselves well to container gardening. With some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties, or by the use of trellises or other supports, almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. Vegetables that take up little space, such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, or vegetables that produce fruits over a long period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, are perfect for container vegetable gardens.
You can use almost anything for a cntainer: flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, window planters, washtubs, strawberry pots, plastic bags, large food cans, old bath tubs or any number of other things that are suitable for a container. Some gardeners are growing certain varieties of vegetables in bales of straw. But that's a method
Drainage: Make sure that whatever type of container you have that it has holes to provide good drainage. Vegetables just don't like wet feet. If the container doesn't have drainage holes drill some 3/4 inch ones. Larger containers will need several holes.
Container Color: Keep in mind that darker containers absorb more heat. Since you'll be growing most vegetables in full sun, it's best to choose lighter color pots or paint dark ones a lighter color.
Container Size: The size of the container is important. For larger vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants, you should use at least a five gallon container for each plant. You can grow these in smaller containers, however you will need to monitor the soil moisture much more closely and will need to provide water more frequently.
The best thing to use as a growing medium is potting "mix." - not cheap-grade potting soil. Yes, potting mix is more expensive than potting soil, but it holds moisture more evenly. If you want to save a few bucks on soil, go ahead mix the two at a 50/50 ratio. You can also add a good organic compost, such as mushroom compost, at a 10% ratio to the mix. Vegetables love organic matter - it's like vitamins to them.
In addition to adding the organic compost to the soil mix, I also feed with a slow-release organic vegetable food. One dose at planting time and another a couple months later is usually sufficient.
When growing any type of plants in containers there will be more frequent watering needs than when growing in garden beds. The larger your plants grow through the season, and the hotter the temperatures get, your vegetable plants will need more water. Check your containers daily to judge the need for water. If the soil is damp or wet, don't water. If the soil is lightly damp, water deeply. Don't water again until the soil is lightly damp again. Don't let the soil get so dry that the plants wilt before you water them again. This may be okay with some plants, but not with vegetables. Vegetable plants prefer well-drained but consistently damp soil for best performance. To help retain moisture and reduce needs for water cover the soil surface in the container with shredded wood mulch or straw.
Vegetable plant varieties suitable for container gardening
In general, stick to the smaller growing vegetable plants. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are a given. Bush variety tomatoes are the best choice and will not require a tomato cage or some other type of support. With other vegetables, look for bush, compact, or space saver varieties. Seed companies realize that homeowners have less and less space to devote to vegetable gardens. Every year they are coming out with new varieties of smaller growing plants.
Here 's a list of vegetable types that are well-suited for growing in containers:
Carrots - A little tedious but can be done. The ferny tops are quite attractive in pots. You can mix in some flowers for a nice appeal.
Cucumbers - Grow the bush type rather than the trailing vines. The bush types can still spread out a bit so plant them in larger containers.
Eggplant - The slender varieties are best. Growing eggplant in containers helps to control some common pests, like wire worms. Eggplant plants can get heavy with fruits and some staking may be required.
Green Beans - Pole beans are a great choice for containers. They grow up, instead of out, and they continue producing beans for a couple of months. They will require some type of support, to climb on. You can start seeds in late spring and start a second batch in mid-summer to keep harvesting beans well into fall.
Green Onions - Green or bunching onions are best for containers. They can be combined with other vegetables or grown on their own.
Leaf Lettuce - Lettuce is perfect for growing in containers. When growing the loose leaf varieties cut only the outer leaves and the plants will continue to grow for months.
Peppers - All varieties of peppers are very well suited for growing in containers. As they are tropical plants, wait to grow them outdoors until nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees F.
Radishes - Radishes grow quickly so are great for growing in containers. You can mix them with carrots if you like.
Squash - Bush varieties are best. Vine varieties will require a trellis or some form of support. Most summer squash plants are bush types.
Tomatoes - All varieties of tomatoes can be grown in containers. The bush and dwarf cherry tomatoes are best. Full size tomatoes will require staking, a tomato cage or some other type of support.