Growing vegetables in pots is easy. My very first garden was with containers. What’s great about container gardening is that you don’t need a house with a plot of land. If you have a small space, a patio, or a balcony that receives a lot of great sun, you can grow fresh vegetables. Containers aren’t much different from growing in the ground. However, there are a few things you want to keep in mind as you plan your garden. By the way, if you’re a gardening newbie and want information regarding garden location, soil, and watering regimens check out my post 6 Surprisingly Easy Steps to Starting Your Kitchen Garden. Everything that I share in that post will give you a great foundation and can be applied to container gardening. So, let’s get started.
There are many different types of containers in various shapes and sizes. And, really, anything that can hold soil with waterholes in the bottom or the sides will suffice. You could go to the other end of the spectrum and use decorator garden vases. Which is another thing that is great about container gardening, it’s all up to you. I use a combination of plastic containers, cloth containers, half wine barrel planters, and containers made of biodegradable materials that can be composted.
Jes & Medi’s 12-Pack 5 Gallon Plant Grow Bags are made of a sturdy and environmentally friendly nonwoven fabric material. The unique material allows the plants to breathe and grow in a healthy, vigorous way by draining excess water. Reinforced handles with sturdy materials make these plant grow bags easy to move when filled with soil.
Pro Cal’s Premium Nursery Pot is much thicker and more durable than traditional nursery pots. Made with a wide rim and grip lip for easy movement and is BPA Free. Made in the U.S.A.
How do you decide on the right container? Well, if you don’t remember anything, remember that the pot has to be of a nice size. The pots should be at least 3 gallons, with your average size being 5 gallons, and go bigger if you can. I grow in various size containers, but they’re all at least three gallons. I use the smaller containers for herbs, typically herbs that have to plant every year, such s as basil, parsley, and cilantro. The larger pots are for the bigger plants. Think of it this way, the bigger the plants can get, the bigger the pot should. Imagine a big human squeezed into a tight airplane seat; it’s stressful. That’s how a plant’s roots are when they’re cramped inside of a pot. When a plant is stressed, it’s prone to attacks by pests and disease. The deal is this, the bigger the pot, the more space for your plants, the more soil and nutrients available to the plant, and the more that plant has to spread its roots. All of this means bigger the fruit, which means the better your harvest.
Now that we’ve worked out the size of the containers, let’s discuss what to plant.
The trick is to select vegetables that grow well in pots. Some of the plants you will transplant from a smaller container such as when you purchase starts, and some you will direct sow from seed. Whatever you decide to plant, you’re going to want to follow the directions on the plant tag, seed packet regarding the plant’s requirements. Different plants will have different planting requirements when it comes to spacing and watering requirements. For example, you will only want to plant one tomato plant in a 5-gallon bucket, but you can plant six – eight pea plants, depending on the width of the bucket.
So, what do you love to eat that you would like to grow? That is where you’re going to start. Look at the growing requirements on the plant tag or the seed packet. If the plant’s requirements can be met in a container, you’re good to go. Just a few notes, leafy vegetables such as lettuce, and spinach do well in long shallow containers such as window boxes, whereas carrots need pots that are least 12 inches deep. What you decide to grow will determine the types of container use.
Vegetables that do well in containers that I love to grow are carrots, cucumbers, garlic, green beans, lettuce, green onions, peas, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and strawberries.
Love what you grow, grow what you love.
When you’re growing vegetables in pots, watering becomes even more critical. Plants in pots require more water. This is another reason why the size of the container is essential, larger containers hold moisture longer. Even still, soil in containers will tend to dry out quicker and, therefore, need regular daily watering.
Another thing I do to help retain moisture in the soil is mulch with straw. The straw is laid on top of the soil in the container. It helps to keep the soil moist, and can also help cut down on the amount of watering.
Along with consistently moist soil, vegetables in container gardens need regular organic fertilizers. Plants in containers need lots of watering, as we discussed. Well, every time you water the plant, some nutrients will wash away from the soil. Additionally, all of the plant’s nutrients have to come from you. And, if you’re companion planting, the plants are competing for nutrients.
What to feed then? You can use a granular or liquid water-soluble fertilizer. For the plants in containers, I prefer to use a liquid fertilizer. I really like the Fox Farms liquid fertilizer product, but there are several great organic liquid fertilizers.
My favorite liquid fertilizers from Fox Farm. Start with Grow Big Hydro for abundant green growth. Switch to Tiger Bloom at the first sign of bud set or flowering. Then use Big Bloom throughout all growing cycles to heal root systems and increase nutrient cycling.
I typically start fertilizing about a month after the seedlings have been planted in the container. And, will fertilize weekly throughout the season.
Companion planting is a great way to optimize a small growing space. Growing a few different vegetables and herbs together is also a way in which plants support each other. For example, garlic and onions will repel certain pests such as aphids, so growing a couple of bulbs of garlic or onion with your beans or peas can help deter those pests. Onions can be planted with many other vegetables and is a great pest deterrent. If you’re growing tomatoes or peppers, also planting basil will help deter pests. Planting chive, rosemary, or sage with carrots help prevent carrot flies. Planting herbs with your vegetables is a great way to get a twofer.
Container gardening, though it requires some special handling, is just like any other garden, in that its basic requirements are the sun, water, and air. If you provide these things and keep in mind the tips that I’ve just given you, you’ll soon be harvesting from your container garden. What is the first thing you’re going to grow in your new container garden?
Until next time, happy gardening!!
Terri: you have inspired me to take a crack at growing some things I love in containers. If it’s not too late for my zone (Wilmington DE), I would like to try grape tomatoes. I have been gorging on the variety packs (Santorange, Nova, Five Star) on salads from Trader Joe’s and Costco and find they have more flavor than cherry tomatoes. Your tips will be put to good use. Thanks.
Thanks for stopping by Lyrae. And, I’m happy to read that I may have inspired you to start a container garden.