If you’re short on space but longing for tomatoes or strawberries with real flavor, container gardening can be the solution to your prayers. Likewise, if your yard is infested with nematodes that keep attacking your vegetables, you could simply outsmart the little pests by keeping your crops out of their reach. Container gardens are once again the answer. Of course, such things are easier said than done, right? No worries! Read on and we’ll show and tell you all about how growing vegetables in containers is done.
So Many Vegetables…
You obviously want to grow what you and your family will eat. But if you can’t find large containers or food-safe buckets to use, you will have to stick to veggies that don’t need a lot of space to grow well. Most leafy greens that you’d use as a salad base (spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc.) fall into this category. Radishes, sugar snap peas, Swiss chard and strawberries will do okay in small containers as well. So will micro greens, which are any kind of edible plants that are harvested for consumption after they’ve gotten a few inches tall.
There is also a group of vegetables that will do okay in medium size containers. These include peppers as well as some types of cucumbers and squash. However, a lot of popular vegetables have extensive root systems. If you’re not going to be growing them in the ground, you need a fairly deep container, (go for the biggest ones you can find). This allows them to reach their full potential so they don’t end up stunted and puny. Things like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, carrots and most tomatoes fall in this category.
Pick Your Pots
While there are certainly other container options out there, the main choices are still plastic and terracotta. Plastic is good for keeping moisture loving plants happy and terracotta is good for species that prefer a drier life. Ceramic or glazed terracotta pots are also good for holding in moisture. There aren’t many vegetables that like drier conditions. In fact, none immediately come to mind. But there are plenty that are prone to rotting if you keep them too damp.
Of course, you’ll want to consider the color of your planter. In places with cooler climates, dark pots can help keep plants warm. However, I’d think twice before doing so in warmer regions. For instance, I once planted some flowers in a black pot and they were dead a week later. The result is that I normally use light colored planters to keep my vegetables from frying to a crisp. However, seedlings do germinate and grow faster in darker containers. I guess the moral here is that you can use them just but be very, very careful.
Select Your Ideal Spot for Growing Vegetables in Containers
The great thing about growing your plants in containers is that they don’t have to stay in a bad spot. If they’re not getting enough sun or they’re getting too much, you can move them elsewhere and adjust on the fly. Light is still a very important factor when it comes to vegetable gardens. Most veggies are going to want sun and lots of it. However, there are some species that don’t mind brightly lit or partial shade conditions as long as they get a few sunny hours. Many of these are plants you would probably put in your salad: leafy greens, radishes, carrots, and peas.
If you’re trying to grow sun-loving plants in less than ideal conditions or your shade plants are getting enough light, you might want to try setting up a sun lamp outside. Just make sure it’s not close enough to the plant that it burns the leaves. If you don’t want heat and light at the same time, another idea is to angle an old mirror or another type of reflective material so that it adds some light to dark corners.
With Veggies, It’s All About The Soil
Just like Billy Joel said: it’s all about soil. Just remember: Potting soil, not garden soil. Two totally different things. Moving on. As a budget gardener, I’ve recently tested out two different kinds of cheap potting soil. Ace Hardware sells one that’s about $3 for good-size bag. I used it for quite some time. However, it tends to hold in moisture to the point you have to skip watering days or risk rotting your plants. It also forms troublesome clumps after a time, even when mixed with perlite. I’ve found that moisture-loving herbs (like mints) and annual flowers do okay with this stuff but it’s not been great for starting seeds. On the other hand, Lowes sells $4 worth for a potting soil mix that seems to contain a large amount of wood chips. The seeds I’ve started in it have come up quickly. However, it has the opposite problem and doesn’t hold enough moisture in. So I’ve mixed them up. We’ll see what happens.
Yes, you certainly can spend $8/bag on the Miracle Grow stuff but you really don’t need to. This is especially true if you have the space to create a decent-sized compost pile. Composting enables you to improve the quality of cheap potting soil or add some nutrients back into recycled potting soil. As long as doing so won’t get you in trouble with the neighborhood watch, of course! Alternate composting methods include small kitchen buckets for organic waste and worm composting bins that you keep under the sink.
Now all you need is a water hose with a decent nozzle and you’re armed with all the info you need for growing vegetables in containers this summer!