Vegetable Gardening in Containers
If your vegetable gardening is limited by insufficient space or an unsuitable area, consider the possibility of raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers. A window sill, a patio, a balcony or a doorstep will provide sufficient space for a productive mini-garden. Problems with soil-borne diseases, nematodes or poor soil conditions can be easily overcome by switching to a container garden. Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden will also do well as a container-grown plant. Vegetables which are ideally suited for growing in containers include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley. Pole beans and cucumbers also do well in this type of garden, but they do require considerably more space because of their vining growth habit.
Almost any type of container can be used for growing vegetable plants. The size of the container will vary according to the crop selection and space available. Pots from 6-10” in size are satisfactory for green onion, parsley and herbs. For most vegetable crops such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, you will need a container about the size of a 5-gallon container. This is still fairly easy to handle and provide adequate space for root growth.
One of the recent inventions that has made container gardening easier is the EarthBox. This is a self contained system that really maximizes plant growth and yield but takes a minimum amount of space. An added feature is the self watering reservoir system that allows you to go a week or longer without watering. Regardless of the type or size of container used, adequate drainage is a necessity for successful yields. It is advisable to add about 1” of coarse gravel in the bottom of the container to improve drainage. The drain holes are best located along the side of the container, about ¼” to ½” from the bottom.
Seeding and Transplanting
Best suited for container culture are vegetables which may be easily transplanted. Most vegetables should be transplanted into containers when they develop their first two to three true leaves. Transplanting should be done carefully to avoid injury to the young root system.
We recommend using Bumper Crop Tomato & Vegetable Food or Espoma Garden Tone to fertilize vegetables. (The EarthBox system utilizes an organic plant food that is only applied at the beginning of the growing season).
Proper watering is essential for a successful container garden. Generally one watering per day is adequate. However, poor drainage will slowly kill the plants. The mix will become water-logged and plants will die from lack of oxygen. If at all possible, avoid wetting the foliage of plants since wet leaves will encourage plant diseases.
Nearly all vegetable plants will grow better in full sunlight than in shade. However, leafy crops such as lettuce, cabbage, greens, spinach and parsley can tolerate more shade than root crops such as radishes, beets, turnips and onions. The root vegetables can stand more shade than those which bear fruit, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. One advantage to container gardening is mobility. Container gardening makes it possible to position the vegetables in areas where they can receive the best possible growing conditions.
Diseases and Insects
Vegetables grown in containers can be attacked by the various types of insects and diseases that are common to any vegetable garden. Plants should be periodically inspected for the presence of foliage and fruit-feeding insects as well as the occurrence of diseases. Should problems occur, then the timely application of EPA-approved fungicides and insecticides is advised. Many natural organic choices are now available.
For the greatest amount of enjoyment from a container garden, harvest the vegetables at their peak of maturity when a vegetable’s full flavor has developed. This will yield maximum pleasure from the excellent taste of vine-ripened tomatoes, tender green beans and crisp flavorful lettuce.