When it comes to gardening vegetables, starting a garden, growing a vegetable garden, or small space gardening this article I came across is very helpful in giving you ideas as to how choose the right containers, soil, fertilizers and different vegetable types to grow in containers.
Container Vegetable Gardening
Growing Vegetables in Pots
By Marie Iannotti, About.com Guide
You don’t need a plot of land to grow fresh vegetables. Many vegetables lend themselves well to container gardening. With some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties, almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. Vegetables that take up little space, such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a long period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, are perfect for container vegetable gardens.
What you can grow in a container vegetable garden is limited only by the size of the container and your imagination. How about a Summer Salad container? Plant a tomato, a cucumber and some parsley or chives all in a large (24-30″) container. They grow well together and have the same water and sun requirements. By late summer they might not be very pretty, but they’ll keep producing into the fall. This makes a great housewarming present, too.
Containers and Pots for Vegetable Gardens
Selecting Containers: Containers for your vegetable gardens can be almost anything: flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, nursery flats, window planters, washtubs, strawberry pots, plastic bags, large food cans, or any number of other things.
Drainage: No matter what kind of container you choose for your vegetable garden, it should have holes at the base or in the bottom to permit drainage of excess water.
Color Considerations: You should be careful when using dark colored containers because they absorb heat which could possibly damage the plant roots. If you do use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color or shading just the container, not the plants.
Size: The size of the container is important. For larger vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants, you should use a five gallon container for each plant. You can grow these plants in two gallon containers, however you need to give the plants considerably more water.
Soil and Fertilizer: You can use soil in your container vegetable garden, but potting mixes are much better. Peat-based mixes, containing peat and vermiculite, are excellent. They are relatively sterile and pH adjusted. They also allow the plants to get enough air and water. Mixing in one part compost to two parts planting mix will improve fertility.Using a slow release or complete organic fertilizer at planting will keep your vegetables fed for the whole growing season.
Watering: Pots and containers always require more frequent watering than plants in the ground. As the season progresses and your plants mature, their root system will expand and require even more water. Don’t wait until you see the plants wilting. Check your containers daily to judge the need for water.
Vegetable plant varieties suitable for container gardening
Seed companies realize that homeowners have less and less space to devote to vegetable gardens. Every year they come out with new vegetable plant varieties suitable for growing in small spaces and vegetable container gardens.
Be on the look out for key words like: bush, compact, and space saver. Here are some vegetable plant varieties to get your vegetable container garden growing.
Carrots: Most carrots require a long growing season and tending to a container of carrots can be tedious. However two options can make it easier: 1) Seed a few carrots with potted flowers. The ferny foliage is attractive and you will be pulling the carrots before the roots of the flowers take over the pot. and 2) choose a fast growing round or baby carrot, like ‘Babette’ or ‘Paris market’.
Cucumbers: Cucumbers that grow in a clump, rather than a long, sprawling vine, are considered bush varieties. They can still spread out several feet, but they should not require trellising and grow well in large, wide containers. Don’t worry, you’ll still get plenty of cukes. Some to look for: ‘Salad Bush Hybrid’, ‘Spacemaster’, ‘Bush Pickle’.
Eggplant: 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. The slender varieties, like ‘Bambino’, ‘Ping Tung’ and ‘Slim Jim’, make good choices.
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. There are several classic bean varieties that do well in all kinds of conditions, like ‘Blue Lake’, ‘Kentucky Wonder’, ‘Lazy Housewife’ and ‘French Dwarf’.
Green Onions: Full sized onions not only take up space, they also require a long time in the ground. Green or bunching onions can be slipped into pots with other vegetables or grown on their own. Either way, you can snip what you need and leave the plants to grow more leaves. Some favorites: ‘Beltsville Bunching’, ‘Crysal Wax’ and ‘Evergreen Bunching’.
Leaf Lettuce: Lettuce loves containers. You can move itinto sun or shade, as needed, lift it away from pests and animals and keep it handy for cutting. If you grow loose leaf varieties and cut only the outer leaves, the plants will continue to grow for months. However sooner or later they will tire out, so keep planting seed every 3–4 weeks for a sucecession of harvests. Easy growing loose-leaf varieties include: ‘Buttercrunch’, red or green ‘Salad Bowl’ and any variety of ‘Bibb’.
Peppers: Peppers are actually tropical perennial plants and if you bring your potted pepper plants indoors for the winter, they will continue setting fruits. Of course you can simply enjoy them outdoors, during the summer months. Large peppers will require staking. Some sweet peppers to try include: ‘Cubanelle’ ‘Gypsy’, ‘Jimmy Nardello’, ‘Marconi’ and ‘Sweet Banana’. Hot peppers tend to be smaller and more prolific. Some good choices for containers include: ‘Cayenne’, ‘Fatalli’ ‘Hot Cherry’, ‘Jalapeno’ and ‘Robustini’
Radishes: Radishes are best when they grow quickly and growing them in containers will provide the cool, damp conditions they love. All the round varieties, like ‘Cherry Belle’, and ‘Scarlet Globe’, as well as some of the longer, slim types such as ‘Cincinnati Market’ and ‘White Icicle’, will grow quickly in containers. You could even plant radishes and carrots together, they way it is often done in the garden. The radishes grow quickly and loosen the soil, so the carrots have room to expand, when the radishes are pulled.
Squash: As with cucumbers, squash plants can be either “bush” varieties or long vines. You can grow either in a container, but bush varieties make the better choice, remaining much more compact. Most summer squash plants are bush types. and zucchini offer the most choices, like ‘Gold Rush’ and Ronde de Nice’ zucchini, ‘Sundance’ crookneck and ‘Peter Pan’ patty pan, all of which are delicious.
Tomatoes: Growing a full sized tomato plant in a container will require a large pot, a strong stake or cage and lots of water – but it can be done. If you have a favorite variety of tomato, go ahead and try it in a pot. If you just want a handy snack, the dwarf cherry tomatoes are perfect for you and there are dozens to choose from. Some have more flavor than others, so experiment. Some I like include: ‘Tiny Tim’, ‘Tumbling Tom’ and ‘Small Fry’.
I found this article to be a great help in getting started growing vegetables in containers. Please comment and share your thoughts that you have or additions to the vegetable list above.
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