Growing your own vegetables in containers is easy and fun!
Few things are more relaxing and rewarding than growing your own vegetables! Picking fresh vegetables straight from your own garden for your own table always seems to make them taste better.
The only problem is that many of no longer have yards large enough for a full size vegetable garden. And even if you do have space, you may have poor soil conditions or not enough time to care for a large vegetable garden.
But there is a way to grow a nice vegetable garden even if you are limited to a small yard, patio, balcony or even just a doorstep; try growing vegetables in containers!
What do I Need to Grow Vegetables in Containers?
Growing vegetables in containers is quite simple. You can use nearly any type of containers, from terra cotta pots to plain old plastic plant containers. The larger the plants you decide to grow, the bigger and deeper your containers should be. Five gallon plastic containers are a favorite choice of many successful container gardeners!
Drainage is crucial so be sure your containers or pots have several small drainage holes in the bottom and place them in drip trays to help hold in moisture.
A small space on your deck or patio is all you need to grow a container vegetable garden.
You will want to use good commercial potting soil instead of plain garden soil for best results. You can either start your vegetables from seeds or use transplants. You can add fertilizer as you water your container vegetables as you will see later in our guide.
Best of all, since your vegetable containers can easily be moved, you can experiment with various varieties and types of vegetables, rearranging them as you want to provide optimum exposure to sunlight, shade, etc. you should choose a location that gets maximum exposure to direct sunlight throughout the day for best results growing most vegetable plants.
What Kind of Vegetables Can I Grow in Containers?
Most vegetables you would ordinarily grow in a backyard vegetable garden will grow fine in containers. Eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley are all good bets.
Vegetables that grow on vines, such as tomatoes, pole beans, and cucumbers are great candidates for container growing, as long as you have room for the vines to grow. Tomato and cucumber plants should be supported with wire cages or by tying off to a nearby lattice or post for best results. Plant determinate type tomatoes, which only grow to 3 to 5 feet tall are best and grow all through the summer months.
The best vegetable types and varieties to consider growing in your container veggie garden include:
- Cucumbers – Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Crispy, Salty
- Tomatoes – Patio, Pixie, Tiny Tim, Saladette, Toy Boy, Spring Giant, Tumbling Tom, Small Fry
- Peppers – Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canape, (Hot) Red Cherry, Jalapeno
- Eggplant – Florida Market, Black Beauty, Long Tom
- Squash – Dixie, Gold Neck, Early Prolific Straightneck, (Green) Zucco, Diplomat, Senator
- Green Beans – Topcrop, Greencrop, Contender, (Pole) Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder
- Radishes – Cherry Belle, Scarlet Globe, (White) Icicle
- Green Onions – Beltsville Bunching, Crysal Wax, Evergreen Bunching
- Leaf Lettuce – Buttercrunch, Salad Bowl, Romaine, Dark Green Boston, Ruby, Bibb
- Parsley – Evergreen, Moss Curled
What Type of Soil Should I Use?
Commercial or “synthetic” potting soils are best for growing vegetables in containers. You can purchase these types of soil at your local nursery or garden center and they will generally consist of sawdust, wood chips, peat moss, perlite and/or vermiculite.
This will ensure that your soil is free of weed seeds or disease and will contain the right nutrients and drain properly. Be sure to wet the soil before you plant your container vegetable garden.
You can either purchase vegetable seedlings or germinate your own seeds and transplant to your larger containers.Should I Plant Seeds or Transplant?
Transplanting seedlings is easiest and will get your garden growing more quickly than starting from seeds, which must be germinated in smaller trays or containers before transplanting to your containers. However, either way works fine.
If you do start your vegetable plants from seeds, cover them with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil and place them in a warm, sunny place to germinate until they have at least 2 or 3 leaves before transplanting them to the containers. Use care when transplanting your seedlings to avoid injuring the roots.
How Should I Fertilize My Container Vegetable Garden?
An easy way to fertilize your container vegetable garden is to mix a nutrient solution using a commercial fertilizer mix. Follow the directions that come with your fertilizer mix, using either 10-20-10, 12-24-12 or 8-16-8 fertilizer and mixing approximately 2 cups of the fertilizer mix with a gallon of warm water from the tap.
This base solution should be further diluted by mixing about 2 tablespoons of it into a gallon of water to make a growing nutrient mix that you can simply pour gently around your container vegetable plants.
Once a week you should leach unused fertilizer from the soil by watering the plants with water only, until you can see it drain freely into the drip trays. This keeps your soil mix from building up too much unused fertilizer, which could hurt your vegetable plants.
You will also want to occasionally add some mineral elements to your nutrient mix by adding water-soluble fertilizer containing zinc, iron, manganese and boron. Follow the directions provided to dilute and mix it properly.
Check your vegetable plants regularly for any signs of insects or disease. If you see discoloration in the leaves, you may need to apply insecticide and/or fungicide to clear up such problems.
How Often and How Much Do I Water My Container Garden?
Watering your container vegetable garden daily is recommended, as long as your containers provide adequate drainage; you don’t want to water-log the soil, which starves the plants of oxygen.
Try to water the soil around your vegetable plants and avoid wetting the plants too much since wet leaves may cause fungus or disease. Use your nutrient solution to water daily, except for one day a week when you should use water from a tap to leach the soil as mentioned previously.
How Much Light Do My Container Vegetable Plants Need?
Most vegetable plants grow best in direct sunlight and will grow faster the more hours of sunlight received each day. Some leafy crops, such as lettuce, greens, cabbage, spinach and parsley grow well with less sunlight, so keep these to the rear of your container garden, placing fruit bearing vegetable plants such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant where they will receive the most direct sunlight possible.
Since containers are easily moved, you have the advantage of being able to rotate and position different plants for optimum sun exposure; move smaller plants out of the shade of larger plants and rotate plants frequently to encourage more rapid growth!
How Do I Harvest Vegetables From My Container Garden?
One of the joys of having your own container vegetable garden is harvesting crops as they ripen. It is best to allow your vegetables to ripen on the vine, picking them at peak maturity for the best flavor. If you have a bunch of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce or other vegetables that ripen at the same time, pick them and keep them in a cool place rather than letting them sit on the vine too long and chance having them spoil or rot.
If you stagger planting like vegetable plants a few weeks apart in the spring, you’ll have a better chance of harvesting veggies throughout the summer rather than having, say, all of your tomatoes or cucumbers ripen all at once.
Good luck and happy gardening; by following these tips and learning as you grow, you’ll enjoy planting, caring for and harvesting vegetables from your container garden all summer long!