Handy tips on vegetable gardening in containers

Published on Sunday, 23 February 2014 00:10 - Written by Chad Gulley Extension Agent

Do you want to grow vegetables in your garden but, you find that space is insufficient?

Container gardening may be an option for you. Growing vegetables in containers in a window sill, patio, or a balcony may provide enough space for a productive mini-garden. Container gardening is also a good way to introduce children to vegetable gardening.

Crop selection is an important consideration for any garden both traditional or container. Most any vegetable can be grown in containers. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley are examples of suitable vegetables for container gardening. Variety selection is important.

When planting vegetables weather can be a factor in the success of the variety you choose. Planting guides are available to aid in getting the variety planted at the appropriate time to achieve good yields. Freezing weather can cause damage to several vegetable varieties. One advantage with container gardens is if freezing weather is predicted, one can move the containers indoors during these conditions.

Selection of the growing media is another important decision in growing container vegetables. The growing media must drain well yet hold water for the plant to take it up. The media must also have nutrients and be able to physically support the desired plant species. There are soil mixes available or you may mix your own.

Proper watering is essential for a successful container garden. If we water too much the plant may begin to show disease symptoms or even die. If we water too little the plants will be weakened and shrivel. Check the soil regularly and water as needed. If we are receiving adequate rainfall, this may be all the water needed for a period of time.

Almost any type of container can be used for growing vegetables. Some use bushel baskets, drums, gallon cans, tubs, or wooden boxes. The size of the container will vary according to the crop selected and available space. Small pots 6 inches to 10 inches are suitable in size for green onions, parsley or herbs. For vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, 5 gallon containers work well. Select containers that fit your situation. Containers must also drain adequately for successful yields. Some even add about 1 inch of course gravel to the bottom of the container to aid in drainage.

Fertilization of the vegetable crop is important. Plants need adequate nutrients to produce well. Some incorporate the fertilizer material into the soil media as it is mixed together. Others use slow release fertilizers. Water soluble fertilizers are also available. Some prepare a nutrient solution pouring the solution over the soil mix.

Nearly all vegetable plants need full sunlight to grow and produce adequate yields. Leafy vegetables can tolerate more shady areas. Fruit- bearing vegetables need the most sun of all. One advantage of container gardening is the container can be moved or placed in the most appropriate place to obtain adequate lighting.

Monitor the plants for disease and insects. With time and care, we can enjoy the fruits of our labors. Harvest these vegetables at the peak of maturity. For taller plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, or beans, caging the plant allows for support as the plant grows upright and puts on fruit.

At the end of the growing season, discard the plant and the soil from the pot. The container can be reused but it may be necessary to sterilize the container to keep plant diseases at a minimum. It is recommended to replace the soil each year in a container garden as well. Properly composted planting media can be reused.

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