You Really Got Me Growing
Gardening is a relaxing and productive hobby that anyone can enjoy. If you don’t have space for a full-scale garden, you can still enjoy growing delicious, fresh vegetables in containers that will fit on a balcony, deck, or patio.
Many different types of vegetables can be grown successfully in container gardens, and the process of growing and harvesting your vegetables can provide cost savings for your food budget as well as personal satisfaction.
Types of Vegetables That Grow Well in Containers
Not all vegetables will thrive in containers. However, varieties like beans, chili peppers, sweet peppers, spinach, chard, onions, and tomatoes can all be easily grown in containers.
You can grow onions, radishes, beets, and potatoes in a container. Dwarf varieties are best suited for container gardening, as are hybrid varieties. Don’t be afraid to experiment with growing different types of vegetables. You may be surprised at how easy it is to grow vegetables in smaller areas.
Choose the Right Container
You can find a wide variety of planting containers at garden centers in plastic, wood, ceramic, and terra cotta. Containers should have holes in the bottom to allow for proper drainage. The new flexible “grow bags” offer another convenient option for those who want to start a container garden.
Vegetables with shallow roots, like lettuce and other greens, only need pots that are 3 to 4 inches deep. Spinach requires at least 6 inches of soil for proper growth. Vegetables with deeper roots generally need about 12 inches of soil to grow comfortably. Some pots are heavier than others, and some hold moisture better than others.
Light and Location
Position your containers in areas that provide sufficient light during the day. Plants require at least six to eight hours of sunlight for proper growth. Direct sunlight can often be too harsh and burn plant foliage, so place your containers where they can get diffused light whenever possible.
The Right Soil Will Help Your Vegetables Thrive
You can successfully grow vegetables using different types of soil medium. The most important feature of soil is that it is well-draining, which will allow moisture to be taken up into the plant without damaging the roots.
Lots of organic material, dried leaves, and shredded bark will help nourish plants and wick away excess water. You can purchase pre-mixed potting soil at your local garden center or make your own soil mix with one part topsoil, one part Perlite, and one part peat moss. Composted manure, Vermiculate, and coco coir are good ingredients for your soil mix.
Watering Your Plant
The correct amount of water is critical to the development of vegetables. Insufficient water will cause plants to wilt and die. Too much water leads to root problems and the inability of plants to take in nutrients. Generally, you should water your vegetable plants when sticking your finger into the soil until the second knuckle indicates the soil is dry.
The amount of water needed will vary depending on location and weather conditions. Water your plants gently but deeply -- that is, until the water begins to flow from the drainage holes at the bottom. Plants prefer watering in the morning hours. Another tip: keep water on the soil, not on the plant foliage, to prevent fungal growth on leaves.
Plants that produce fruit or vegetables need fertilizing on a regular basis. Most vegetables need an application of fertilizer every two to four weeks. Slow-release fertilizer is a good choice for container-grown vegetables because they release nutrients gradually. However, any water-soluble fertilizer will work well for vegetable plants. Always follow package directions when applying fertilizer.
Thinning and Tying
If you sow vegetable plants from seed, you will have to thin out the seedlings to allow them enough space to grow properly. Additionally, as the plants become larger, you may have to tie the plants to garden stakes to keep them upright and prevent vines from touching the ground. Your local garden center has a number of items for these tasks.
Managing Pest Problems
Container gardens experience many of the same pest problems as traditional garden plants, such as aphids, whiteflies, scale, and nematodes. Commercial pesticides are effective against harmful pests, but they also kill beneficial species of insects. Instead, choose insecticidal oils, horticultural oils, and pesticides that contain neem oil or pyrethrins.
Growing your own vegetables is a satisfying endeavor and can save you money on produce. With a little research and attention to your plants, you can produce a variety of vegetables for your table. These tips will get you started in creating a productive vegetable garden for your home cooking and to share with family and friends.