Container gardening allows you to grow vegetables even if you don't have a lot of space. You can garden indoors, on a balcony, on a patio, or on a roof. Container gardens are easy to maintain and require less water than traditional outdoor gardens.
Why YOU Should Try Container Gardening
Container gardening is a great way for those of us who don't have room for raised beds, or a huge garden plot, to grow our own food. Want to have more of a say over growing conditions and fewer weeding chores? Container gardening is a perfect solution. You can grow all kinds of plants in containers, including vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even fruit trees.
Container Gardening 101
Where to Put a Container Garden
Container gardens allow you to grow plants in small spaces. You can even plant them in your car! Container gardens are great because they are easy to move around, and you can easily add more plants when you need them.
As with a standard garden bed (or any type of container), consider things such as sunlight, water access, and protection from wind before deciding where to place your containers.
- You can easily grow vegetables in container. To maximize the amount of vegetables you get from your garden, you'll need to plant them in areas that receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Lettuce, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens can grow well in slightly less light (three to five hours of sunlight per day) but for fruiting plants, like tomatoes, peppers, squashes, green onions or eggplants, full sun should be your goal. Southern and western exposure will provide the most sunlight, while northern and eastern exposure will be shadier and colder.
- It‘s also a good idea not to put your pots anywhere near a window or door. If you have a large pot, you may need to move it away from a wall or other structure that could block sunlight. You should also keep in mind that container gardens need more water than standard garden beds. And if you’re going to be using a hose to water your plants, you’ll need to remember to bring it along when you go out to water them.
- Containers should be placed in protected areas, like under a roof or in a garage. If you need to grow in containers, consider using stakes or other supports to keep them upright.
Think about the microclimates you have on your property. Microclimate is a term used to describe the local weather conditions within a specific area. These areas can range from a few feet to several miles in size. A microclimate can be found anywhere there is a difference in temperature between two different areas. For example, if you have a large lawn surrounded by a forest, then the microclimate around the forest will be cooler than the microclimate around the lawn. If you place a pot of flowers on the lawn, then the microclimate surrounding the pot will be warmer than the microclimate around your house.
Choosing the Right Container
The most important aspect of container gardening is choosing the right container. There are many different types of containers available, each suited to a specific purpose. For example, if you're looking to grow herbs, choose a pot with drainage holes. If you're looking to grow tomatoes, choose a pot with a flat bottom. And if you're looking to plant a large vegetable garden, choose a pot that will hold enough soil to accommodate your needs.
Containers should have holes or vents to let water drain out. Waterlogged soil promotes bacterial growth, which will stunt plant growth or kill them outright. Climate also plays a role here, as you need to consider what type of soil you're planting in. If your area is dry, you'll want to select containers that hold more water. On the other hand, if you're growing in a humid environment, you'll want to pick containers that allow for more airflow.
Plants need room to grow. If you give them enough space, they will grow. You should choose a pot that is large enough for the root system of the plant you are growing. For example, if you are growing tomatoes, you should get a pot that holds about five gallons of water. Larger pots are also easier to move around, since they weigh less.
Large containers are generally made of steel, aluminum, or plastic, and are usually designed to hold liquids. Larger containers are often used for storing water, chemicals, or other substances that need to be kept at a certain temperature. Smaller containers are usually made of glass, and are used for storing smaller amounts of liquid. Glass containers are lighter and easier to carry around, but they are more fragile and breakable.
Containers come in many different shapes and sizes. Containers are usually made of metal, plastic, glass, or wood. Metal containers are durable and long lasting, but they are heavy and expensive. Plastic containers are light weight and inexpensive, but they tend to break easily.
- Plastic pots come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are inexpensive, light weight, and easy to clean and reuse. They are also great for growing edibles because they keep your plants safe from pests and diseases. However, if you’re growing vegetables, be sure to choose containers made out of food grade plastic so that any chemicals used to make the plastic won’t leech into the soil.
- Ceramics are a type of pottery made from clay. Clay pots are very durable and can last for hundreds of years if properly cared for. Clay pots are porous, allowing some air and water to pass through them. This helps prevent soil from getting too wet, but also means soil in clay pots dries out more quickly than in other types of pots. Clay pots are also susceptible to cracking in cold temperatures, so they should be stored in a warm place during the winter months.
- Fabric pots are a great alternative to clay pots. They are lightweight, easy to move around, and allow air and water to flow through them. They also dry out quickly, so you'll need to keep an eye on your plant's soil.
Almost any container will work, so get creative! Herbs, cherry tomatoes, and berries grown at eye level can easily be tended to and harvested. Use old whiskey barrels (a wooden barrel can yield an amazing amount) of water, buckets, baskets, boxes and tubs, window boxes and troughs—anything you can manage. Just be sure that the container has drainage holes in the base and is a size that fits your needs.
Watch the video below to learn more about choosing the right container.
Soil for Containers
Plants in containers need the best nutrients, aeration, water, and drainage in order for them to grow well. If you're growing your own plants in pots, you'll need to provide them with the right amount of nutrients, aeration, moisture, and drainage. You should also consider using a potting mix that contains compost, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and other materials
Use a “soil-less” potting mix instead of soil. These mixes are specially designed to be lightweight and drain quickly. They won’t hold moisture or attract pests.
Soil-less mixes are made of soil, peat, perlite, and vermicelli. These ingredients are mixed together to create a mixture that will hold moisture and nutrients for plants. Soilless mixes are often used for indoor gardening because they are easy to maintain and require less water than regular potting soils.
Got composting? Compost is an amazing material to add to your container's mix. It contains lots of nutrients and loosens up the media. Learn all about making compost here!
How to Water Containers
Containers are great for growing vegetables because they allow you to grow your crops in an environment that is protected from harsh weather conditions. Containers also allow you to grow your plants in areas that might not be suitable for traditional gardening. For example, if you live in an apartment, you may not have access to a garden. You could still grow your own produce using containers.
You can water them using hoses, watering cans, or drip irrigation. Choose a container that works best for you and the size and shape of your garden.
A few watering pointers:
- Watering in the morning is ideal because it gives your plants enough water to last until the hottest part of the day. If you water in the afternoon, you may not give your plants enough water to survive the heat. You also need to consider the fact that watering in the evening encourages diseases to grow.
- Water deeply! Plants need water at their roots. Soil needs to be wetted before you plant your seedlings. If you just spray the top of the soil, the water won’t get to the root zone. You can also put a tray under the pot to soak up the water. Then, when the soil is dry, you can drain the water out of the tray.
- Don‘t water your plants too often! It may seem counterintuitive, but frequent, shallow waterings encourage weak, shallow roots. Plants need time to recover between waterings, so don't be afraid to let the water run off for a few minutes before you refill the container. If you're worried about overwatering, check the soil level periodically. You can also use a moisture meter to measure the soil's moisture content.
You should also consider the size of the pot. Larger pots will dry out quicker than smaller pots. You should also consider the weather. If it is hot and sunny, then you will need to water more frequently than if it is cold and cloudy. Pay attention to the speed at which your container soil dries. You will soon get a sense of how often you need to rewater.
To keep container plants adequately cool during hot summer days, you can place a small pot inside a large one and fill the space in between with sphagnum or crumpled newspaper to create a humid environment. Be careful not to overwater the plant, as the extra moisture will encourage mold growth.
Water flows quickly through containers, flushing out nutrients and salts. This can be a problem if you don’t feed your plants enough. If you don’t give them enough water, they won’t grow well. You need to keep an eye on your plants and water them often.
Use a liquid fertilizer to feed your container plants at least twice per month, following the instructions provided on the label. If you’ve got a garden bed, you may need to apply a bit more fertilizer than what’s recommended on the label. Test your soil first, if you can, to determine whether or not additional fertilizer needs to be applied.
To keep your plants healthy, you need to feed them organic soil amendments. Liquid seaweed, fish emulsions, and manure teas are all great options.
Supporting Container Plants
Trellises are great for supporting plants that need extra height. You can also use them to keep out pests like rabbits, squirrels, and birds. Trellises are easy to build and can be made from wood, metal, plastic, or even bamboo. If you’re using bamboo, make sure to treat it properly before planting.
Teepees made of bamboo poles and twine are great for growing pole beans or snap peas. You can also train cucumbers to climb up a nylon netting fence. Support your plants when you plant them. If you damage the plants or their roots during planting, you may need to repot them.
Which Vegetables Grow Best in Containers?
Vegetables that grow well in pots are usually easy to transplant. These plants can be bought from local nurseries or planted at home. Some vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and cucumbers are best started indoors before planting them out. Others like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and kale need to be started directly in the ground.
Grow dwarf or container plants. Dwarf varieties are usually shorter and bushier, while container plants are often grown in pots. These types of plants are easier to care for and maintain in a small space.
Edible flowers such as nasturtiums, calendulas, and signet marjoram also add color to the table.
To maximize your harvest, plant low-growers, and high-growers together in the same pot. The high-growers will climb up the trellis, while the low-growers will spread out around them. You’ll barely need to weed because there will be no room for weeds to grow. During the height of summer, low-growers (such as leafy greens) will thrive in the shady conditions provided by the high-growers.
Mixing different types of vegetables together will give you a mix of nutrients. You can grow your own salad greens in pots, and then harvest them when they're ready.
Group plants together by their need for sunlight, water, and nutrients. For example, group pole beans, radishes, and lettuce together; group cucumbers, bush beans, and beet greens together; group tomatoes, basil, and onion together; and group peas and carrots together.
Dr. Vandana, Co-Founder, UrbanMali.com