Vegetable Gardening in Containers

 

If your vegetable gardening is limited by insufficient space or an unsuitable area, consider raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers. A window sill, a patio, a balcony or a doorstep will provide sufficient space for a productive mini-garden. Problems with soilborne diseases, nematodes or poor soil conditions can be easily overcome by switching to a container garden. Ready access to containers means that pest management is easier. Container vegetable gardening is a sure way to introduce children to the joys and rewards of vegetable gardening. 

 

 

 

Growing Media

Any growing media must provide water, nutrients, and a physical support in order to grow healthy plants. A good growing media must also drain well. Synthetic or soilless mixes are well suited for vegetable container gardening and may be composed of sawdust, wood chips, peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite. These are free of disease and weed seeds, hold moisture and nutrients but drain well and are lightweight. Many synthetic soil mixes such as Jiffy Mix

 

are available at garden centers. Soilless mixes can also be prepared by mixing horticultural grade vermiculite, peat moss, limestone, superphosphate and garden fertilizer. To 1 bushel each of vermiculite and peat moss, add 10 tablespoons of limestone, 5 tablespoons of 0-20-0 (superphosphate) and 1 cup of garden fertilizer such as 6-12-12 or 5-10-10. Mix the material thoroughly while adding a little water to reduce dust. Wet the mix thoroughly before seeding or transplanting. Soil mixes are made up of equal parts of sphagnum peat moss or compost, pasteurized soil, and vermiculite or perlite. Composted cow manure is then added to improve the soil’s physical properties and as a nutrient source. Soil mixes tend to hold water better than soilless mixes.

Containers

Almost any type of container can be used for growing vegetable plants. For example, try using bushel baskets, drums, gallon cans, tubs or wooden boxes. The size of the container will vary according to the crop selection and space available. Pots from 6 to 10 inches in size are satisfactory for green onion, parsley and herbs. For most vegetable crops such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, you will find that 5 gallon containers are the most suitable size, while 1 to 2 gallon containers are best for chard and dwarf tomatoes. Smaller container sizes are appropriate for herbs, lettuce, and radish crops. They are fairly easy to handle and provide adequate space for root growth.

Container materials are either porous or nonporous. Glazed, plastic, metal, and glass containers are nonporous. Regardless of the type or size of container used it must drain adequately for successful yields. Adding about 1 inch of coarse gravel in the bottom of the container will improve drainage. The drain holes work best when they are located along the side of the container, about ¼ to ½ inch from the bottom.

Seeding and Transplanting

Vegetables that can be easily transplanted are best suited for container culture. Transplants may be purchased from local nurseries or can be grown at home. Seeds can also be germinated in a baking pan, plastic tray, pot, or even a cardboard milk carton. Fill the container with the media described above and cover most vegetable seed with ¼ inch to ½ inch of media to insure good germination. Another method is to use peat pellets or peat pots which are available from nursery supply centers. Landscape cloth or screen in the bottom of the pot will improve drainage and invigorate plant growth.

Any well-drained container can become a productive mini-garden.

Green onions, radishes or beets can be grown in a cake pan.

 

 

The seed should be started in a warm area that receives sufficient sunlight about 4 to 8 weeks before you plan to transplant them into the final container. Most vegetables should be transplanted into containers when they develop their first two to three true leaves. Transplant the seedlings carefully to avoid injuring the young root system. (See Table 2 for information about different kinds of vegetables.)

Fertilization

Available fertilizers will be either time-release or water soluble. Time-release fertilizer is mixed with the potting media at planting time. Osmocote® is a pelleted time-release fertilizer with 14-14-14 formulation. Water soluble fertilizers, on the other hand, are added to water and used when plants begin to grow actively. Peters® 20-20-20 or Miracle Gro® 15-30-15 are two examples sold in most garden centers.

The easiest way to add fertilizer to plants growing in containers is to prepare a nutrient solution and then pour it over the soil mix. There are many good commercial fertilizer mixes available to make nutrient solutions. Always follow the application directions on the label. You can make a nutrient solution by dissolving 2 cups of a complete fertilizer such as 10-20-10, 12-24-12, or 8-16-8 in 1 gallon of warm tap water. This mixture is highly concentrated and must be di

Covering the seed flat with a clear plastic bag will hasten germination.

A “tube” or bag garden is an easy method to grow vegetables.

Table 2. Planting Information for Growing Vegetables in Containers

 

 

 

Crop

 

 

Number of days for germination

 

 

Number of weeks to optimum age for transplanting

 

 

General size of container

 

 

Amount of light* required

 

 

Number of days from seeding to harvest

 

 

Beans

 

 

5-8

 

 

 

 

Medium

 

 

Sun

 

 

45-65

 

 

Cucumbers

 

 

6-8

 

 

3-4

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

50-70

 

 

Eggplant

 

 

8-12

 

 

6-8

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

90-120

 

 

Lettuce, leaf

 

 

6-8

 

 

3-4

 

 

Medium

 

 

Partial Shade

 

 

45-60

 

 

Onions

 

 

6-8

 

 

6-8

 

 

Small

 

 

Partial Shade

 

 

80-100

 

 

Parsley

 

 

10-12

 

 

 

 

Small

 

 

Partial Shade

 

 

70-90

 

 

Pepper

 

 

10-14

 

 

6-8

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

90-120

 

 

Radish

 

 

4-6

 

 

 

 

Small

 

 

Partial Shade

 

 

20-60

 

 

Squash

 

 

5-7

 

 

3-4

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

50-70

 

 

Tomato

 

 

7-10

 

 

5-6

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

90-130

 

 

Be sure to keep plants watered and watch for insects that can harm them. Enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Crop Selection

Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden will also do well as a container-grown plant. Vegetables that are ideally suited for growing in containers include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley. Pole beans and cucumbers also do well in this type of garden, but they do require considerably more space because of their vining growth habit.

Variety selection is extremely important. Most varieties that will do well when planted in a yard garden will also do well in containers. Some varieties of selected vegetables which are ideally suited for these mini-gardens are indicated in Table 1.

Table 1. Varieties for Container Grown Vegetables

Broccoli (2 gallons, 1 plant)

Packman, Bonanza, others

Carrot (1 gallon, 2-3 plants. Use pots 2 inch deeper than the carrot length)

Scarlet Nantes, Gold Nugget, Little Finger, Baby Spike, Thumbelina

Cucumber (1 gallon, 1 plant)

Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Crispy, Salty

Eggplant (5 gallons, 1 plant)

Florida Market, Black Beauty, Long Tom

Green Bean (2 gallons minimum, space plants 3 inches apart)

Topcrop, Greencrop, Contender, (Pole) Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder

Green Onion (1gallon, 3-5 plants)

Beltsville Bunching, Crysal Wax, Evergreen Bunching

Leaf Lettuce (1 gallon, 2 plants)

Buttercrunch, Salad Bowl, Romaine, Dark Green Boston, Ruby, Bibb

Parsley (1gallon, 3 plants)

Evergreen, Moss Curled

Pepper (5 gallons, 1-2 plants)

Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canape, Red Cherry (Hot), Jalapeno

Radish (1gallon, 3 plants)

Cherry Belle, Scarlet Globe, (White) Icicle

Spinach (1 gallon, 2 plants)

Any cultivar

Squash (5 gallons, 1 plant)

Dixie, Gold Neck, Early Prolific Straightneck, Zucco (Green), Diplomat, Senator

Tomato (5 gallons, 1 plant)

Patio, Pixie, Tiny Tim, Saladette, Toy Boy, Spring Giant, Tumbling Tom, Small Fry

Turnip (2 gallons, 2 plants)

Any cultivar

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