While everyone may not have room for full-sized vegetable gardening, many can find a spot in a patio, balcony or rooftop for container vegetable gardening. Even a single container planted with vegetables can provide a bountiful harvest, enough to feed a family of six or host a dinner for six friends.
What You’ll Need To Start Container Vegetable Gardening
Most vegetables need at least six hours of full sunlight every day to grow properly. Cool season plants like lettuce, celery and broccoli can get by on a bit less. Setting containers on caddies allows them to be easily moved towards the sun.
Most vegetables require a pot that is at least 45 centimetres deep and 60 centimetres wide. If you don’t have space for large containers, you can still grow shallow root plants, such as lettuce, radishes and peppers, in smaller containers or window boxes. Remember to consider total weight when choosing a container. A pot filled with wet soil can be heavy.
Using a soilless potting soil with time-released fertilizer is the easiest way to ensure that your vegetables get the water and nutrients they need. Soilless potting mixes contain a mix of ingredients like compost, perlite, vermiculite and sphagnum peat that help soil absorb and retain water and nutrients. A soilless mix also helps protect vegetables from bacteria and insects.
Choosing a soil mix with time-released fertilizer helps vegetables to get a head start, but you’ll want to supplement it with application of fish emulsion every few weeks.
Drip irrigation systems set on automatic timers can make container gardening a breeze, and ensure that plants get all the water they need. If you’re going to hand water vegetables, you need to make sure that the soil never completely dries out. Check the soil each morning by sticking your finger into the dirt. If the soil is dry past your first knuckle, it’s time to water.
Choose A Combination of Vegetables
Just about any vegetable can be grown in a container, from favorites like tomatoes and peppers, to root vegetables like potatoes and carrots. When it comes to selecting plants for container vegetable gardening, choosing vegetables with a meal in mind can help narrow down the list. While herbs don’t fall into the vegetable family, including one or two in your planting can help flavor the final dish. Some plants do best on their own in containers, such as potatoes that need space for their tubers to develop.
Several factors need to be considered when growing a number of vegetables in one large container. While many vegetables grow well together, avoid growing those in the same plant family that will compete for the same nutrients. All plants should share the same basic watering and fertilizing schedule. Choosing plants that vary in height and habit helps each plant get its share of sunlight, and provides a more decorative display. Including a trellis for climbers can help extend growing space.
Tomatoes, green peppers, chives and basil are a perfect combination for vegetable gardening in containers. Not only will this combination provide ingredients for aromatic Italian sauces, the plants group together beautifully. Providing a wire cage for the tomato plant helps keep the plant’s growth compact.
Lettuce prefers moist, well-draining soil. Herbs like mint and parsley do, too. Grow them together with spinach and chives to provide a variety of choices for salads.
Soups and Side Dishes
Beans, carrots and butternut or acorn squash provide a visual punch in containers, and provide the main ingredients for hearty soups or colorful side dishes, too. Bean plants need to climb. They do well with a trellis, although they will happily wind up a couple of stakes laced with string as well.
Harvest vegetables right before you begin cooking your meal for six. Your friends and family will be delighted by the flavor of fresh-picked vegetables from your container garden.
Photo source: Sheryl Westleigh