GROWING VEGGIES IN CONTAINERS
No longer should a shortage of garden space prevent you from growing your own fresh vegetables. As long as you have a sunny location you can have your own mini- farm on your porch, patio, deck, balcony, roof-top or doorstep!
The benefits of growing containerized vegetables go beyond the issue of space. There are plenty of other compelling reasons to plant your veggies in pots:
- Vegetables are amazingly ornamental!
- There are fewer problems with pests such as groundhogs, deer and rabbits and soil borne disease.
- The soil in pots warms up more quickly in the spring allowing for earlier planting.
- Less bending, squatting and kneeling is required for gardeners with limited mobility.
Vegetables can be grown in any vessel that can hold soil, has adequate drainage and is large enough to hold a plant. There are endless options available on the market or you may recycle items that you already have as long as they meet these requirements. Use your imagination!
While all veggies can be grown in containers, some are better suited than others. Plants that grow particularly large, that sprawl or that must be grown in large numbers to ensure an adequate yield may take more effort and careful site planning. Vining plants need not be avoided. Trellis these plants up against a wall or fence or allow them to cascade down from a taller pot or a container placed up high like on a stone wall. For smaller selections, a hanging basket or window box may be used. Many sprawling and vining vegetables are now available by seed in dwarf, compact or bush varieties. These are bred specifically for small spaces and containers and are worth seeking out.
CONTAINER CONSIDERATIONS AND CARE
Containers: Size does matters when planting in containers. The bigger the container, the more soil it can hold. More soil, more moisture and more moisture, less watering.
Take note that porous containers like terra cotta dry out more quickly and will therefore require more frequent watering.
Soil: When planting, choose a good quality potting mix. Soil from the ground may contain insects or disease or may be too heavy. Add an all purpose balanced fertilizer at time of planting. It is also good idea to mix water absorbing polymers into the soil. These granules can hold up to 400 times their weight in water and help reduce watering from 30 – 50%.
Plants: Some of the vegetables that you select may be directly seeded into your container; these would include peas, beans, radishes and corn. With most vegetables you may wish to transplant seedlings into you container, either home-grown or garden center purchased. Note: you will generally find a wider selection of vegetable varieties available in seed as opposed to purchased seedlings.
Supports: Supports should be placed at time of planting for large or vining plants.
Location: Your vegetables will require at least 6 hours direct sun a day. If this is not possible you may try placing your pots on dollies or carts and moving them to a sunnier location as the sun moves throughout the day. Note that good air circulation is important for disease control.
Watering: Test soil frequently for water needs to make sure that you keep it evenly moist. Water the soil, not the plants, to avoid the spread of disease. Check soil moisture more frequently during the summer months. Mulching your containers with a mulch such as salt hay will help keep soil cool during the summer months and help reduce the frequency of watering.
Fertilization: Fertilizer leaches through pots quickly. Fertilize containerized vegetables at least once a week with a water soluble fertilizer. Always be careful to follow the directions on the fertilizer package and follow the recommended rate. Too much fertilizer may burn or kill your plants