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How to Grow a Vegetable Garden in Containers

The Joy of Container Gardening

I’ve developed an enormous appreciation for the convenience and benefits of having a container garden right outside my kitchen door. While there’s nothing quite like wandering through row after row of plants in a large plot in the early morning sun, coffee in hand, inspecting the results of the previous day’s growth, container gardening has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me.

As an urban dweller with a small backyard, I’ve found that container gardening is the perfect solution for growing my own herbs and vegetables. By taking advantage of the sunny spots on my deck, I’m able to enjoy an abundant harvest of fresh produce all season long. And let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of plucking a ripe tomato or crunchy carrot from your very own containers.

But container gardening isn’t just for city-dwellers – it’s a great option for anyone with limited outdoor space, such as apartment residents or homeowners with shady yards or poor soil. Today’s Gardens is a great resource for anyone interested in exploring the world of container gardening.

Choosing the Right Containers

Ah, one of my favorite questions about container gardening! There are so many options, I couldn’t begin to cover them all, but let’s touch on the highlights.

When choosing a container, the most important thing to remember is that it needs to have proper drainage. So, when you’re at the store looking at all the gorgeous, decorative pots, just make sure there are sufficient drainage holes. I do not recommend self-watering pots, as they can end up causing more problems than they solve.

For larger growing plants, like tomatoes, my go-to containers are big storage tubs. They’re incredibly sturdy, roomy, and have built-in handles for easy maneuverability. Plus, it’s no problem to drill drainage holes in the bottom. Terracotta pots are lovely, but they do require a bit more attention when it comes to watering, as the porous material can cause water to evaporate more quickly.

One thing to watch out for with tall plants is the risk of tipping over, especially during storms. To help with this, I like to add a layer of pebbles to the bottom of the pots, which adds both weight and drainage.

Soil and Fertilizing

This is one of the few disadvantages of container gardening that I’ve encountered over the years. Many years ago, commercial soil mixes were actually quite decent, but time and capitalism have not been kind. The potting soil mixes available today leave much to be desired.

That’s why I’ve developed my own DIY soil mix that I use in all of my vegetable containers. It’s a simple blend of:

  • 1 part potting soil
  • 1 part compost
  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part perlite
  • A handful of Plant-Tone fertilizer

This custom blend ensures that my plants get the nutrients they need to thrive, and I can control the drainage and moisture retention to a much greater degree than with a store-bought mix.

As for fertilizing, vegetable plants are hungry feeders, and they’ll quickly gobble up all the nutrients in the soil. I use a balanced, organic fertilizer like fish emulsion, applying it every other week or so to keep my plants happy and healthy.

Watering and Hydration

The most relentless challenge you’ll have with container gardening is keeping up with watering. Plants in containers dry out faster than their counterparts in the ground because they have less protection from the heat of the sun and less soil surrounding them to retain moisture.

I’ve found that watering early in the morning, filling the pots until water drips out of the drainage holes, is the best approach. During periods of high heat, I’ll even check on my plants throughout the day and give them an extra sip if the top inch of soil has dried out.

One of my favorite water management techniques is using ollas – unglazed clay pots that I bury in the soil and fill with water. These ancient irrigation devices allow for the slow release of moisture directly to the roots of my plants, conserving water and ensuring a steady supply of hydration.

Incorporating olla pots in your container garden can be a real game-changer, saving you time and effort while promoting sustainable water usage. You can find them online or even make your own with some economical supplies from the garden center.

Choosing the Right Crops

The great news is that most vegetables and herbs do very well in pots. While their overall growth and output might be a bit lower due to the limited soil volume, they still produce plenty of delicious goods for a couple or small family.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some of the edibles I’ve had success with in my container garden:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants
  • Cucumbers
  • Radishes
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Onions
  • Green onions
  • Ginger
  • Lemongrass
  • Lettuce greens (including arugula, mustard greens, and leaf lettuces)
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Tarragon
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Culantro
  • Chamomile
  • Lemon balm
  • Bay leaf

The beauty of container gardening is that you can really tailor your crop selection to your specific needs and preferences. If you love fresh salsa, focus on growing tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. If you’re a big fan of stir-fries, consider adding some ginger, lemongrass, and Asian greens to your mix.

A Flourishing Oasis

My deck is truly a flourishing oasis, packed with vibrant vegetable plants and colorful pollinator flowers like zinnias and echinacea. I love the way the containers add pops of greenery and life to the space, transforming it into a serene and productive sanctuary.

And let me tell you, the joy of watching those caterpillars munch away on my dill and parsley plants, safe from the birds in their little protected haven, is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. It’s moments like those that remind me why I love container gardening so much.

So, if you’re craving the satisfaction of growing your own veggies but feel limited by your outdoor space, I encourage you to give container gardening a try. With a little planning and care, you can create your own thriving oasis, right outside your door.

Happy patio planting, my friends!

Video: Container Gardening Tips
Article: Vegetable Container Gardening
Video: Vegetable Container Gardening

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