Growing vegetables in containers can be great fun. The volume of vegetables you get from containers may not be enough to feed a family, but you can get the experience of picking a warm tomato right from the vine or grabbing a handful of peas or green beans to nibble on for a gourmet eating experience.
Growing vegetables in containers allow you to enjoy eating fresh food that has not been contaminated with pesticides. It also lets you experiment with heirloom seeds that our ancestors have enjoyed for many decades. Because yield is so important to farmers today many of these great vegetables have fallen by the wayside.
Many of today’s vegetables are chosen because they have a short growing season, they ship well, or they are insect resistant. Taste does not enter the equation at all. By growing vegetables in containers, you will be able to experience a taste sensation you didn’t even know existed.
Choosing Vegetables for Your Container Garden
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. You will find with a little experimenting that you can even grow vining plants such as cucumbers, melons, and pole beans in a garden container.
As you look through seed catalogs, many of them now have information on what varieties are suitable for growing vegetables in containers. This info is often listed on seed packets also. Be practical when selecting which vegetables to grow in containers.
Some vegetables just take up way to much space to make it practical for growing in containers. If you decide to grow potatoes for example, you may be lucky to get one or two meals from a plant. Sure they taste great, but is this small yield worth your time and effort. Other plants like cabbage, brocolli, and cauliflower fall into the same category.
Unless you really find the looks of these plants appealing and just can’t do without them in your containers, I would pass on these in favor of higher yielding fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, green beans and peppers are just a few of the many vegetables you can grow in containers that can make a real contribution to your summer table while at the same time please the eye with their attractive growing habits.
Planting your Vegetable Container Garden
When growing vegetables in containers, you will find many vegetable seeds can be planted right in the container and will grow from seed right there without transplanting. These include lettuce, radishes, beets, carrots, green beans, and melons and squashes.
Never sow vegetable seeds too deep because it forces the young plants to force their way to the surface. This will deplete them of the energy they will need to grow and thrive above the surface. Be sure to follow the planting depth listed on the back of the seed packet.
If you are a new gardener and have questions about planting garden containers review Planting Garden Containers.
Choosing Containers for a Vegetable Container Garden
Below are listed some practical sizes for vegetable containers:
24″x36″x8″ deep This size is good for root vegetables such as carrots, beets and turnips and onions.
12″x48″x8″ deep This is a good size for climbing vegetables such as cucumbers, peas and pole beans. If placed up against a building, you can build a trellis or set up wire or string for training these vegetables to grow vertically.
4-5 gallon containers These containers are suitable for plants with an upright bushy habit such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.
Specialty planters such as wheelbarrows, strawberry jars, and wagons Many gardeners like to plant their vegetables in specialty planters to make a focal point or statement on their property. You can find many of these items at flea markets, yard sales or online listings such as Craig’s list.
When growing vegetables in containers, be absolutely certain the containers have never held products that would be toxic to plants or people. Wood for use around plants should never be treated with creosote or wood preservatives. These may be toxic to plants and harmful to people as well.
Locating Your Vegetable Container Garden
Many gardeners assume that all vegetables need full sunlight for optimum growth. It’s true that some vegetables need more sun than others. As a general rule, your container garden will need at least 5 hours of sunlight a day, and many plants could use even more. However, there are also vegetables that can be grown in partial shade. Leafy vegetables such as various lettuces and greens can be grown in the shade. Root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and turnips will need more sun. Also fruiting vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers need full sun for optimum growth.
For ease of care, dollies or platforms with wheels or casters can be used to move the containers from place to place when you are growing vegetables in containers. This will help you move garden containers if the location needs to be changed to take advantage of the movement of the sun or to protect the plants from hail or thunderstorms. This will also be helpful in the fall if you want to move them into the garage or other sheltered areas to protect them from an early frost.
Once your vegetables start attaining their full growth, you will find many of them need support. Tomato cages can be used for smaller tomato and pepper plants. Cone or pyramid-shaped supports work better than flat shapes. You can also use wooden stakes. Wood stakes placed around the rim of the container to form a tepee shape also works well. By placing your supports in the container while your plants are still fairly small, you will avoid damaging delicate feeding roots later on.
Vegetable Container Gardening for Children
Container vegetable gardening is also a great way to introduce children to gardening. When our children were small, they loved to have their own container planted with whatever vegetables they chose. The most popular choice was watermelons. The variety “New Hampshire Midgets” is a tiny watermelon that can be grown in containers. Having children choose, plant, and maintain their own containers, allows for some great lessons in responsibility to be both taught and learned.
End of the Season Clean Up
At the end of the season, discard the entire contents of each pot. Don’t add any of this to your compost pile and don’t reuse the potting mix. Vegetables are a big attraction to pests and diseases. You do not want to run the risk of carrying over any pests or diseases to the next growing season. Scrub each container and disinfect it with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution to have the pot ready to plant the following season.
Listing of Vegetables for Container Gardens
There are many vegetables that will perform well within the confines of a container. I’ve created a listing of the most popular and readily available vegetables for containers. You can find this at Choosing Vegetables for Container Gardens. These plants have stood the test of time and popularity and are all worthy of attention. However, this is not an exhaustive list by any means and the plants listed here are suggestions meant only to get you started in the wonderful world of growing vegetables in containers.
For more information on growing vegetables in container continue on to Companion Planting for Vegetable Growth.
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