Tips for Vegetable Container Gardening

Anyone can grow nutritious, fresh produce with good soil, the proper sunlight and water--no matter where you live. If you lack adequate space for gardening, consider growing vegetables in containers on a patio or windowsill, or switch to container gardening to rid your garden of nematode, soilborne diseases and inadequate soil problems. No matter what your situation, container gardening has its advantages.

The Right Container

Pick containers that work with your garden decor and gardening needs. Plastics and synthetics often have built-in water wells for better control of watering, are lightweight, making them easy to move around, come in many shapes, colors and sizes and are mostly inexpensive. Coconut shell-lined baskets and terra cotta are both more porous and will dry out faster and require more frequent watering. Use concrete or rock if proper drainage holes have been added--otherwise, it might be wise to save them for gardening succulents and shrubs. Choose a container large enough for your needs and keep vegetable plants close to their recommended spacing when planting. Overstuffed flower containers look great, while an overstuffed veggie container may not have the room or nutrients to produce properly.

Proper Soil

Testing your soil and amending it each year is a cumbersome, tiring reality of a healthy garden. You may have to worry about improving drainage, adding more organic matter, improving the nutrient content, replacing nitrogen, eradicating soilborne diseases when gardening in a bed. All of these take a significant amount of sweat equity that you may not have. When container gardening, your soil is as close to optimal as possible if you purchase a quality potting soil. Choose commercial soils made of organic matter such as peat moss and compost along with fertilizer and vermiculite for improved drainage that stays moist. Commercial potting soil is lightweight, making it portable, and may be available in "recipes" tailored to your particular vegetable nutrient needs. Always use new potting soil in a clean container when planting to ensure that you are not cross-contaminating and introducing new plants to diseases from past growth.

Companion Planting

Using the art of companion planting may not only make themed gardens a snap (such as tomatoes, onions, peppers for salsa) but may also help your plants grow better and/or attract insects that help protect your plants from pests. Basil grown with a tomato, for example, improves the taste of the tomato. Grow pole beans up a trellis in a container with carrots to repel beetles and make the most of the space. Garlic with tomatoes prevents spider mites, and tomatoes grown near roses show mutual beneficial traits. Use your garden's natural defenses by knowing what grows well with what and move your containers around accordingly.

Keywords: patio garden, container vegetables, small-space garden

About this Author

Bobbi Keffer attended Kent State University, studying education but soon found her true love to be in the garden. She prides herself on her frugal skills, re-using, recycling, and re-inventing her whimsical style in her home and garden.