Vegetable Container Gardening
Even the smallest patio or porch can boast a crop of vegetables in containers. Planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets and large flowerpots are just some of the containers that can be used. The container gardener is limited only by his imagination. Consider the following guidelines when choosing your container.
- Never use galvanized containers or pots with a narrow opening.
- Cheap plastic pots may deteriorate in UV sunlight and terracotta pots dry out rapidly. Glazed ceramic pots are excellent choices but require several drainage holes.
- Wooden barrels or containers will rot unless treated.
- Use containers between 15 and 120 quarts capacity. Small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly. The size and number of vegetables to be grown will determine the size of the container used. Deep rooted vegetables require deep pots.
- Make sure your pot has adequate drainage. Holes should be 1/2 inch across. Line the base of the pot with newspaper to prevent soil loss.
- In hot climates use light-colored containers to lessen heat absorption and uneven root growth.
- Set containers on bricks or blocks to allow free drainage.
- Line hanging baskets with sphagnum moss for water retention. Keep baskets away from afternoon sun.
Your compost will make an excellent potting soil. Check the requirements of the plants you will be growing to determine whether you will need to add sand. If compost is not available, purchase a good quality potting mixture. It will be free of soil-borne disease and unwanted seeds. Because most potting mixes are acidic, you will want to add a little lime. When you add your soil to your container, leave a 2 inch space between the top of the soil and the top of the container. You will be able to add 1/2 inch or so of mulch later.
What to Grow?
Small salad green such as oak leaf lettuce and mustard cress, or vegetables such as silver beet, which have a quick maturing period are idea. You may be able to get several crops of a quick maturing vegetable from your container. Cherry tomatoes and other fruiting vegetables, including peppers or eggplant can be easily grown in containers, as can root vegetables such as baby carrots, radishes or spring onions. Try planting quick-growing small herbs and leaf lettuces around you larger fruiting vegetables.
Virginia Cooperative Extension: Container Gardening
Virginia Cooperative Extension: Vegetables Suited to Container Growing