Many people who live in an apartment, condominium, or mobile home do not grow a vegetable garden because space is not available for a garden plot. Lack of yard space is no excuse for not gardening, since many kinds of vegetables can be readily grown in containers. In addition to providing six hours or more of full sun, attention must be given to choosing the proper container, using a good soil, planting and spacing requirements, watering, and variety selection.Containers are available in many different sizes, shapes, and materials. All containers, whether clay, wood, plastic, or ceramic, should have an adequate number of holes in the bottom for proper drainage. Additional holes should be drilled or punched in containers that do not drain quickly after each watering. Drainage is reduced when the container is set on a solid surface such as a cement or patio floor. Raising the container one or two inches off the floor by setting it on blocks of wood will solve this drainage problem.The size of the container will be determined by the vegetable grown. Generally, most vegetables grown in the soil can be grown in containers as long as ample space is provided for root development. Shallow rooted crops like lettuce, peppers, radishes, and herbs need a container at least 6 inches in diameter with an eight inch soil depth. A rectangular planter box works well. Bushel baskets, half barrels, wooden tubs, or large pressed paper containers are ideal for growing tomatoes, squash, pole beans, and cucumbers.The do-it-yourself individual can make a planting medium by mixing equal parts of sand, organic garden soil, and peat moss, mixed with a generous amount of homemade compost if available. .
Planting and spacing requirements for most vegetables can be found on the seed packet or plant tag. A container can sustain only a certain number of plants, therefore, it is important to limit the number of plants based on the container size and the eventual size of the plant at maturity.
Watering is one of the most important jobs a container gardener will perform. Whatever you plant from seed should be watered daily with a fine mist so that the soil never dries out. Some vegetables will continue to need watering every day, depending on container size and weather conditions, but container plants will always need more watering than those grown in the ground. The best way to water plants after they’ve sprouted is with a watering can or a bucket and cup, at the ground level rather than spraying them from overhead. This is the best method for the plants and the most water-conservative. The water should not be too hot or too cold.
Almost any vegetable can be adapted to container culture. The following is a listing of some of the common container-grown vegetables, container sizes, and recommended varieties:
Vegetable Type of Container Recommended Varieties
Beans, Snap 5 gal window box Bush Romano, Bush Blue Lake, Tender Crop
Beans, Lima 5 gal window box Henderson Bush, Jackson, Wonder Bush
Beets 5 gal window box Little Egypt, Early Red Ball
Broccoli 1 plant/5 gal pot; 3 plants/15 gal tub Green Comet, DeCicco
Brussels Sprouts 1 plant/5 gal pot; 2 plants/15 gal tub Jade Cross
Cabbage 1 plant/5 gal pot; 3 plants/15 gal tub Dwarf Morden, Red Ace, Early Jersey Wakefield
Chinese Cabbage 1 plant/5 gal pot; 3 plants/15 gal tub Michihili, Burpee Hybrid
Carrot 5 gal window box at least 12 inches deep Short & Sweet, Danvers Half Long, Tiny Sweet
Cucumber 1 plant/gal pot Patio Pik, Spacemaster, Pot Luck
Eggplant 5 gal pot Slim Jim, Ichiban, Black Beauty
Lettuce 5 gal window box Salad Bowl, Ruby
Onion 5 gal window box White Sweet Spanish, Yellow Sweet Spanish
Pepper 1 plant/2 gal pot; 5 plants/15 gal tub Sweet Banana, Yolo Wonder, Long Red Cayenne
Radish 5 gal window box Cherry Belle, Icicle
Spinache 5 gal window box Dark Green Bloomsdale
Squash 2 gal pot Scallopini
Tomatoes Bushel baskets; 5 gal pots Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Sweet 100 Patio, Burpee’s Pixie, Toy Boy, Early Girl, Better Boy VFN
Adapted from North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Common Problems in Container Gardening
Container Gardening Success Container gardening can be successful if you follow guidelines above. Plant growth and vigor will vary depending on the location and attention you give your plants. The following guidelines are golden rules for any home vegetable garden: Inspect your plants daily and, if necessary, water, trim, train or pruning. 1. Check your plants daily and remove of pests and weeds and treat diseases.2. Continue your education by soliciting advice from experienced gardeners.3. Make time to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Fertilizing Most all-purpose potting mixes are low in nutrients. Fertilizer must be added at some point. Compost or a soil high in organic matter can be incorporated into the potting mix right at the start. This should be done at no greater than a 3 to 1, potting mix to compost, ratio. Another option is to apply slowrelease fertilizer pellets at planting. However, the recommended method of fertilizer application is to use a water-soluble fertilizer as the plants grow. Apply according to package directions. It is important to follow the recommended rate, since applying too much can cause fertilizer burn and death of your plants. If a little is good for your plants a lot is NOT better.
Watering Proper watering is essential for container gardening success. Plants dry out much faster than when grown in the ground. Water plants thoroughly (until water runs out the bottom) whenever the planting material feels dry to the touch. This could be more than once a day in hot, dry weather. Try to shelter plants from strong, drying winds. Avoid allowing the soil to dry out excessively between waterings. If this is a problem, apply a wetting agent (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per gallon) once every 4 to 6 months or as directions specify. Excess watering can also be fatal, especially if your growing mix is not porous, so always feel the soil before watering. Morning is the best time for watering.
Light Most vegetables and annual flowers need full sun for healthy growth. This means locating your containers in areas that receive at least six hours of light.
Planting and Grooming Before planting, thoroughly water the soil mix in your container. If sowing seeds, plant at the depth indicated on the seed packet. It is generally a good idea to overseed and then thin seedlings to the appropriate spacing. Thinning is a job that is very hard for some to perform; nevertheless it is vitally important to prevent overcrowding. After the seed is planted, put containers in a warm place and keep soil moist. If transplanting, it is best to start with short, stocky plants that are not in bloom yet. Make sure to keep root ball intact and water thoroughly after planting. Few container plants need to be fussed over, but flowers can be persuaded to bloom longer and more profusely if blossoms are removed as they fade. This process, called deadheading, prevent flowers from going to seed. Vegetables can also be encouraged to produce abundant harvests if fruits are kept picked as they mature.
Insects and Diseases
Plants in containers are no more susceptible to insects or diseases than they would be growing in open soil. In fact, the use of soilless potting mixes can eliminate some pest and weed problems almost completely. Regular inspections of plants can help nip problems in the bud. Control insects by either handpicking or by spraying/dusting with a recommended insecticide. Select disease resistant plant varieties to help prevent disease. If disease does occur, either remove and discard infected plant or spray/dust with a recommended fungicide when problem first noticed. Removing dead leaves and flowers is a good sanitation practice that helps discourage insects and disease organism
Other Tips for Successful Container Gardening
Container-grown garden plants are more susceptible to freezing, requiring winter protection such as mulching, using wind screens, putting the container in the ground, or moving the container to a protected area. • some vining plants require staking and trellising, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and ornamental climbers. Anchor these containers to prevent them from blowing over. • Clean used containers before planting in them. A 10 percent bleach solution kills any pests and removes fertilizer salts. • season porous containers before planting in them by soaking them in water. do not allow them to dry out. • styrofoam peanuts in the container bottom reduces the weight. • Harden-off newly propagated plants by exposing them gradually to full sun and wind. • Place containers on legs, bricks, coasters, or saucers to allow drainage and to protect the surface underneath.
End of the Season Clean Up At the end of the season, discard the entire contents of each pot; don’t even add debris and potting mix to the compost pile. Do not reuse the mix the following season; you do not want to run the risk of spreading diseases that may be present in the mix or on the plant debris. Also, the potting mix has been depleted of nutrients. Scrub each container and disinfect it with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution. Most non-porous containers may be left outside over the winter, although you may want to store them in your garage or basement to keep them clean. Porous clay containers should be brought inside to prevent cracking due to freezing temperatures.
Container Gardening Manual
Conainer Gardening Links