Containers are a great way to grow food in a small or otherwise unusable space. They can turn a sunny patio, deck or even a driveway into a custom-sized, productive garden. If container gardening is the best option for you, don't look at it as a limitation. Yes, not every crop is well suited for container planting, but many will thrive if properly tended. The key to container gardening is knowing what will grow best and giving your crops the resources they need.
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In this episode, we discuss:
Siting your container garden
Types of containers best suited for growing vegetables
Soil for container gardens
Irrigation for container gardens
Our favorite crops to grow in containers
Vegetable gardens love sun, and your container garden is no exception.
Containers tend to dry out more quickly than in-ground beds because they only hold a relatively small amount of soil, and that soil is directly exposed to the heat of the sun.
Plant pots can be made of just about anything, including plastic, wood, ceramic or metal. Personally, I tend to like glazed ceramic and wood because they hold up and you can find nice big sizes at a reasonable price. Look for pots that are wide, without sacrificing depth!
Here are a few links to the types of containers we recommend:
Drainage is essential to plant health. If you're pot doesn't have holes, drill a ¼ in hole every 4 inches across the bottom of the container.
A common reason that people have limited success with potted plants is lack of fertilizer. Since these plants are growing in a pot, they only have access to the food that you provide for them. As we've mentioned before, vegetable plants are very hungry, and if we want them to produce a bountiful harvest, we need to give them the resources they crave.
On that note...you want to be sure not to OVER fertilize pots because potassium salt build-ups can damage plants and excess nitrogen forces them to grow too quickly.
My favorite crops to grow in containers tend to be fruiting crops (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bush beans and peppers) and short season salad greens. Our book, Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard, includes a chart with detailed information on each crop's adaptability to container gardening. It's a great resource if you want a more comprehensive picture than we can include here.
One thing to keep in mind with crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers, is that they will climb and grow to be tall, so you want to be sure you have some support as your plants grow. This is a scenario where you might choose a determinate tomato plant, which are types that are bred to grow to a compact height.
It's crucial to clean your pots each year before planting, even if you didn't experience pest and disease problems the previous year. Aphid eggs and other pest larvae can sit dormant in the dirt and on the sides of your containers, just waiting to feast on next years crop.
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