How-to tips for creating a container veggie garden you can be proud of.
By Ann Wied
Maybe you don’t have the space, time or energy to plant and tend a traditional garden, but still want the fresh taste and satisfaction of homegrown vegetables and herbs. Container gardening may be your answer! Here are our tips for creating a container veggie garden you can be proud of!
First, consider site size and location. How many containers can it fit, and will it accommodate plants of different heights? Is it a sunny spot? At least four to six hours of sunlight is ideal for most vegetables, but some prefer shade.
Select a container
Plants will grow in most any container, as long as you provide a good soil mix. So look around—an old wheelbarrow, crate, bucket or hanging basket could work. If you buy containers, the three most common are clay, ceramic and plastic; but be sure to bring clay and ceramic containers, as well as concrete ones, indoors over the winter to keep them from cracking.
Whatever container you choose, remember to check for a drainage hole. Good drainage is key to successful container gardening. Elevating the container on a table, bench or even flat stones will both improve drainage and help prevent stains on your deck or patio.
Pick the right soil
Your plants need a good soil mix to thrive. Most of what’s sold as soil mix doesn’t really contain soil—it’s just a mixture of organic matter like compost, peat or ground bark that retains moisture in the pot and helps the plant grow faster. Soil adds weight to the mix—a good thing if you’re growing taller plants or worried about containers tipping on windy days. If you add soil, be sure it’s sterilized to reduce the risk of disease or insects.
12-inch pot – 3-1/2 gallons soil mix
16-inch pot – 5-1/2 gallons soil mix
36-inch pot – 12 gallons soil mix
Pick the right plants
Choose plants that are recommended for containers. They’re usually described as compact, bush or dwarf. With vegetables, that often means smaller fruits, but lots of them. Just take care to combine plants with similar needs for sun, moisture and temperature.
Fertilize Early and Often
For best results, add a timed-release fertilizer labeled “for flowering plants” to the soil mix when planting, then at least monthly after that. It may seem like overkill, but your plants are in a confined environment and will grow quickly. Plus, frequent watering leaches out nutrients.
H2O is A-OK
Don’t skimp on watering—lack of water is the No. 1 reason container gardens fail. Check containers daily to see if they’re dry and water thoroughly, until you see water draining through the bottom of the pot.
With careful planning and proper maintenance, you’ll soon enjoy fresh veggies from your garden, no rototilling required!