Ever tried popping a sweet succulent cherry tomato picked just right at your window sill? Or perhaps, making your own hash browns from potatoes harvested just right at your pocket patio? Container gardening does not have to be all about flowery blooms or herbs and spices. Today, you can grow just about any vegetable you love in a container without having a green thumb. But while the endeavor may prove to be a challenge, heeding the following tips can help vegetable container gardening for beginners a more thriving and productive route.
1. Get enough sun for your vegetables. From potatoes to radishes, lettuce and eggplant, vegetables often require around 6 hours of direct sunlight to thrive. With your busy schedule, however, it’s either your vegetable container garden get too much or too little photosynthesis resulting in disaster. If you want to ensure getting enough sun, a sun calculator like this Rapitest from LusterLeaf helps ensure maximizing your veggies growth. Not enough sun due to weather or location issues? Get grow lights installed.
2. Like other living things, your vegetable garden needs plenty of water to grow healthy produce. The idea is to keep soil moist but not wet enough to drown your veggies. Some advanced gardeners only feel the Earth with their fingers to know the difference. As a newbie, you may want to invest in a soil test kit like this HealthyWiser Soil pH Meter. This small yet multi-functional piece of gardening equipment makes sure that soil for your vegetables is not only getting enough sunlight and water but also the right pH levels– all to ensure healthy growth and yields!
3. Some vegetable growers also invest in self-watering planters to save time and effort. This Pickers Grow Boxes from EMSCO Group, for instance, is an excellent example of growing vegetables that require constant watering. Even when you’re on a vacation or busy at work, a self-watering planter allows absorption of needed water to moisturize roots for healthy growth. With casters on this box, stowing your vegetable into a sunny area is also made easier.
Let’s take a look at…
Different Types of containers for growing vegetables
Fabric grows pots
These are inexpensive container which you can use for a container garden. The best part is, you can use them for different options like – typical containers to raised fabric grow beds. You can use them both indoors or outdoors.
These are some of the most common containers. They allow for more flexibility when planting and watering plants. Due to their tougher sides, wind and sun cannot dry out the soil as easily as it can in fabric pots. Also using, plastic pots it makes easier to customize your container garden as these pots come in various shapes, colors, and sizes!
The self-watering containers have a big reservoir at the bottom which keeps the plants hydrated. The nicest feature of these containers is that they indicate when to add more water as you can see the water level has gone down! All the options listed above are a great choice for indoor gardening needs and are perfect for succulents, house plants, and salad greens.
If you are one of those herb fanatics and looking for options for your herb container garden, there are many choices including the one in the above picture. These planters offer a great way for growing herbs, easily water them as they have a water reservoir underneath, and can be moved to any shady or sunny part of your house or veranda depending on the needs of plants.
4. Make sure to provide needed warmth to your vegetables. Experts suggest that most, if not all, plants including vegetables need at least 60-deg F to grow healthy produce. Too hot and they can wilt. Too cold and they won’t grow an inch. This is why metal containers and dark-colored pots are no-nos in container gardening as they can either freeze or heat up plant roots. You can invest in sturdy vegetable pots or perhaps, this medium greenhouse from VegTrug that comes with a frame to hold your pots and planters and a protective cover from frost or too much sun.
5. When it comes to the best soil mix for your container-grown vegetables, soil that is well-drained, well-aerated and has a pH that is close to neutral is always the best choice. You can choose quality potting soil to start a vegetable container garden. You can’t just scoop soil from your backyard as this will only bring about pests and weeds. Potting mixes that are filled with organic matter such as peat moss, compost, and bark chips provide good nutrients and a has a nice pH balance. Look for mixes with vermiculite or perlite as they help to keep the soil aerated and retain moisture. This organic potting mix from Espoma, for instance, is enhanced with Myco-Tone water-saving formula that improves moisture retention allowing healthier growth for your vegetables. Any mixes that do not contain vermiculite can be be used for herbs, as they generally don’t wither if they go dry occasionally. If you are using, large pots that you need to move, choose soilless mixes since they are light. A good reason for going for potting mixes is that they have been heated during processing, and are supposed to be free of weed seeds, pests, and disease.
6. Some potting mixes like that of Espoma are enhanced with fertilizer. Plants need this to enhance growth and yield more produce. If there’s none, you may want to add organic fertilizer like this Jobe’s Organics Vegetable & Tomato Fertilizer every couple of weeks to provide veggies nutrients they need. Or start a compost bin to feed more nutrients to your plants organically on your own.
Whether you use a potting mix or make your own mix with garden soil, it takes a large amount of soil to fill the large pots needed to grow vegetables. You can save money and some strain on your back by adding filler into the bottom of the pot before adding the soil. Good fillers include a layer of small foam pieces or yogurt cups turned upside down. Use the filler to fill the bottom third of your pot, place a layer of landscape fabric over the filler and then add your soil mix, leaving an inch of room at the top of the pot.
7. Drainage is another crucial concern when it comes to vegetable container gardening. While there are self-watering pots and boxes that allow controlled water to seep into vegetable roots, it is essential to build adequate drainage to prevent any chances of overflow particularly during rainy days. Some outdoor container gardeners usually make do with raised vegetable boxes to prevent drowning their plants.
8. Choose the right vegetable container. One of the most important aspects in vegetable container gardening for beginners is to choose the right type of containers. You need to ensure that you got the right size to accommodate the types of vegetables you wish to grow. It must also be efficient enough in preserving moisture and protecting plant roots from outside elements. Portable pots and boxes that come with casters make it easier to roll these container gardens from one area to another as the vegetables need demands for it. Some advanced gardeners with DIY chops prefer making their own wooden boxes. Self-watering containers are also great options particularly when growing vegetables indoors. When using terracotta containers though, make sure to line it with a plastic pot to keep soil moist. A recycled bucket or an old laundry basket may also do.
9. Now, the harder part– choosing what vegetables to grow and whether to start from seeds or seedlings. Some vegetables like corn or large pumpkins can be challenging than growing say, tomatoes, peas, carrots, eggplants, zucchini, potatoes and cucumbers. Growing from seeds instead of buying ready-made seedlings is more economical yet challenging route. Your location, weather conditions, temperature, water source and attention are crucial in choosing what vegetables to grow, too. You would not want to grow tomatoes with not enough water source or eggplants without sunshade. So before picking what to grow, research which ones will thrive more in your area.
Best vegetables to grow in a container
Beetroots are great container crops and if you start sowing the seeds during spring you can start harvesting them all through the summer. Using a container that is 10-12” inch deep is best, as they encourage the roots to develop completely. Before sowing, soak the seeds in warm water for a few hours before to speed up germination. Another tip is to sow three seeds together about an inch deep in the soil and about four inches away from other seeds for best growth. Water them when you are experiencing dry spells and harvest once they are the size of golf balls.
Tomatoes can be grown in different types of containers including pots, grow bags but you need to ensure that whatever container it is, it should be big in size! A 5-gallon bucket is perfect for tomatoes. Plant young tomato plants in the month of, when all danger of frost has passed, and cover with a fleece during unnaturally cold spells. Unlike other plants, you need to plant tomatoes deeply in the container so that the can grow a strong stem. Keep them watered regularly to prevent the fruit from splitting. Feed your tomatoes plant with a high-potash tomato fertilizer for even more tomatoes.
Growing radish in the container is easy and it is a good crop for beginners. Who does not love the taste of crispy, peppery radishes in salads? And if it comes from your own container garden, the satisfaction is manifold! They are hassle-free and are ready to harvest in a month when grown in cold weather conditions. Ensure you sow the seeds in the container at least about 1cm deep and an inch apart. Continue to do this little and often between March and August for a continuous supply. Water the plant well. Harvest them after about a month, before they mature and become woody.
The stunning leafy green of swiss chard is becoming more popular in the kitchen. Sow seeds of swiss chards at about 1 inch deep. The plants are quite resilient and you can expect to see thin seedlings in four to six weeks time. They will need watering as most other plants do. Harvest them regularly to support regrowth and cut the outer leaves first.
Lettuce is a perfect vegetable to grow for tiny spaces as you can even make your own vertical lettuce garden!. Sow one or two seeds in a pot less than an inch deep, at intervals so they don’t all mature at the same time. It grows best in cool weather conditions. Keep in mind, you need rich soil that is kept really moist for lettuces to grow well. Water them in the morning rather than the evening. Cut the outer leaves when the firm heart has formed. The leaves will grow back and then you can cut away the entire plant.
Chili plants grow best under glass, in a greenhouse or on a windowsill, but they can survive outdoors in a warm, sheltered spot with strong sunlight. For growing chilies in a container choose containers that have good drainage holes. A 5-gallon container (12 inches deep) is good enough to grow almost all chili varieties. The warmer the conditions are, the spicier the chilies get! You can sow seeds indoors and then put them out in Sun from May onwards, avoiding any late frosts. Germination generally takes 1 to 3 weeks depending on warmth and humidity.
Without a doubt, vegetable container gardening for beginners can be a taxing experience on the onset. It takes a lot of focus to learn about vegetables and their requirement to grow healthy vis a vis your own location and efforts. While many consider gardening as a mere hobby, it can actually kick start your business chops as you grow organic produce and sell them to the neighborhood market. So have fun and keep your attention focused on what must be done to make your vegetable container garden grow.