Growing vegetables can take on many forms other than the typical garden bed with vegetables in neat rows. For beginners, those with physical limitations, and those who aren’t interested in caring for a whole garden bed, container gardening is an ideal choice.
Conventional potting soils are not always ideal for growing vegetables. Amending potting soil with some organic material like compost or manure will offer enough food for plants to thrive throughout the season. Organic matter adds structure to the soil, increases the nutrient content so no fertilizer is required, it also improves the soil’s ability to hold water reducing watering requirements!
Pot size is a key element for growing vegetables in containers. Some vegetables, like tomatoes, prefer a large amount of root space. For vegetables with shallow roots like lettuces, and herbs a smaller pot with only one plant per pot is best. The container itself can also influence plant growth. A black plastic pot will result in hotter soil and roots than a white plastic or concrete pot.
Watering containers is a daily task in the summer months. Watering seems relatively simple but how it is done has an influence on the growth, health, and production of a vegetable plant. Some things to remember include:
- Frequent shallow watering results in roots concentrated at the surface of the soil which dry out far faster than roots reaching deep into the soil. Deeply watered vegetables that are given a long drink once a day create a deeper root system, seeking for water deep in the soil as it seeps down. These plants are better equipped to survive a potential drought.
- Vegetables should never be allowed to dry out. If allowed to dry out the plant will draw all moisture out of its fruit to survive, resulting in fruit death or a poor tasting crop. It is also important the plant doesn’t dry out when it is flowering. During this time any cold weather or drought will have significant, long lasting, effect on the quality of the harvest that year.
- Watering deeply early in the morning is the best time to water. Watering directly at the root zone and avoiding watering the leaves aids in reducing fungal infections and burnt leaves.
Recommended varieties for containers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Kale, head lettuces, spinach, leaf lettuces, arugula, and radishes
- Carrots: Small varieties like, ‘Baby little fingers’
- Beans and peas: Trellis required unless planting bush beans
- Potatoes: These can be grown in large containers like recycling bins or garbage cans. As plants grow up add more soil as needed. Small varieties like ‘French Fingerling’ potatoes or ‘Russian Blue’ work best.
- Cucumbers, gourds, squash, zucchini: Miniature varieties work best- can be grown along the ground or trellised against a wall to save space.