Short on space? Renting? Living in an apartment? Answer yes to one of these questions and container gardening might be for you. But container gardening doesn't necessarily mean you can only grow flowers. There is an incredible variety of vegetables you can grow in pots.
Many times you will see people growing vegetables in half whiskey barrels. They're ideal because they're reasonably deep enough for some root crops. Of course you can really use just about anything. The conventional - terra cotta (or fake terra cotta) ---- to the unusual - 44 gallon drums cut in half, bath tubs, kid's wading pools, even old boots. You just need to make sure your container has adequate drainage by either drilling a hole in the bottom or filling the bottom of the container with rocks or old broken clay pots.
Use a quality potting mix as it’s designed for good drainage. Ordinary garden soil will compact too heavily and limit root growth, so avoid the temptation to use it. Unless you're growing root crops or onions you can also add some composted manure, blood and bone meal to the container. If you're growing onions, legumes (beans, peas) or brassicas (cabbage, broccoli) add some lime or dolomite to sweeten the soil. Throw in a smidgeon of sulphate of potash if you're growing veggies which flower, like tomatoes, chili’s, eggplants, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchinis, melons, sweet corn. Your imagination is the only thing holding you back!
When you're choosing your containers there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. Use light rather than dark colored containers to reduce heat absorption. This will put less stress on your vegetables. If you want your pots to have an attractive terra cotta look you should consider plastic fake terra cotta. Its lighter and the pot won't dry out quickly like real terra cotta. Remember whatever type of container you choose, water will be used quicker in potting mix compared to soil. So you'll need to water your containers regularly. During summer heat waves they'll need watering twice a day.
Watering containers regularly creates a problem. Nutrients in the enriched potting mix are gradually leached out. So to keep your plants healthy you should water them weekly and sprinkle in some good old 5-10-5 fertilizer. It is organic and safe for both you and your plants
The next big question is what vegetables can you grow in containers? Almost all of them. There's only one thing that determines what veggies you can grow in containers, and that’s the size of the container. Basically, the deeper the container, the greater the variety of vegetables you can grow. Deep containers let you grow a greater variety of root crops like carrots and parsnips. However, you should still be able to grow baby carrots in shallower containers. Deep containers also let you drive down big stakes to support 6 feet tall tomato plants and should also accommodate sweet corn. You can still get around these problems even with a container depth of about 8 inches. It’s all about choosing the right variety of vegetable. For example grow low bush cherry tomatoes or dwarf tomatoes that don't need a large stake. Have a look through those seed catalogues you received over the winter or do a bit of research to find the variety best suited for your containers, then head off to your local garden center with your list. The more research you do, the better your bounty will be.
For those with little space for growing, you can supplement your food budget in these economic times by growing your own vegetables, plus you have the added benefit of knowing they are pesticide free.
Now get outside and get growing!