Growing Vegetables in Containers

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By National Gardening Association Editors

If you don't have room for a garden, or only want to grow a few edibles straight from your own garden, planting in containers is a great solution. Almost any vegetable has varieties that can grow in a container with great results, and culinary herbs are a popular choice for the beginner or anyone who wants fresh steps from their door.

Select the proper container

When selecting a container, remember that bigger is better as far as ease of maintenance and size of harvest. Half whiskey or wine barrels or similar-sized faux terra-cotta containers are large enough to accommodate vegetables such as large tomatoes, eggplant, and squash, with room to spare for companion plantings of smaller choices such as carrots and lettuce. Five-gallon containers can hold dwarf tomatoes, peppers, beans, and many small leafy greens. A window box is even large enough to grow radishes and arugula .

Proper Potting Soil and Drainage

For proper drainage, containers need to have holes in the bottom. Add additional holes by drilling into your containers if your container holds water. Also, use only quality sterilized potting soil. Garden soil from your yard may contain diseases which may kill your plant and may not drain well due to the soil compacting which will cause root rot. Also make sure that your container is not sitting flat. A little height off the ground is needed to allow drainage. A stand or pot feet can be used if needed.

Care and Maintenance

Watering your container will likely be your biggest challenge. Container gardens need a lot of water, especially if the vegetables are large like tomatoes. However, take care that you aren't over-watering. Water as often as needed to ensure your plant receives evenly moist soil. In the heat of the summer you may have to water 1-2 times per day.

Fertilize your containers every two weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer for vegetables, or add controlled-release fertilizer at planting time, supplemented with a water-soluble fertilizer when needed. For large containers, mulching with straw or bark will conserve moisture and keep your plants from drying out.

Planting Tips

-To save space, consider growing some plants vertically. Choose pole beans or cucumbers, and trellis them along the back of a container. This leaves space in front to plant other vegetables.

-Get creative! There's no rules in your garden- plant for color and texture just as much as for taste.

-Harvest often. Regular harvesting encourages new flowers more fruit.

-Deadhead flowers and cut back stems regularly which will direct energy to new growth and flowers.

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