Consider container gardening if you don’t have space for a vegetable garden or your present site is too small. Some people prefer container gardening to outdoor gardening as soil-borne diseases, pests and poor soil can be drastically reduced. Container gardening is for anyone and everyone who wants their patio or porch boasting fresh, nutritious homegrown vegetables. In addition it makes good for attractive plantscaping.

Wooden container

Wooden container

Crops that bear fruits over period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, and vegetables that take up less space, such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, are ideal for containers. The amount of sunlight an area of your house receives will be determinant factor in considering what crop to grow.

Containers

Any container that provides drainage can be used to grow vegetables but choosing the right size is very important. Based on the type of plant you are growing you have to select an appropriately sized container. Plants with large root systems require wider and deeper containers. But I have experienced that larger containers are better as they can handle more soil which means more retention of water and hence easier maintenance.

As long as the container has the following prerequisites you are good to go:

  1. Big enough to support the fully grown plant
  2. Good drainage system to avoid rotting of roots
  3. Not contain or have contained any toxic material that will damage plants
  4. Hold soil without spillage

As for material of the container keep the following in mind:

  1. Plastic pots may deteriorate over time under UV sunlight
  2. Un-glazed Terracotta (clay) pots dry out rapidly
  3. Glazed ceramic pots are good but require several drainage holes
  4. Wooden pots are of course susceptible to rot. Cedar and redwood though are pretty much rot resistant but be sure to avoid wood treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol wood preservatives as they may be toxic to plants and humans.
  5. Use light-colored pots in hot climates

Soil Medium

The soil as for any soil in which plants are to be grown has to drain quick yet retain enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist. A fairly lightweight mixture is ideal container gardening. The container medium should be porous enough as roots need air and water.

Packaged soil medium is available at your local garden centers and make good container medium as they are relatively lightweight. Leave 2-3 inches at the top so that you can add mulch/compost at the top once the seeds germinate.

If your requirement is large, you can create your own seed starting soil mix by combining even parts of vermiculite or per-lite with peat moss, milled sphagnum moss, coir or well-screened compost. Make sure to sterilize them all.

At any time after the seeds sprout you can add fertilizers but if organic is the way you’re growing, avoid chemicals and other hazardous substances. Compost will give you as good results as other fertilizers while being entirely safe ad hygienic.

Other Factors to Consider

Planting: Plant as you would in a regular garden. Follow the instructions on the seed packets if you’re starting from seeds or read these transplanting tips if you’re using a transplant.

Sunlight: Most plants require a minimum of 5 hours of direct sunlight a day. 6-8 hours will be ideal for most plants. Check the seed packets to see if they need full sunlight or partial sunlight.

Watering: This requires particular attention. You wouldn’t want your plants withering and drying out in the sun. The amount of soil in containers is small compared to gardens hence they dry out much quicker. Water once or even twice daily as required per plant. Water till it runs out from the drainage holes.

Consider an automatic drip irrigation system if you are away a lot or maybe it’s time to ask your neighbor for a favor!

Here’s a table that will help you with growing vegetables in containers:

Vegetable Light Requirement Minimum container size Inches between plants Day from seed to harvest
Bush Beans FS 2 gal. 2-3 45-60
Beets FS/PS ½ gal. 2-3 50-60
Carrots FS/PS 1 qt. 2-3 65-80
Cabbage FS/PS 5 gal. 12-18 65-120
Chard, Swiss FS/PS ½ gal. 4-6 30-40
Cucumbers FS 5 gal. 14-18 70-80
Eggplant FS 5 gal. 1/ container 75-100
Kale FS/PS 5 gal. 10-15 55-65
Lettuce PS ½ gal. 4-5 35-40
Mustard PS ½ gal. 4-5 35-40
Onion FS/PS ½ gal. 2-3 70-100
Bell Peppers FS 2 gal. 1/ container 110-120
Squash FS 5 gal. 1/ container 50-60
Tomatoes FS 5 gal. 1/ container 55-100
Turnips FS/PS 3 gal. 2-3 30-60

FS- Full Sun, FS/PS- Full Sun, tolerates partial shade, PS- Partial Shade

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