You don't need a large garden to get splendid results when growing vegetables. In containers, your crop will be protected from many garden pests, weeds and soil borne illness. It will be well fed, even well watered with little work as there are automatic irrigation systems.
Tips to grow vegetables in containers
How many of us fantasize about a wonderful vegetable garden full of luscious plants almost touching the ground, heavy with red tomatoes and sweet green peppers? Many, surely, but city living does not allow the space or time for a vegetable patch. Suburban living would allow the space; it would seem the problem here lies in the time required and the wildlife, as appreciative of the nourishment your kitchen garden provides as you are.
Why don’t grow then a selection of fruit and vegetables in pots, window boxes and hanging baskets? As one of the greatest satisfactions in life is to eat food you have grown -nothing tastes like it- and with the added bonus of getting your hands on utterly healthy fruit and vegetables, it is surely worth a try.
Container Growing Tips
The container should be relatively large – Choose a pot at least 10” (25 cm) diameter.
Why large? Large pots hold more compost and won’t dry out too quickly.
The container should be deep – Choose a pot at least 8" (20 cm) deep.
Why deep? Deeper pots have more room for the roots to grow -which will render larger plants- and to fit and extra layer of gravel to aid with drainage.
Heavy materials work better – Terracota or glazed pot are good options.
Why heavy? – More weight makes it more stable. Plastic is light but it can easily blow away, tumbling down your crop.
The container should have large holes at the base – and a layer of gravel or polistyrene balls below the compost; raising the pot from the ground also improves drainage and helps to ward off pests.
Why large holes? For drainage; if the water does not go through quickly and becomes stagnant, there is a risk of soil borne illness for the plants.
You can use any container that catches your imagination, as long as it is large enough and you have made holes at the bottom for drainage. An old wheelbarrow can grow lettuces, a half barrel can be used for tomatoes or runner beans. Strawberries could grow in an old stove and a tub is roomy enough to grow vegetables. Containers can be placed anyhere: on the stairs, at the entrance, by the porch, deck, balcony or the rooftop.
Even if you lack the space large containers need, you don't need to go without. You have other options.
Hanging baskets - for strawberries and tomatoes; they make a colorful display.
Window boxes – excellent for sweet peppers; plant them in early springtime and you’ll be grilling them for your summer barbecues.
Strawberry pots – they are good not only grow strawberries but herbs as well.
Once you have chosen the container, you'll can provide extra care for your crop by
- watering plants regularly, once a day, at east, twice in the height of the summer
- feeding a good liquid plant feed to your leafy crops
- protecting soft fruit from birds with nets
- mixing in water-storing gel and slow release fertilizer granules to improve water retention and provide a constant supply of nutrients which plants growing in containers always need
- pruning to encourage compact growth and a higher yield in your fruit crop.
Choose what to grow
Apart from traditional fruit and vegetables, there are a selection of dwarf varieties ideal to grow in containers. The most popular fruit and vegetable to harvest from a container are the traditional tomatoes, but you can look further to find some exotic options.
Herbs are suited to medium size containers. Basil likes plenty of sun and plenty of water, will want a little pruning; it will grow during the whole summer and it has a wonderful aroma. Chives, given enough water, grow fast; cut the tips as they get yellowish. Mint grows despite poor watering and having indifferent soil. Parsley, provided you water it often and lightly, will grow even inside your kitchen. Set the pot close to the window and water the base of the stems, not the leaves. Rosemary needs sun, likes a large pot, the protection of a wall and also plenty of water. Sage needs water moderately, likes sun, and cannot stand wind. The best way to start is with seedlings from a garden center.
In the vegetable department, trailing tomatoes are beautiful in hanging baskets, besides being practical, green and yellow zucchini, mini beetroot, ordinary or spring onions are all adequate to grow in pots outdoors. Add snap peas, lima beans, French and runner beans to your list, tough the later ones will need a wigwam-like strutcture of canes for support. Letttuces of the cut and come again kind, will provide a never ending stream of salad leaves. You could even grow broccoli or Brussel sprouts, or go exotic with sweet peppers or chiles. The least common crops are edible flowers -nasturtium, viola, calendula- which will decorate your kitchen garden and your salads.
Strawberries are the easiest fruits to grow as they are happy in the shade and will grow in pots or hanging baskets. The antioxidant rich blueberries need a little more care, as they want plenty of light, special compost and, in places were water is hard and contains plenty of lime, being watered only with rainwater. Citrus fruit trees grow well in containers, though they will need to go in the greenhouse come the winter, as do nectarines or figs.
Grow up healthy
You don’t need a big garden to get splendid results as your crop will be protected from many garden pests, weeds and soil borne illness. It will be well fed, even well watered with little work as there are automatic irrigation systems.
Pop into your nearest garden center and choose a few plants and pots to get you started. Let your green thumb grow and grow healthy getting that daily dose of vitamins from your very own fruits and vegetables.