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Monday, June 18, 2012

Some Facts for Growing Vegetable in Containers

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The container is the key to successful container gardening. You have to image the vegetable plant at full size when planting your vegetables. All seeds will grow in a cup but most mature vegetables won't survive in a cup. The container must be large enough to support a fully mature vegetable plant, not hold a seedling or transplant.

The containers need to have a drainage hole and they should be lined on the inside or sealed on the outside to hold moisture. Terracotta pots look beautiful but they are porous and will dry out faster than plastic pots  or sealed ceramic pots. If you are using terracotta pots it is a good idea to insert a cheap plastic pot inside of it to hold the soil.

If the container is key then good soil selection is the lock to container vegetable success. You want to use new soil ever year. Container soil is most easily purchased pre-made and it should be a moisture control type of product. It should also be full of nutrients. Container vegetables will suck out all the nutrients in a soil much more quickly than ground planted vegetables.

That leads to the fourth fact and that is they will need to be fertilized at least monthly if not every week or two with a good liquid fertilizer. You can go purely organic or use something like Miracle Gro. Your choice.

The final fact can't be stressed enough. You can not let a container vegetable's soil dry out completely. If it happens, even once, then the plant will be damaged. You might not see the effect immediately but it will effect the plant's size, fruit production and disease resistance. Stressed vegetable plants have a harder time against pests and diseases.

Here are some general guidelines for container depth:
  • Radishes, Lettuces, Spinach, Parsley - 6 inches or more
  • Kale, Peas, Greens - 10 inches or more
  • Cucumber, Eggplant, Peppers, Squash - 12 inches or more
  • Tomatoes - 18 inches or more
A good rule of thumb is using 5 gallon paint containers for an idea of volume size for plants requiring 12 inches or more of soil depth. And using a 2 1/2 gallon paint container for plants requiring 6-10 inches of soil depth.