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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How to Grow Squash, Zucchini , Cucumbers & Tomatoes in Containers: Soil, Containers, Care & Trellising (With Videos)

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How to Grow Squash, Zucchini , Cucumbers & Tomatoes in Containers: 
Soil, Containers, Care & Trellising (With Videos)

You can grow just about any garden plant in a container. The key is matching the container size with the mature size of the vegetable plant. Container vegetables like squash, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes demand a lot of water and fertilizer. Sure, they look like you can fit them all into one little pot when they first germinate and are young but once they start maturing, you will be greatly disappointed. 

Container Plants & Trellising - The Rusted Garden Homestead

The goal with any container garden is to give your plants what they need to thrive and not just survive. A thriving plant is much more productive. My book: The Modern Homestead Garden: Building Self-Sufficiency in Any Size Backyard https://amzn.to/3kOXGdF covers the key principles for container gardening, provides minimums for container sizes and plants, and it covers container soil recipes.

Generally speaking, for these larger plants you want 15-30 gallon containers. The metal containers in the video are about 17 gallons and the half whiskey barrels are 20-30 gallons. The more you plant in them, the more often you will need to fertilize and water them. Plant them based on your ability to manage watering and fertilizing when they are larger and producing. Watering frequency is very dependent on your summer temperatures. To help address watering related issues, potting mix or container mix should really retain water. Nutrients are important but water retention is the key to the mix, as you can periodically add fertilizers to your container garden. Fertilizers dont need to be given to your plants daily, so being late is more forgiving. You may have to water your plants on a daily bases when they are large and the summer is in full swing.

If you are buying bagged soils, make sure the bag is a Potting mix or a Container mix. It will say that on the packaging. They typically are made from peat moss and shredded woods. This is the most expensive way to fill your containers. You can make your own mix using 50% peat moss or coco coir and 50% earth.soil from your property. This is a good base mix. You can substitute composts for earth or other materials, as you wish. It is important to make sure the compost is fully broken down and the process is finished. Otherwise, it will continue to break down in your container mix and challenge your plants for nitrogen and other nutrients. A good water retaining potting mix, the right size container (with drainage) and some basic organic fertilizers is all you need for success.

Many potting mixes come with fertilizers, which is fine, but that should just be considered a bonus. You will need an organic granular fertilizer which is a slow release fertilizer and water-soluble fertilizer which is mixed in water and provides nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to your plants immediately.

The key to fertilizing, and spraying or dusting for managing pests and disease, is a routine.  Success is more about sticking to a routine than it is about the brand or type of fertilizer, anti-fungal or insecticide. Many options are effective but only as effective as we are consistent with our application routines. 

Try and find a granular fertilizer with a nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) that is around a 5-5-5. You will see those numbers on the packaging. A few numbers up or down is fine like a 4-3-3, 7-3-5 or 4-4-7. The key is to represent the N, P and K.  Any water-soluble with N, P and K in the single digits is also fine. If you buy one that is really high in those numbers, you can cut the dose in half.

Trellising helps you manage the plants and protects them from damage. As the plants mature to size and produce heavy fruit, it is easy for that weight to pull plants over into the edges of containers. Vines often bend, break or get severely damaged when this happens. Trellising also allows you to more easily manage the plants for inspections, spraying, and managing pests and diseases. They best way to trellis is to just get it done and think out of the box. Trellising is not a beauty contest, it is done for plant care. It is much easier to place your trellises when the plants are smaller before growth makes it harder to set them in place.

Many of your vining plants will produce additional roots where the growing stem of the vine touches the ground. This can be used to your benefit to manage insect destruction, for example from the vine borer. I show examples of new roots and discuss how to train some vine along the container mix to make secondary roots, in the video. 'Back-Up' roots will mitigate damage if the vine borer gets into the main the stem and to the main root area. 

Insect dusts, organic or human made, kill all insects and should be used with respect. Never douse an entire plant in dust. You can dust some outer leaves away from the flowers to kill off cucumber beetles. You can dust just the stem and earth where it comes out of the ground. Dust a few inches of stem, and insects walking across it will be killed. Another good way to protect the pollinators and good insects is to dust late in the evening and rinse it off in the morning. Many insects are active at night and you can control the pests that way. These principles will help you have a thriving and productive garden.

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