If you’re an apartment-dweller or your home is on a small city lot, chances are you don’t have enough space to keep a large garden. But that shouldn’t prevent you from growing and enjoying your own garden-fresh vegetables. By growing vegetables in containers, your balcony, deck or patio can be the site of a productive and attractive garden. Event if you have the space and already tend a conventional garden, containers are great for that extra tomato plant, or if you want to add a touch of green to your deck or patio.
Plants grow just as well in a container as they do in a garden – they may even grow better. In the confined space of a container, soil warms up more quickly. Conversely, the soil stays warm longer, allowing for later harvests and providing protection from cold and frost. Container-grow plants are usually healthier plant: you start with new soil every year, so it doesn’t carry leftover fungi or viruses from previous seasons, and the soil is better aerated because it’s never walked on and compacted. Plants can be sown much closer together in a container, too, so weeds get crowded out. And there’s no need to invest in an arsenal of gardening tools; a hand trowel and a fork should be all you’ll need.
Make Room for Roots
Vegetables can be grown in almost anything that holds soil and water has holes in the bottom for drainage, but there are two major elements to consider when you choose your containers: depth and portability. Containers should be deep enough to accommodate the plants’ roots: most vegetable do well in 8 inches (20 cm) of soil; tomatoes, squash, peppers, long carrots and the brassicas need about a foot (30 cm).
The deeper the container, the less often you’ll have to water, but before you consider planting your entire container garden in full-side barrels, keep in mind that soil can be incredibly heavy. A cubic foot of soil weighs 50 to 90 pounds (23 to 40), depending on how moist it is – not including the weight of the container. If you plan to move larger containers around to catch the sun, consider a hand-truck or wheeled containers (an old wheelbarrow is an excellent portable garden).And make sure that planting boxes and hanging baskets are well supported.
A Word About Soil
The rich, loamy soil gardeners work so hard to achieve actually makes very poor soil for container gardening: it doesn’t drain quickly enough. Instead, buy sterile potting soil at your garden center or mix your own. An easy recipe is to combine equal parts of perlite or vermiculite with clean builder’s sand, compost and sterilized topsoil.
If there’s a drawback to container-grown vegetables it’s that they always seem to be thirsty. The soil in a container has to drain quickly so the roots don’t get waterlogged, but the roots can’t reach out to tap new sources of water once the soil dries out. You can count on having to water container plants once a day-twice a day for smaller ones-in July and August.
What Kind of Container? Garden centers stock a number of ready-made clay, ceramic or plastic planters, but found objects lend a personal touch to the container garden. Try half-barrels, bushel baskets or 6-quart berry baskets. Plastic crates are funky, while cast-iron kettles or old metal buckets provide rustic charm. Laundry and wastebaskets are economical containers. You’re limited only by your imagination.
(According to Canadian Gardening’s Vegetable Gardening)